COVID-19 and EdTech: Collective Efforts to Embrace the Difference

COVID-19 has evolved to penetrate and severely weaken every sector’s functioning across the globe. The global education landscape has undergone substantial changes, thus, looming towards a significant educational crisis as never before. The closure of schools is not only limited to loss of learning, but also the loss of human capital and economic opportunities.

COVID-19-and-EdTech-Collective-Efforts-to-Embrace-the-Difference

Acknowledging the New Norm

The pandemic has driven more than 1.6 billion children and youth out of school across the globe. That sums up to almost 80% of the world’s enrolled students. Even the month of July witnessed 1.1 billion students not resuming their classes. This is despite the reopening of schools in more than 50 countries across the globe.

Not that things were taking a positive turn before. Even before the outbreak, the world had its own share of the learning crisis. The Learning Poverty indicator recorded 53% of children in low- and middle-income countries, who cannot read and understand at the age of 10.

Such outbreaks and health emergencies are potentially devastating for countries with low-learning outcomes, low resilience, and high-dropout rates. Moreover, it presents an economic burden for families, where children rely on school meals.

EdTech: Strategies and Policies

Several countries are taking multiple approaches to incorporate technology into education. Technological reliance during such times is not novel. The recent use of education and technology that occurred at a particular magnitude, was during SARS, Ebola, and H1N1 outbreaks. Most countries see the use of delivery modes with the existing infrastructure as a viable strategy.

Here are some of the strategy and step taken by few countries during the crisis:

  1. China

The country witnessed almost 200 million primary and secondary school students starting their new semester online in February. The Ministry of Education introduced the ‘ensuring learning undisrupted when classes are disrupted’ initiative. It also organized teleconferences with school management agencies, telecom providers, online platforms, course providers, etc.

The education ministry collaborated with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology for:

  • Mobilizing major telecom service providers for propelling internet connectivity service
  • Enhancing society-wide resources for online courses
  • Incorporating flexible and appropriate methodologies to assist learning
  • Strengthening online security through collaboration with online platform service providers and the telecom sector
  • Providing psycho-social support. Also, imparting awareness about the virus and the preventive measures
  1. India

India houses one of the largest education systems in the world. With the outbreak, almost 250 million students are staying at home. The Ministry of Human Resource Development, on March 21st, 2020, shared several e-Learning platforms that students can capitalize on to continue undisrupted learning.

  • The DIKSHA portal entails e-Learning content for students, parents, and teachers that supplement the curriculum. It includes worksheets, assessments, lessons, and textbooks. The content is created by 250 teachers teaching in multiple languages. This was done under the counsel of NCERT and the national board of education (CBSE).
  • e-Pathshala, an e-Learning application by NCERT for classes 1-12 in multiple languages, encompasses audio, books, videos, etc.
  • The National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) portal is a host of resources of students and teachers in several languages. It includes videos, interactive modules, and videos.
  • Swayam entails 1900 complete courses that include weekly assignments, credit transfers, videos, exams, etc. Subjects include not only conventional curriculum, but also humanities, social sciences, engineering, law and management courses, robotics, etc.
  • Swayam Prabha is a cluster of 32 Direct to Home (DTH) channels directed at telecasting educational programs, with access across the country. The channels air courses for school education, higher education, vocational education, teacher training, etc.

There is a willingness in the country to bring about several market players in the EdTech ecosystems.

  1. Brazil

The states of Para and Amazonas launched a strategy that majorly centers on the use of educational television. The Brazilian Amazon does have a long tradition on this, which dates back to the 1970s. The state of Amazonas has produced guidelines for students, parents, systems, teachers, and managers. In the YouTube scenario, too, the Canal Futura channel has curated content.

  1. Russia

Russia has online platforms like Russian online school, Yaklass, and Teach.ru, that are available for pupils, parents, and teachers. Companies like Yandex and Skyeng are actively supporting the education system of the country.

The Ministry of Education has several guidelines for the implementation of distance learning technologies. 70% of all Russian universities have transitioned the educational process online. The ministry launched a hotline and a website with methodological support. The University 2035 is an online platform established by the Agency of Strategic Initiatives that are engaged in the aforementioned support.

  1. South Africa

The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation put forth a statement on March 17th, 2020, about the measures taken to tackle the pandemic impact on the training and post-school education sector.

  • The Department of Basic Education provides distance educational material organized and accessible through its website. Students can access multimedia resources and study & reading materials.
  • The Department of Basic Education and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) introduced the radio curriculum support and education television programs for students. Telkom ZA, a telecom operator, has zero-rated educational websites that provide cost-free access to students.

EdTech: Will that be all?

Access to technology can vary from country to country, majorly depending on the income graph. For instance, as per the PISA 2018 data from Belarus, the absence of devices puts students at a disadvantage concerning educational achievement.

The economically-developed countries have the upper hand when it comes to implementing online learning strategies. Nevertheless, it still warrants lots of efforts and challenges for teachers and parents. The middle-income and poorer countries witness inequality of opportunities, again relying on income graphs and privileges.

Further, as per a study on the use of ICT during the SARS epidemic, the reliance on ICT-centric teaching and learning styles can be frustrating as put forth by some individual teachers in Hong Kong. The region encompassed widespread use of ICT than the rest of China during the SARS epidemic.

How much will Technology fare?

Educational reformers have long-held the opinion of the integral roles that information and computer technologies (ICTs) and computers can play to execute much-needed changes in the education system. The SARS epidemic saw China Educational TV implementing the ‘Classroom on the Air’ program. It provided a large-scale and short-term substitute for students confined to their homes.

Massively open online courses (MOOCs) can enroll thousands of learners at the same time. It has been an active topic for discussion in terms of education and international development. This will be effective in providing greater access to more learning opportunities, during such times or otherwise. Many stats and studies project that the amount of consumption of educational content through EdTech will shoot up during the ongoing crisis.

With remote learning becoming the norm, it is estimated that there will be increasing demands for EdTech platforms. Remote learning also entails mixed media learning, aimed at extensive outreach.  Several growth opportunities linger at places where various target programs can be included. These can consist of enhancing connectivity for schools, improving the financing of the digital curriculum, and bettering telecommunication capabilities. 

Preparedness for the Future

The relaxation of travel regulations is slated to accelerate the movement of millions of people across the globe. With this, there are speculations of further outbreaks, intensifying the number of cases that will jeopardize normal life. As is evident, educations systems and students will have to bear the brunt of it. It is during such times that technology in the learning process will be put to good use.