Post-COVID education: going ‘forward’ to normal

Europe's World

Citizens' Europe

Picture of Cristina Pozzi
Cristina Pozzi

Co-Founder and CEO of Impactscool and 2020 European Young Leader (EYL40)

COVID-19 has been an eye-opener in many respects, as it has exposed the weaknesses and strengths inherent in our societies. By bringing urgent questions to the fore, this pandemic has shed light on the need for a paradigm shift in education.

Technology has a crucial role to play in this regard. During the lockdown, we saw how technology could be used to maintain and strengthen relationships. Having access to the internet and basic technological tools should be seen as a fundamental right. Policymakers must recognise this basic fact.

We also need a new, mature and resilient model for globalisation, which places education and healthcare at the heart of national and international debates. This emergency has shown that it is time to move forward to a new normal and to be bold, to experiment and to innovate.

So, how should we go about tackling education? When a crisis like this hits, without warning, it is natural for governments to go into ‘reaction’ mode. Yet now, as we enter the recovery phase, it is time to be much more proactive and plan for the future.

Concretely, this means taking action to get our boy and girls back to school safely. Measures need to be put in place to ensure that, even under these difficult circumstances, children under 14 be authorised to attend school physically (provided the virus allows us to). This is important, as certain students have found it challenging to be autonomous using digital tools. Physical interaction has always been a crucial component of young people’s education.

We need to acknowledge those pre-COVID challenges which the pandemic has exacerbated

Should a second wave hit in autumn, we need to learn from our previous mistakes and equip everyone with the adequate tools. We must also ensure that the most vulnerable – those left behind by the digital and social divide – are taken into consideration.

In the post-COVID economy, funds should be used as more than a mere ‘recovery tool’. They should also be seen as an investment. To face these challenges with the right mindset, we need to acknowledge those pre-COVID challenges which the pandemic has exacerbated, such as local fragilities, the digital divide, gender inequality, social disparities, youth unemployment and the issue of skills mismatch.

Keeping these issues in mind, we can future-proof our education systems. This requires integrating new knowledge and new tools into traditional educational paths. Education should combine hard skills – such as mastery of new technologies – with soft skills that can help our kids grow to be resilient, curious and responsible citizens.

It is also necessary to rethink the curriculum in order to adapt to a world where technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics are set to completely transform our lives. Including technologies in the educational process will help better prepare future generations for their use.

We must also equip young people with crucial life skills such as emotional intelligence, deductive reasoning, inductive logic, decision-making, problem-solving, communications, ethics and critical thinking, to name but a few.

We can build a new pact for the future of education

This should be combined with new forms and methods of teaching, that take into account special needs and particularities. As the lockdown has shown, technology alone is not sufficient to reform education. Teachers must also adopt a new mindset, that goes beyond a simple transmission of knowledge. They can enhance their role, by serving as guides for their students, and providing key support for their growth and development.

 

The good news is that we have already seen funds, standards and guidelines proposed to address all these issues. However, we are still struggling to translate words and funds into action. If the virus has shown us anything, it’s that societies can adapt quicker than we thought. It also led to an inspiring outpouring of solidarity from local communities and the private sector. We need to leverage this momentum.

 

This will require guiding teachers and educators through this radical transformation, helping them along the process. This can be done by enhancing local collaboration between schools, non-profit organisations and private companies. Bringing together teachers’ expertise with third parties’ expertise in innovation and digital technologies will allow local communities to experiment.

Through all of this, we can build a new pact for the future of education. Communities should be at the heart of exchanging good practice and making sure that funds are used to effectively leverage for change. This is how we can truly move forward on education.

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