2021-01-24 GENERAL HOUSE

Teaching and Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Invitation to Rethink Education

Quality education is one of the United Nations (UN)’s seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for a better world by 2030. On December 3, 2018, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 73/75 and proclaimed January 24 as an International Day of Education to emphasize the key role that education plays in development. The theme chosen for this year’s celebration isRecover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation”. It anticipates a better future for education despite the spread of a highly transmissible coronavirus variant in the United Kingdom and the United States.

When schools shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, many governments encouraged their countries to adopt the online learning method. This method has magnified non-interactive education which deprives students of the motivation and peer interaction which happen in school settings. It has also created a digital gap given that not all the students have access to the necessary technology to connect to online classes. Worse still, academic productivity is bound to suffer as lecturers and students continue to work outside their comfort zone.

The pandemic situation is not as nightmarish as it seems. As a turning point in human history, it is empowering society to care more for human life. Also, remote learning is enabling students to take control and responsibility for their learning as well as pushing teachers to reflect on the curricula to ensure that it is relevant and learner-centred. In this direction, the pandemic is drawing the attention of stakeholders to the importance of incorporating the mental health of students, teachers, and support staff in their education policies. Many schools are now willing to invest in the health and safety of the students and staff.

Online learning should not only be an emergency relief measure but rather an opportunity to rethink education by answering questions about how lessons learnt during lockdowns will influence the post-Covid-19 schools. During lockdown, schools modified their curriculum, timetables, and teaching plans to cope remote learning. Will they carry on with this in “normal” classrooms? Will there be a return to rote learning? Will more time and effort be spent on students’ care? And will there be small class sizes and a fair distribution of attention to students during classroom interaction?

Secondly, anxiety, fear and isolation are factors in the COVID-19 pandemic crisis which forced teachers to work on building a sense of community and human contact through remote learning. Will the return to classrooms reverse this? Will teachers adjust curriculum coverage to check-in with every student and give them opportunities to connect with each other? Will teachers consider themselves as facilitators and mentors rather than compendia of knowledge?

Lastly, will special attention be paid to training teachers in how to digitalize their instruction? And will students in disadvantaged areas be given access to information technology (IT) devices? Certainly, it will be difficult to level the playing field completely for everyone. However, one thing is certain; the post-COVID-19 pandemic educationists and educators will have no choice but to look for strategies that will render future pandemics ineffective in disrupting education.


Brother Francis Lukong – Assistant Director of the Secretariat of Solidarity


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