Education in the Pandemic Era

Published January 24th, 2021 - 08:00 GMT
Education in the Pandemic Era
“Education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility.”

If one wants to list the sectors impacted by COVID19, the education sector will definitely be on the top of this list. With lockdowns, social distancing and other measures taken in place to limit the virus outbreak, the global educational system was forced to shift all of its processes to the digital world, like any other sector that was trying to survive the hit.

However, since the digital and wealth gaps are still widening, individuals in many countries have been deprived of their education rights.   For instance, It was reported that around 40% of the world’s poorest countries were unable to provide decent education to disadvantaged learners throughout the pandemic.

In addition to the poor digital infrastructure in various countries, there are other challenges that have been created by the pandemic which highlighted the fragility of the global education system. Therefore, it is imperative that we identify these obstacles and learn about them in order to come up with the most effective solutions.

Digital skills
The lockdowns and closure of educational institutes left many unprepared for the new ways of learning. This sudden shift to online learning was challenging to many. Not all teachers for instance have the digital knowledge or tools to teach online, and therefore preparing lessons and the materials required have be challenging for some.

Furthermore, teachers are also part of the community and have their own families, and finding the time to cope with it personally and professionally has been overwhelming for them. However, teachers were not the only ones who were left unprepared for online learning, students were also struggling. Many students do not know how to use technology to study, especially those at elementary school. This has highly impacted their grades, especially the grades of those who were already falling behind. 

However, despite the challenge, some countries were able to cope better than others. For instance, Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University (HBMSU) worked with the Ministry of Education in the UAE to prepare its professionals with the needed skills to carry out online learning as smoothly as possible. Two courses in particular gained an overwhelming number of positive feedback, which shows the success of the initiative in trying to upskill teaching professionals to handle digital education. 

Lack of essential tools
The disruption of the school year and the shift to online learning was challenging for students. Not all students have the means and tools to study online. Disadvantaged students, for example, might not have internet connectivity, desks or laptops at home, or even supportive parents. With schools and educational institutions still trying to accommodate the change that online learning introduced, students with disabilities might not find the resources they need to continue their education from home. 

Despite the fact that many students will continue to suffer from the repercussions of online learning, many institutions have been working on creating strategic plans to help students as much as they can. For example, Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) has worked on developing programs to support both faculty and students during these unprecedented times. The advanced programs and training that they use also supports students with disabilities through their fully integrated online disabilities services management system. 

Staying engaged
Keeping students engaged during lessons at school is hard as it is, and it only became harder with online learning. Asking students to sit still and quiet in front of their computers while they read or watch videos can be dull and frustrating. Not all students are able to concentrate through online learning, especially those who are already behind. Furthermore, with many distractions available at home, students might struggle to stay engaged throughout the lessons. In addition, a huge part of going to school revolves around developing relationships and social skills, and that is why it is necessary for parents and teachers to reinforce the importance of connecting with one another and maintaining healthy pear-to-pear interactions. 

In an attempt to optimize communication and engagement, Samsung has partnered with Schoolvoice to empower schools across the UAE, looking to harness cutting-edge and  state-of-the-art technologies for digital education. .Under the agreement, Samsung will equip schools with its innovative Knox solutions, boasting a Samsung tablet and accompanying S Pen, which will make learning easier and more enjoyable both at school and at home as the latter can be used to quickly jot down ideas and help users organize their thoughts on Samsung Notes. The smart device will feature the Schoolvoice application, which is dedicated to amplifying communication between the different parties of the educational ecosystem and ensuring responsive and agile engagement.

The disruption of the education system has proven to be challenging for all. That is why it is crucial for societies and governments to collectively work together to improve and reestablish the foundation of education. On the International Day of Education, it is important to remember that education is the lifeline people hold onto to create lasting change. And just like UNESCO says, “Education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility”.


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