The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed and altered the lives of students, teachers, and other educational professionals to a great extent. With schools closed and online classes going on in full swing, the education sector is going through a major shift.
NextGenEdu, in partnership with The Edtech Hub and Education Development Trust, recently arranged a virtual panel discussion, titled, 'Reopening schools with re-imagined learning'. Moderated by Molly Jamieson Eberhardt, Director of Engagement, EdTech Hub, USA, the panelists included Wambura Kimunyu, Group CEO, Eneza Education, Kenya, Tony McAleavy, Research Director, Education Development Trust, UK, Jim Ackers, Regional Education Advisor, UNICEF-South Asia, Nepal, Sonam Wangchuk, Founding Director, SECMOL, India and Mohibul Hassan Chowdhoury, MP, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Education, Bangladesh. The webinar was aired live from the official Facebook page of Access to Information, Bangladesh.
NextGenEdu is a global learning platform for partners to share evidence-driven ideas, policy directives and scaling strategies in education. It is an evolving collaboration between the Ministry of Education, Bangladesh and several entities within the educational ecosystem from around the world.
The panelists addressed queries such as what does the future look like when the schools reopen and are we going back to the same old system or should we take lessons from the current pandemic.
The focus of reopening should be on different aspects such as empowered teachers, engaged learners, equity in access to education, expanded classrooms and an engaged learning ecosystem. Wambura Kimunyu talked about how the students miss the social aspects of learning and interaction with schoolmates during the pandemic. "I hope our imagination expands to provide the most marginalised with the best opportunities possible in the coming days," shares Wambura, emphasising that the pandemic has exposed deep inequalities within the education system.
The pandemic opened our eyes to the importance of human and social interactions and how education institutes are the best places to engage in such activities. "Schools shouldn't do what I can do from 5000 km away. Schools should do what needs to be done from 5 meters away," shares Sonam Wangchuk. The schools should take this pandemic as an opportunity to transform education into a more meaningful and impactful system. "We should change the schools to do what the internet can never do -- offer experiences, hands on trials and errors, activities, projects and interacting with others," adds Wangchuk. "As things go back to normal, we must make sure schools do not go back to normal."
Tony McAleavy shares his thoughts on how there were problems in the system even before the pandemic and shares the research ideas Education Development Trust has been working on. "Let's reimagine schools using a flipped model, instead of 75 students 5 days a week, let's try 15 students one day," suggests McAleavy.
After trial runs in developing countries like Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia, the model proves to be feasible. "Our model is less about isolated home learning and more about supported community level learning," says McAleavy. The model is expected to offer a transformational change in the way we think about teaching and will have a value, long beyond the crisis.
For developing countries like Bangladesh, the challenges are far more complicated and the infrastructure is not adequate to support millions of students.
"We still follow the system we inherited from the colonial times, where the schools act as a one-way traffic system and it was not working for us long before the pandemic hit," shares Mohibul Hassan, Honourable Deputy Minister.
As the catastrophic situation forces us to think outside the box, rethinking and redesigning is a must, as well as access to technology and resources. "We have to subsidise technology for the poor but it has to be the most effective technology," says the minister. "Community learning, self-learning and home learning coupled with schooling will help us achieve the overall estimated learning outcome."
"If we can combine the online resources and the offline school possibilities, the teachers' jobs will be easier and the education will be more interactive and fun," says Wangchuk.
As schools reopen, the experts suggest that the importance of technology and resources in education must be acknowledged.