Education is complicated and decisions as to how schools proceed (or not) with the rest of the school year after COVID-19 cannot follow to top-down approach but more attention should be given to the down top approach to decision making.
There are so many factors at work and the one that throws a wrench into everything are the people involved. It’s true for all industries, but in education, the people are minors going through a delicate time in their lives. Puberty is hard enough as is, then throw in socioeconomic differences, an antiquated school system and for some, a complete disconnect with the world we live in. Given that set of circumstances, coming up with a one-size-fits-all solution during a pandemic is impossible. The truth is, some students will get left behind and teachers left hanging with less to offer if their voices do not echo in the decisions politicians make.
Some Are Prepared, Some Aren’t
How should schools proceed after COVID-19? People want quick solutions to difficult problems. This is why many schools around the world simply including Ghana have transitioned to online learning. Hence, the first hurdle. Online learning works for online schools because they have had years to figure out how to make it effective and seamless. Pushing online learning down the throat of learners at all levels like ‘Etor’ for the girl going through puberty is wrong if she is not psyched up for E-learning is difficult. This whole new online learning looks manageable for schools with the monetary resources and the students who have their own devices. Zoom classes are a disaster for schools where teachers are not trained to teach via the internet and where students either don’t know how to learn independently or don’t even have the equipment to sign on.
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Consistency = Learning
There’s a misconception that good textbooks and workbooks, along with expensive teacher professional development sessions are what results in good test scores. Unfortunately, this is just a way to get schools and districts to buy products. Real educators know that retention of information comes from consistency. No one learns a language in one day. Language acquisition is a long process of listening, speaking, making lots of mistakes and then correcting those mistakes.
School Systems Aren’t In Line With Reality
What’s clear from this pandemic is that most schools were not only unprepared for online learning, but they’re also antiquated and outdated even for standard classroom education. Example: Most of us don’t know that the concept of grades and sequencing comes from the Industrial Era, when public schools were places for kids to prepare for factory work. Fast forward 100+ years later and public schools still look like assembly lines, even though the real world has moved on.
If It’s Working, Don’t Stop
So what should schools do during this time? The ones that are well prepared should continue to educate children. They’re able to regardless of in-person attendance so there’s no reason to stop teaching. Students at these schools are getting the continuity and consistency they need, and pandemic or not, learning can happen.
Subject Matter Learning Needs A Break
Schools that are unprepared for online learning should suspend their 2019-2020 curriculum, Examination, and everyday classroom lessons for the rest of the year. Schools chasing IT to facilitate learning are worth commending but many more schools can just not proceed.
This is an opportunity for teachers to try out student-direct activities, such as research projects or book analyses. However, this depends on communication. In many countries, restrictions on larger numbers were imposed during weekends making it difficult for most schools and teachers to plan their next line of action. Many countries and examining bodies have already canceled or postponed end-of-year tests and Exams like 2020 WASSCE by WAEC, so now is the time to approach the curriculum from a different angle. Teaching to the test has been taken off the table, let’s see just how creative teachers can be.
Unfortunately, during this time, students without devices or still waiting for their devices will miss out. To remedy this, states can allow these students to join special programs that are already open to children of essential workers. These two groups are the most vulnerable to being left behind during the pandemic.
Education Is Behind the Times
In our minds, we have a picture of what “learning” looks like in the classroom. Usually, it has something to do with a teacher in front of a whiteboard talking, while students diligently take notes. The idea of student-led learning is jarring. It might seem as though no learning is taking place, but this is the perfect time for teachers, administrators and technology teams to take a good hard look at why their institution is behind the times. This probably isn’t a popular opinion because no one wants to sit down and list everything that’s wrong with the job they’ve been doing for so many years. But popular or not, the truth is that schools are behind the times and COVID-19 has transformed education already..
The Carpenters Don’t Need Better Tools But Education
We live in a world where people must be computer literate to access online education programmes; where troubleshooting, self-directed research, analytical and critical thinking skills, and the ability to work independently are more important than what you know. Technology changes rapidly and people succeed in this new world when they can adapt and think on their feet. Are schools teaching students these skills if teachers are still asking students to read the textbook and fill out a worksheet? Even if the worksheet is online and the textbook is digital, are students learning 21st-century skills? The answer is a hard no.
There’s a saying that a bad carpenter blames his tools. This is exactly what is happening in education today. All the edtech ads and commercials say that teachers don’t have the tools to successfully transition to online classes. “Buy our programs, use our apps!” the edtech companies say. But what is really needed aren’t gizmos and gadgets, what’s needed is an overhaul in the way teachers approach a subject and the delivery of that content.
This pandemic, plus 3 extra months off from school, is exactly what schools need to reflect and improve. Unpredictable disasters will come, that’s simply a fact of life. The education system can limp through these last months of the school year, giving students, teachers, and parents busy work that no one enjoys. Or the education system can cut its losses right now and spend its time planning for a better future. This is the time to plan and put in place at least two strategies for the education sector for the post-COVIDD-19 era. Education is suffering and stakeholders in both private and public institutions are feeling the heat. Let us not wait until the pandemic is over before we start asking ourselves what do we do? Start planning now!