At present, having a computer and an internet connection can be the difference between learning and not learning. Around the world, over 1.5 billion children are currently affected by the school closers ordered by governments to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As a result of school closures, many governments are faced with one profound question: How can ALL children continue to learn and access education? The answer to this question is dependent upon what resources are available.
In most countries, the sudden move to distance learning has forced teachers and students into a digital world away from familiar, well-structured face-to-face classroom environments. While this new change maintains access to learning, it also carries the risk of escalating existing inequalities for marginalized and vulnerable learners. This is particularly true for those living in low resource, poor countries who already struggle to receive quality education and where access to devices and connectivity is lacking. This represents challenges as these communities are not prepared or equipped for the new change.
Map 1: Global school closures caused by COVID-19
For many children that live in poor countries, teachers provide education through a ‘blended’ education approach that uses both face to face interaction and online learning. However, this ‘blended’ approach is no longer appropriate at present as social distancing has been enforced by governments. Therefore, there is a need to unpack the use of different tools in developing regions so that education can continue to be accessed for ALL children. One example adopted by some NGOs to support the continuity of education in low resource and low tech environments is through leveraging co-exisiting education programmes from emergency and conflict zones which require little or no technology. However, despite important lessons that can be discovered from adopting educational programmes from other contexts these must be taken with a pinch of salt.
Put simply, any educational programmes that are implemented or adopted are conditional on the recipient context. This is evident through my own research on planning for education in low tech and low resource environments in India. The next section below briefly summarises my own suggestions how existing infrastructures needs to be considered within any context when planning for education continuity during the pandemic.
What materials are currently available?
Explore what materials are already available for continuous learning within a context. These channels should be continued to be harnessed to support learners e.g. radio broadcasting or mobile phones.
It is also important to consider who has access and who remains excluded to education resources. Many children are already left out of education, therefore there is a responsibility that when education resources are made available during the COVID-19 response, these resources are still distributed fairly among ALL learners.
It is important to recognise WHO actually has access to education resources? Is it just parents? Children? or both?
Identify the level of literacy and digital literacy among learners, parents and teachers in the community.
In order to sustain any education changes for the unforeseeable future, questions must be raised how former education equipment could be repurposed within a context and how these resources could be used as a long term education investment? Could these resources be used to support catch up or accelerated catch up classes for learners?
This is not an exhaustive list for low tech and low resource environments. However, these are critical starter points when planning for COVID-19 education responses.
WHAT WOULD YOU PRIORITISE?
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