The massive global outbreak of Covid19 has changed lives in a short span of time. No one could have guessed that the year would turn out the way it has. The first quarter of 2020 is almost at a close and the future looks bleak. Other than the near curfew-like situation, one aspect that has faced drastic change is education. Students have been affected most with educational institutions being shut down due to the imminent threat of contagion. No one could have thought that this would happen. Yet it has, and now right in the crucial phase of their academic year, students are faced with different scenarios: online learning from their school, complete vacations’ mode, waiting for schools to reopen and summer vacations spent in school, etc.
The more and more time parents are actively shifting towards home schooling, the more they are realizing what was going on at the school academically. From disconnected subjects to ill- trained learning and teaching methodologies that left their children with below par intellect, complete lack of general knowledge, limited analytical skills and other similar issues. Parents are literally horrified!
As some are beginning to understand, the effects of home lockdown for students and learning may go beyond Covid19. The more and more time parents are actively shifting towards home schooling, the more they are realizing what was going on at the school academically. From disconnected subjects to ill- trained learning and teaching methodologies that left their children with below par intellect, complete lack of general knowledge, limited analytical skills and other similar issues. Parents are literally horrified!
It would be unfair to generalise the sentiment but that’s what the general sentiment is. Content, mode of teaching, developing independent thinking are some of the attributes parents had so wanted schools to impart but alas they seemed to have been busy keeping them ‘busy’ in tasks and paid nerdy little attention to these key attributes of a good school.
It’s not the Gadget Stupid!
Forced lockdown has given rise to everything digital; and why not. However, in fields like education it’s always the content that matters. Gadgets, ICT are tools and platforms at best. Garbage in is garbage out. You can’t expect education and learning to turn upside down with the same teachers and trainers going digital with the same content.
Education Technology is not a new concept in Pakistan. Inspired by global online learning platforms like Khan Academy and many others, there have been certain initiatives over the past decade or so.
Education Technology (EdTech as it’s commonly known)is not a new concept in Pakistan. Inspired by global online learning platforms like Khan Academy and many others, there have been certain initiatives over the past decade or so. Though laying the foundations of EdTech in the country, none of them really became super successful. There are many reasons for the sub par uptake so far. Lack of requisite ICT infrastructure and enabling environment are some but then the online education modules also seemed lesser contextualised than one may have expected, thus leaving students mainly aloof and uninterested in pursuing the otherwise highly laborious ground work done under these initiatives.
The underlying chief reason for the more than satisfactory scale of EdTech in Pakistan can be attributed to the overall positioning of Education itself in the country. Lack of incentives for teachers mean that very few bright students aspire to become teachers, the rote learning that feeds students into the conveyor belts of grade producing factories and lack of proper regulatory functions have all meant that Education at best is considered a necessary evil by most that students and their parents have to endure with but nothing fruitful comes out of it. The utilitarian objective of education as enabler of job seeking is prevalent. In this jungle of misplaced priorities, the conversation has long moved away from learning objectives to the expediency motivated political decisions to meet education related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at all costs, where quantity takes precedence over quality. The result is the gradual degradation of public education coupled with out-of-hand private education where marketing determines who rules higher fees. Seeing the potential, bigger boys of private education even went into the low cost segment as well to establish their hegemony. This is truly a jungle where student and education are not the center of the discourse; commercialism is.
Get it Right or Produce More of the Same!
The way forward for improvement is simple. Market is ripe for disruption however sub par regulatory environment and lack of initiative from the government have created barriers to disruption. The sooner the market and government open themselves up for much needed path redirection and recalibration, the sooner are we likely to expect meaningful conversations that will hopefully take us to viable and impactful education models; ones that while celebrating diversity are also driven by learning whereby student assumes the centre stage.
Industry wide collaborations would also augur well towards the cause. It’s not the time to get territorial; we are all in it together. In education, just as in life, you are as good as your partner.