Education – post the coronavirus period

What new opportunities might there for the education sector, post the coronavirus period,  now that in a number of countries a majority of educators have been teaching online?

The MESH International Advisory Group is pooling ideas about the lessons learned from the challenges faced by the education sector worldwide during the coronavirus closedown of face to face schooling and will be publishing these in due course. Follow us on Twitter to be kept up to date @meshguides.

The following contribution is from  Stephen Hall, an experienced Head Teacher and Teacher Educator, Staffordshire University (a MESH Founder Member), UK.

Doing Education Differently: some initial thoughts 

Background thinking to ‘Doing Education Differently’

Previous situation: prior to the Coronavirus emergency, the current education system in England was:

  • not fit for purpose for many learners as too much reliance on a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach;
  • not flexible enough to account for learners who rely on different learning patterns for managing their learning in a ‘use first’ and ‘use as needed’ way – phrases that refer to how we subconsciously (or consciously) use our preferred learning patterns to process new knowledge,
  • putting accountability ahead of leadership and learning,
  • mainly focused on either product or syllabus curriculum model because of high stakes assessment and less focus on process or praxis curriculum models,
  • designing in limitations to the National Curriculum through ‘thinking in subjects’ which unnaturally compartmentalises and restricts learning,
  • missing opportunities to develop pupils in an holistic way, focusing in qualifications as a priority,
  • not actively encouraging or empowering parental involvement in a deep, collaborative way – still too much of a ‘them and us’ mentality,
  • providing insufficient opportunity for learners to take ownership of their learning or to follow their own interests across peer age groups and generations,
  • missing opportunities to use new technologies to learn in a more flexible way,
  • national trend of increasing numbers of parents home educating their children rather than sending to school, 
  • starting to develop more research-based and evidence-based practice but in an ad hoc way,
  • promoting a commercial approach to education and learning leading to the privatisation of knowledge in academy chains and the loss of education as a public service as a result of the policy of setting up academies and multi-academy trusts,
  • allowing the uncontrolled use of funds leading to obscene salaries for new managers and CEOs of organisations with no previous experience of running chains of schools.

Current situation: the recent outbreak of Coronavirus and Covid-19 pandemic has prompted:

  • closure of schools, colleges and universities which has led to a rise in online teaching and learning,
  • enforced home education by parents,
  • schools remain open for specific children (usually children of key, front-line workers),

This has resulted in:

  • an outburst of creativity and imagination from children and parents, thrown into thinking about how to use home time constructively, have fun and learn collaboratively at the same time,
  • a sudden increase in the availability (or awareness) of online, distance learning materials of both an informal and formal kind,
  • an immediate embrace of technology by people of all ages for communicating, collaborating and for just staying in touch, informed and entertained (or, even better for entertaining one another),
  • the liberating, opening up of opportunities for anyone to learn anything that captures their interests, enthusiasms and passions, at any time, at their own pace and in their own environment, in collaboration with others if they wish,
  • a willingness by teachers, college lecturers and university academics (along with any number of well-informed others) to adapt existing learning materials to make them available online and to suit distance learning,
  • a need for intergenerational online contact for grandparents to remain in touch with children, grandchildren and other family members and friends.

Future situation: many systems such as Education, that were previously taken for granted, are changing rapidly in a diverse and dynamic way such that they will never be the same again.

We will be ‘Doing Education Differently’ from now on in a way that combines both formal and informal approaches to learning and education, across age groups and generations.

A probable outcome of the Coronavirus outbreak and Covid-19 pandemic is that education will evolve into a new paradigm, captured by the phrase ‘Doing Education Differently’, that encompasses three main elements:

  1. Online Learning: a permanent move towards online/distance learning with open access to free materials for individuals and groups of like-minded learners of all ages.
  1. Home Education: an increase in the amount of time that children spend learning at home, with parents and grandparents as both home educators and co-learners.
  1. Flexible Schooling: a more specialised role for schools (or some kind of similar, community facility) that offers maker spaces, meeting places and provides specialist advice and guidance to deepen learning and support for gaining qualifications.

A key prerequisite of any new paradigm, if it is to be more than just a new ‘fashion’ is to redefine teaching and learning. No longer will it be appropriate to refer to the way that children are taught (in schools) as Pedagogy and to separate this from the way that adults learn, as Andragogy.

What will be needed is a new way of looking at learning and teaching within this new paradigm that captures the way that learners take greater ownership of their own learning as they mature, gain increased self-confidence, self-awareness and self-efficacy.

One possible way of considering this is to merge the separate concepts of learning for children and for adults into one, dynamic concept of Pandragogy, a maturity model of learning and teaching in which the learner increasingly takes greater responsibility for their own learning as they grow towards self-actualisation and self-determination.

Stephen Hall