How the novelty coronavirus is changing education as we know it

0

There is no room to argue that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting multiple aspects of our lives. As of May 9th, 2020, there are over 1.6 million confirmed cases around the world, and the numbers are no getting any lower. No nation was prepared to put their healthcare system to such pressure, and there is no certain way to predict what the actual economical outcome of this pandemic will be. 

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is not affecting the healthcare and economic systems, but the educational one as well. Schools are closing down in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus, and some argue it may not have that much of an impact, but any social distancing method that helps even remotely reduce the risk of infection is more than welcomed. 

Image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/PeUJyoylfe4

Schools are closing all over the world

According to UNESCO, more than 1.5 billion students are stuck at home, as nations are shutting down schools either nationwide or in isolated regions of the country. This means over 91% of the world’s student population is being directly impacted by these closures. Experts are believing we are dealing with an unparalleled educational disruption and changes must be done in order to avoid this from ever happening again. 

In Italy, France, Germany, Spain and other European countries deeply affected by the pandemic, schools have closed down since the beginning of March. The United States has also adopted localized school-closing methods, and other countries are following. And even though they are 

But these lockdowns are exposing a number of issues deeply rooted in the educational systems all over the world. Whether we like to accept it or not, many things will have to change after we overcome this crisis.

 

Moving the classroom in the online

Since students can’t physically attend classes, educational systems are introducing online courses to help minimize the impact of school closures. We live in the era of technology, so why not use it to its full potential? There is an abundance of online tools that students and teachers alike can use to keep communication open and collaborate during these hard times. 

Some schools and universities are introducing online classes and even allow students to upload their assignments and continue their education. At the same time, some educational technology startups are offering free classes for a limited period of time, to try and cover the students’ demand. 

Besides the online courses provided by schools and universities, parents are looking for other ways to keep their children motivated. Online tuitions have become of great demand recently, as children can learn at their own pace and some of these courses tend to be more engaging than traditional learning methods.

But as classes transition online more and more issues surface… 

 

Worldwide educational challenges

We seem to think everyone now has at least a smartphone or computer with internet at home, but in reality, only 60% of the global population has access to the internet. And while virtual classes may seem like the normal approach in developed countries, students in less developed areas struggle to keep up with their assignments.

In China, for example, parents with more than one child struggle to purchase multiple devices so that their children can attend online courses simultaneously. Others state they can not afford to install an internet connection at home, which leaves children with little to no options to attend online lessons. 

This leaves schools to face a very difficult choice: if they stop teaching remotely, students miss out on the curriculum, but if they keep doing so, a significant number of students, who may already be struggling, will be left even farther behind.

For those disadvantaged students, the issues don’t stop here. Most of them come from families where parents need to work overtime to be able to afford food and shelter. If the kids are not used to learning on their own and their parents are not home to support them, there are little chances those children will be able to keep up. On top of that, for some children school helps provide shelter, food and learning material, all of which become unavailable when schools are closed. 

 

Public-private educational collaboration

If we want to get over these issues faster, we need to start working together, and more and more people start to become aware of this. Governments, professors, technology providers, private schools and public schools alike are joining forces to try and find solutions to these educational challenges. 

In China, for example, the Ministry of Education has assembled a team to start developing a cloud-based online learning and broadcasting platform, as well as improve the educational infrastructure. To help them out, they have reached out to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. 

Corporations are trying to help out as well, with businesses such as Google, Microsoft, Samsung and Alibaba entering the game to provide education solutions for students all over the world. 

Students have more time to explore their interests

In these times of uncertainty, it is important to look at the bright side of things. Social distancing is forcing people to stay at home, but it makes for the perfect time to start exploring new horizons and discover new hobbies or interests. 

People have a huge wealth of information available at their fingertips, and more and more learning platforms provide free courses on all levels of difficulty. Students have access to free courses from Ivy League schools, which are suited for adults that want to fathom their knowledge as well.

Access to such courses allows students to explore their interests, a thing that many of them don’t get to do as often due to lack of time. Now, being at home all day, both learning and socializing moves into the online. Some platforms allow students to not only take online courses but provide chat rooms where learners can enter to discuss these courses and exchange information.

No matter which corner of the world they come from, students can communicate, share their opinions and even build strong friendships.