In only four short months, COVID-19 managed to devastate the global education infrastructure in a way not seen since the second world war. Beginning in February, 2020, a chain reaction of school closures across the globe began, impacting over 90% of enrolled students worldwide and peaking with 194 country-wide school closures on April 11. UNESCO has provided an excellent resource for modelling this extraordinary impact of COVID-19 school closures across the world.
As schools and institutions shut down in rapid succession, teachers, students, governments, and parents were left scrambling to restructure the entire educational experience in a very short time. The chaos of the crisis has changed the calculus that has been driving the global education industry for decades, if not centuries. The global education system, in its fight for survival in an unexpected and dangerous situation, has begun reinventing itself. One of the few bright spots to come out of the COVID-19 crisis is the willingness for legacy education institutions to adopt technologies and innovations that had previously been met with resistance.
A focus on efficiency
Major funding cuts are coming to educational institutions at all levels of society. Falling tax revenues at the local, regional, and national levels will have a significant impact on funding for education. An industry that was already suffering painfully from insufficient funding will be forced to find far more efficient technologies and teaching methods counter the loss of resources.
As large-scale budget cuts impact education funding, there will be a surge in initiatives to improve the educational output of teachers. One unexpected benefit from the COVID-19 crisis was the freedom teachers and schools have been given to find alternative solutions to meeting educational outcomes. These early experiences will form a foundation for future education technology experimentation. The pressing urgency of the pandemic crisis has advanced global education technology understanding by several years, and as increased efficiency requirements impact the education infrastructure, these technology ongoing technology experiences will continue to pay dividends.
Many school systems that previously had little or no online content support are now learning how to engage with students and parents in virtual classroom settings. (See our write-up on the shutdown exposing Japan’s educational inequalities).
As teachers and schools increasingly find new ways to utilize education technology, they are also laying the foundation of their new efficiency strategy in the years to come.
As the education system weathers the upcoming loss of tax revenues, politicians and administrators will begin to rethink traditional education resource allocation structures. Resource sharing across schools, districts, and potentially at the national (even global) level will become commonplace.
Current mass-scale exposure to new technologies will lead to increased thinking on how one teacher’s skills can be amplified to impact much larger audiences. All across the world, large sections of the education industry are having their first experiences with online class management systems such as Google Classroom. The sudden exposure and forced usage of existing technology platforms will lead to a far more evolved conversation between educators and technology providers. The feedback from these engagements will lead to a new wave of classroom technology developments and far greater usability for all stakeholders.
School systems who are early innovators and pioneers in this developing environment have the potential to set the tone for what will become a major global educational innovation. Furthermore, rural schools and schools in low-income areas, who struggle to recruit teachers locally, will have access to high quality education experiences. The schools who most needed the benefit of distributed learning will be the biggest beneficiaries of the increased adoption education technology arising from the COVID-19 crisis.
It has long been recognized that student success requires a healthy relationship between teachers and parents. The concept of “supporting from home” is one of the pillars that allows schools to increasingly adopt personalized learning strategies in the classroom. The healthier the relationship between a teacher and the parents, the better the chances for student success in the classroom. In recent years, schools increasingly utilize online communication systems, the student-parent-teacher relationship has been seeing healthy development.
“Flipped” Flipped Classrooms
With the COVID-19 shutdown, the pace and depth of interactions between participant in the student-parent-teacher triangle has grown exponentially. Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, progressive school systems had been experimenting with a “flipped classroom” method of having the student preview classroom material at home, so that classroom time could be utilized for student production. Following the pandemic crisis, all schools have had to learn how to adapt to a “flipped flipped classroom” with the parents being the teacher, and the school desperately trying to play the role of the parent supporter in the original flipped classroom model.
Communications and transparency
At present, teachers and parents are working very hard to manage the reversal of their roles. Parents now understand significantly more about the day-to-day classroom activities that their children go through, and teachers are learning more about the home-life of their students. As parents and teachers struggle to work together to find a way forward in the best interest of the student, they are also forming a model for ongoing future communication changes.
Parents will continue to expect real-time communication from schools and transparency about the activities students are engaging in at school. The relationships between parents and teachers will undergo significant changes as expectations for regular communication and updates increase.