What Impact Will Covid-19 Have on Education?
The Covid-19 pandemic has created huge and influential changes in all aspects of life, especially in the education sector. Many schools and institutions have been forced to move their teaching and examining online due to local or national lockdowns, increasing accessibility of education for some, decreasing accessibility for others, putting increased pressure on children and young people to work independently, and changing the learning style that many teachers adopt. How will this impact education in both the short and long term? There have been some initial drawbacks to these changes in education, such as lack of preparation on behalf of both students and schools, and the need to rapidly adjust to new and unfamiliar teaching methods. However, the changes made due to Covid-19 have also led to students and teachers being more resourceful and flexible and will hopefully result in educational institutions being more prepared for any future lockdown or pandemic scenarios.
The first and most dramatic change in education is the movement of learning from in-person to online. This has many different repercussions. It is debated as to whether this change benefits students and teachers, or negatively impacts teaching and learning. Many schools and universities have struggled to make the change to online teaching, as they have lacked the experience and resources needed for such a move, in some cases impacting the quality of education being provided.
This adjustment to online education has resulted in many new methods of teaching. These include the use of instructional packages (which include resources such as workbooks, printouts, and textbooks), radio and tv education, and online instructional programs, sites, and resources. Students have had to adjust to these new methods, and in the short-term, it has caused some significant disruption to their learning. However, in the long-term after adjustment, this change could mean that students can better access education from a wider range of resources. The internet can provide a plethora of information, and it is only through the required resourcefulness prompted by Covid-19 that the full potential of online learning has been discovered.
In the same way that teaching has had to move online in many places, so have examinations. For many students, this has brought some benefits - the traditional exam-hall testing was often a stressful environment, which can affect student success. Online examinations are more likely to take the form of coursework assessments or 24-hour period examinations where students have more time and resources at hand. This way they are more able to display their knowledge and ability without the stress and pressure of being confined to an exam hall. Some of these new examination methods may be kept post-Covid-19.
Increased Pressure to Work Independently
Before the emergence of Covid-19, when the majority of pupils were learning in a face-to-face setting, students had easier access to talk to members of the teaching staff and ask for advice. It was easier to ask questions in classes, and one-on-one help was more accessible. This has all changed with the movement of learning online - students have had to learn more independently and have needed to find new ways to find help from their teachers. This includes the scheduling of one-on-one meetings (if these are even available). Many find it harder to participate effectively in online classes, particularly if the majority of students keep their webcams off as this means they have no faces to see and talk to.
It is possible that as students adjust to online education, this problem will begin to lessen, and people will feel more comfortable contributing online. In the long-term, this encouragement to work more independently may actually be beneficial to students, equipping them with necessary research and resourcefulness skills.
Changes for Teachers
The Covid-19-induced change to online teaching has not only had an effect on students, but it has also had a huge impact on teachers. They have had to learn entirely new methods of teaching, often without being properly prepared. According to the OECD report on the impact of Covid-19 on education, 18% of lower secondary teachers reported a higher need for development in IT training to allow them to teach to the best of their ability, and 1/4 of school principals reported that inadequacies of digital technology were hindering the progress of teaching and learning. (OECD, 2020).
Hopefully, in the future, as a result of the changes prompted by Covid-19, teachers will be provided with better IT training, so they are better able to adjust if such a dramatic shift in teaching is ever required again.
Changes When Face-to-Face Teaching is Resumed
For a period after students and teachers start to return to in-person schooling, there will be further changes to the way education is undertaken. One of the key changes that may occur is smaller class sizes in order to accommodate the necessary social distancing measures. This will hopefully have a more positive impact on the quality of education that students receive, as teachers will be able to pay more attention to individual pupils. However, teachers may end up having a higher number of classes to teach for this same reason, as smaller class sizes with the same volume of students means a higher quantity of classes is required.
As schools reopen there are certain opportunities outlined by the OECD that educational institutions should seize - they should assess the effects that remote learning has had on their student's abilities to learn and continue building the infrastructure that is needed for remote learning, in case of the need to move online arising again. It is expected that schools will have better preparations for the event of a pandemic after Covid-19 restrictions are reduced. This will be beneficial to both teachers and students should these events ever arise.
Overall, the presence of Covid-19 has led to rapid change in educational practices both in the short and long-term. Although there has been an initial struggle to adapt to new ways of teaching and learning, the changes and adaptations made to education could be beneficial in shaping how we treat education in the future.