With the COVID-19 pandemic having led to school closures affecting – according to the World Economic Forum – over 1.2 billion children globally, it’s hard not to raise the question of whether the international education system has been permanently altered.
There are quite a few reasons to believe that it indeed has – with the following pandemic-induced trends looking likely to hold firm even once the COVID threat has subsided.
More respect for the role of teachers
Emiliana Vegas and Rebecca Winthrop, co-directors of the Centre for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, remarked in September: “As young people struggle to learn from home, parents’ gratitude for teachers, their skills, and their invaluable role in student wellbeing, has risen.”
Increased respect for qualifications earned online
On the Higher Education Digest website, tech entrepreneur Girish Sharma punctures one of the biggest myths about e-learning: that qualifications obtained online do not warrant the same level of credibility as those earned in the usual, in-person fashion.
On the contrary, “degrees and certification obtained via online learning and offline hold the same value”, he insists.
A new hybrid model of education
Though online working might – in many respects – currently look like a makeshift replacement for classroom-based learning, the two could soon come to effectively complement each other.
“I believe that the integration of information technology will be further accelerated and that online education will eventually become an integral component of school education,” Tencent executive Wang Tao has opined.
The increased prominence of “edtech”
Even before the pandemic, education technology – or “edtech”, as it is otherwise known – was a fast-growing market, where global investments totalled US$18.66 billion in 2019.
The edtech sector’s penetration in India, for example, has further grown due to COVID-19 – leading Sharma to declare that, even after the pandemic, this industry “shall gain excellent traction and there will be no looking back”.
Improved learning outcomes
The large-scale transition to online learning could bode well for what students achieve in their education, research suggests.
It has been found that, when learning online, students retain 25-60% more material compared to just 8-10% in a classroom. This discrepancy has been mainly attributed to e-learning being 40-60% quicker than traditional, classroom-based learning.
A more future-proof education system
In his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, academic Noah Harari wrote that schools have too often focused on traditional academic skills and rote learning instead of skills – like critical thinking and adaptability – which Harari deems more promising for the future. It has been suggested that the shift to online learning could help overhaul the arguably antiquated education system.
The opportunity to spread valuable knowledge further
One especially significant merit of online learning is how easily it can be utilised across various borders, companies and sectors of society.
As e-learning is among the few sectors not to have seen investment evaporate, online learning could be effectively used to disseminate knowledge noticeably more widely than before. For example, the importance of COVID-19 tests available from firms like MyHealthChecked could be further emphasised to more people.