We are living in what is potentially one of the greatest threats in our lives to global education. As of March 28, 2020, research shows that more than 1.6 billion children and youth are not attending their respective educational institutes in almost 161 countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic – which is approximately about 80% of the school-age students in the world.
We were already experiencing a global learning crisis. We already knew that many students, even when they were in school, were not acquiring the fundamental skills necessary for life. The World Bank indicator of “poverty of learning”, had already shown in 2019 that the percentage of children who cannot read or understand a simple text at 10 years old, was 53% in children in from low- and middle-income countries. This was before the crisis. This pandemic has the potential to further worsen these outcomes if not properly acted upon.
How can this phase of the crisis impact the global youth?
1. Losses in learning opportunities.
2. Increased dropout rates.
3. Children missing the most important meal of the day (i.e. breakfast). Furthermore, most countries have very unequal education systems, with the poorest children being the most affected. It will rain on wet for them.
Learnings. Starting the school year late or interrupting it (depending on whether you live in the southern or northern hemisphere) will completely alter the lives of many children, their parents and teachers. But enough can be done to at least reduce this impact through remote and virtual learning strategies. Wealthier countries are better prepared to move towards online learning strategies (albeit with much effort and challenges for teachers and parents). In contrast, in middle-income and poorer countries, the situation is very heterogeneous; and without correct interventions, the great inequality of opportunities that exists (already immense and unacceptable to begin with) will be amplified. Many children do not have a desk, books, reading materials, an internet connection, a home computer, or supportive parents. Others do.
Fortunately, we are seeing a lot of creativity. Many ministries of education are concerned that basing remote learning only on online strategies will involve reaching only children from wealthier families. The appropriate strategy in many countries is to use all possible delivery modalities using existing infrastructure. Use online tools to ensure pedagogical guides with detailed lesson plans, videos, tutorials, and other resources are available to some students and probably to most teachers. But also, podcasts and other resources that require less data use when downloading them on a smartphone. Work together with telecommunications companies to implement “Zero-Rate” programs, eliminating the cost of downloading material from educational websites,
But that is not enough. Radio and television are also very powerful tools. The advantage we have today is that, through social networks, WhatsApp or SMS, the ministries of education can effectively communicate with parents and teachers and provide guidelines, instructions and structure for the learning process, using content delivered by radio or TV. Remote learning today is not only online learning, it is learning using all communication platforms, with the aim of reaching as many students as possible.
Stay hooked. It is essential to maintain the students’ bond with the educational process, especially the high school youth and beyond. Dropout rates are still very high in many countries, and a long period of school failure may result in further increases. Many young people may simply not go back to school. It is important to stay connected to the school by any means necessary.
This is also a time to develop socio-emotional skills and learn more about how to contribute to society as a citizen. School is not just learning math and science; it is also social relationships and interactions (and learning) between peers. The role of parents and family, which has always been extremely important, now becomes much more important. For this reason, much of the help provided by the ministries of education, working through radio, television and SMS messages should be directed to supporting parents, giving them advice and suggestions on how to better support their children in this complex. joint.
Feeding. In many parts of the world, school feeding programs provide children with the most nutritious meal of the day. They are essential for cognitive development and well-being. These programs are very complex logistical and administrative efforts. It is not easy, but countries must find ways to provide these meals using school facilities in an organized way, or community networks or, if necessary, distribute them directly to families. If meal or food delivery is not logistically feasible, monetary subsidy programs should be expanded or implemented to compensate parents.
The responses to the crisis generated by COVID-19 require planning, but it is necessary to be prepared to adjust the plans, since the scenarios about the pandemic change from day to day, and there is also uncertainty about the effectiveness and compliance of the mitigation measures that countries are taking. The reopening of schools could be gradual, as authorities will want to reduce crowding or the possibility of a second wave of the pandemic. In this uncertain context, it might be better to make decisions assuming a long class suspension scenario than a short one.
The good news is that many of the improvements, initiatives and investments that school systems will have to make could have a positive long-term effect. Some countries may increase the digital skills of their teachers. Radio and television stations will recognize their key role in supporting national educational goals and, hopefully, will improve the quality of their programming by understanding their immense social responsibility. Parents will be more involved in the educational process of their children. Ministries of education will have a clearer understanding of the gaps and challenges (in connectivity, hardware, integration of digital tools in the curriculum) that exist to use technology effectively, and will be able to act to reduce those gaps.
The mission of all educational systems remains. It is to overcome the learning crisis that we were already experiencing. The current challenge is to minimize the negative impact that this pandemic will have on learning and education, and to take advantage of this experience to resume an accelerated route of improvement in learning. As education systems cope with this crisis, they must also plan for recovery, with a renewed sense of responsibility from all actors and with a better understanding and sense of urgency of the need to ensure that all children have the same possibilities of receiving a quality education.
We at e-Magine believe that education is everyone’s right and every child is creative and intelligent in his own way. For this we have started our online classes where students from any background can register at a very minimal cost. All they need is a notebook, a smartphone and internet connection.
e-Magine has always strived to take out the hidden genius in a child with their trainings, workshops and events. Due to closure of schools in Pakistan, e-Magine decided to take the classes to students by taking their workshops and trainings online.
e-Magine is doing this by collaborating with partners including the Zee Foundation, BizToday, the Kiran Foundation, Childlife Foundation, Promising Pakistan, Sir Syed University, and Paramount Books just to name a few. For, all of us, share a common goal, which is to give the students of not only Pakistan; but globally too, a better future and an easy way of learning.
Many individuals including students, teachers, and others are unfortunately just passing their time during these isolation days by spending an immense amount of time on Netflix, Facebook, and other social media forum. This results in not only a loss of learning for them; but also prevents the emergence of new ideas and creativity. Thus, by providing a variety of workshops beyond those provided by conventional schooling at highly economical rates, we hope to prepare these individuals for the digital world we now live in. These workshops include basic photography, teaching in the digital age, website development, and a lot more.
Despite the restrictions that the world is currently going through, the e-Magine team has made themselves more than available and ready to cater to the community and can be contacted via phone, their Facebook page, and their website – all of which are given below.
We certainly recommend that every child and parent gets in touch with them and registered in their online workshops as a means of not only self-growth; but also to generate new ideas for their future that can be pragmatically implemented to change the world we live in.