Since the COVID -19 pandemic has disrupted the normal lifestyle of people across the globe, the virtual world has come to the rescue. Amongst many institution, schools have also shifted their base to virtual platforms to conduct classes online. Not since World War II have so many countries around the world seen schools and educational institutions go into lockdown at around the same time and for the same reason. While we know that the impact of this virus will be far-reaching, what does this mean in the longer term for education?
For a while now, educators around the world have been talking about the need to rethink on how to educate future generations. So, as we educators grapple with the new ways of communicating with our students away from our classrooms and lecture theatres, it is a good time to reflect on how this disruptive crisis can help us define what learning should look like for Generations Z, Alpha and beyond.
Generation Z: A generation that has grown up in a truly globalized world. They see the power of working collaboratively on solving the world’s biggest challenges – where climate change and mental health being top on their agenda. At present their collective responsibility to self-isolate is to protect older members of the community.
Generation Alpha : The children of millennials, are the most racially diverse generation across the world, and one in which technology is simply an extension of their own consciousness and identity, with social media being a way of life. These young pre-schoolers are also the generation with the most non-traditional family structures, often with “bulldozer parents” who move obstacles out of the way to create a clear path for their kids. While Generation Alpha is at this point possibly oblivious to the impact of the global pandemic on their education, the impact will surely be felt even for our youngest learners for years to come.
In the midst of COVID-19 crisis, we are sure that fellow educators, like us, are wondering what we should be preparing to secure our students future. According to a Dell Technologies report, 85% of the jobs in 2030 that Generation Z and Alpha will enter into have not been invented yet. According to this World Economic Forum report, 65% of primary-school children today will be working in job types that do not exist yet.
The COVID-19 crisis may well change our world and our global outlook; it may also teach us about how education needs to change to be able to better prepare our young learners for what the future might hold. Some lessons include:
1. Educating citizens in an interconnected world
COVID-19 is a pandemic that illustrates how globally interconnected we are – there is no longer such a thing as isolated issues and actions. Successful people in the coming decades need to be able to understand this interrelatedness and navigate across boundaries to leverage their differences and work in a globally collaborative way.
2. Redefining the role of an educator
With students being able to gain access to knowledge, and even learn a technical skill, through a few clicks on their phones, tablets and computers, we will need to redefine the role of the educator in the classroom and lecture theatre. This may mean that the educators may have to move towards facilitating young people’s development as contributing members of society.
3. Teaching life skills needed for the future
In this ever-changing global environment, young people require resilience and adaptability – skills that are proving to be essential to navigate effectively through this pandemic. Looking into the future, some of the most important skills that employers will be looking for will be creativity, communication and collaboration, alongside empathy and emotional intelligence; and being able to work across demographic lines of differences to harness the power of the collective through effective teamwork.
4. Unlocking technology to deliver education
Educators across the world are experiencing new possibilities to do things differently and with greater flexibility resulting in potential benefits in accessibility to education for students across the world. These are new modes of instruction that have previously been largely untapped particularly in the kindergarten to Grade 12 arena.
Below are some important ways in which education will change in the post covid-19 time:
a. Blended learning will become a reality: The classroom will be supplemented by online education. This way, students may be required to physically attend classes on fewer days and will be free to study at their own pace which gives them adequate time to assimilate information.
b. Training of teachers will be qualitatively different: All the teachers will have to be trained for online teaching as well. This will go a long way to ensure that they are comfortable with technology and will be able to seamlessly switch between online and offline modes of teaching the curriculum. And above all, teachers will feel empowered to deliver a more impactful lecture than before.
Most importantly, it is our hope that for Generation Z, Alpha and the generations to come, these experiences of isolation and remote learning away from their peers, teachers and classrooms will serve as a cautious reminder of the importance of our human need for face-to-face social interaction.
Technology will be used effectively to reduce the time spent by teachers on tasks such as paper-setting, evaluating and grading: This will help the teachers focus more effectively on teaching and course improvement.
Interactivity and engagement in a physical classroom will have to be built into the online learning programs to keep students engaged: Physical classrooms offer a high degree of interactivity with the teacher and also among students. Educators will have to bring in a lot of innovations to bring in the element of interactivity and collaboration in their e-learning modules.
c. Social Distancing principles needs to be incorporated: As and when schools, coaching centers and other educational institutions open up after Covid-19, the new social distancing rules will necessarily change the existing ways of imparting education. Schools might consider working in shifts, classrooms will follow strict sanitization processes and social distancing will become a norm for all activities.
In pandemic times, it is natural that children are facing unprecedented levels of anxiety. Unable to hang out with their friends, peers and classmates like they used to, and not able to expend their energy on sports. This is not easy on them. It is important that as educators, we take the responsibility to equip them with suitable coping mechanisms and help them to build and strengthen their connections with supportive adults etc..