Is it a new era for Education?

Insights Feb 16, 2021
By Farah Alam

As most industries pivoted to adapt their operations amidst the pandemic, specific sectors were disproportionately affected. Around the world, as the covid-19 virus threw us into a health crisis, educational institutions went into closure, globally affecting approximately 825 million learners. It is estimated that about 47% of the world’s student population was affected. While the closure of schools and universities has impacted students, their families and teachers, it has had an extensive consequence on society and the economy.

Therefore, our second webinar as part of the ‘Clarifying Impact Series‘ has brought a panel across the Global South to deliberate on whether we are entering a new era for education and what that looks like.

The four speakers discussed the impact that technology has had on the UN SDG 4: quality education. They talked about both the limitation and opportunities with online education.

Our speakers included Shehzia Lilani, Country Director at the Amani Institute (India), Rehma Khairi, Deputy Manager at the Engro Foundation (Pakistan), Muhammad Waqas, Founder and CEO at WonderTree (Pakistan), Dima Najim, Managing Director at Education For Employment (UAE) moderated by Stephen King, Lecturer at Middlesex University (Dubai, UAE).

The session highlighted the challenges faced in accessing education online across diverse groups of students—for instance, young women facing the twofold problem of domestic duties and time available for their learning. One of the most significant gaps for urban and rural student groups throughout the region is access to the appropriate ICT equipment and a reliable internet connection. An ideal between the two is a blended-learning model which includes regular in-person classes supplemented with learning online.

Obstacles to learning disproportionately impact women. On the one hand, girls who are forced to stay at home can now access education online. On the other hand, mothers are disadvantaged as lockdowns impose the double burden of domestic duties and childminding, leaving little time for their own learning opportunities.

We learned gamification could increase engagement, collaboration and learning for some disadvantaged student groups; such as children with special needs. Nevertheless, a blended learning model is a more practical approach for most rural student groups that may not have the support needed for learning at home.

As technology becomes ubiquitous among young urban learners of all ages, it is imperative to understand that for many teachers, a shift to online classes requires new skills development and extensive training. To make our move into the new era of education successful, we have to empower our teachers with the right tools and skills.

As technology helps to scale online courses to larger audiences across geographical borders, many students are left behind due to insufficient infrastructure to bring them onto an online platform. Moreover, while young children are quick to adapt to technology, they still require human intervention to enjoy a holistic educational experience. The new era for education has brought about many learning opportunities yet, its future is mostly dependent upon establishing the right infrastructure and creating a learning space that allows for human intervention alongside a digital experience to engage learners living in rural and urban communities.

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