Rethinking education during Covid-19 times
At Sparknews, we believe that they can also be great opportunities to adapt and rethink our relations with the world. As a team who wants to ignite new narratives that can accelerate the ecological and social transition, we can’t avoid asking ourselves what will be the shape of the global collective story emerging from the current worldwide sanitary emergency. In this week #SparkMinute, let’s focus on education with local examples of solidarity, of businesses rethinking their models, and of articles and opinions that can nourish our imagination.
Around 188 countrywide school closures have come into effect as of April 1st.
That represents precisely 1,543,446,152 students being homeschooled right now, according to UNESCO. Both universities’ classrooms and playgrounds are now empty. But have we stopped learning?
For many parents, the coronavirus outbreak is an opportunity to rethink how to learn. A worldwide experiment is now taking place, with parents and tutors improvising how to be a teacher, learning about school curricula and discovering digital tools to share homework. A mission that can sometimes seem daunting, as Jon Methven puts it in this hilarious column: “There are parents out there who can both love their children unconditionally and also teach them Common Core mathematics. If this global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we are not those parents.”
The health crisis has also started an important discussion about the efforts that are being focused on tutelage. “Anyone who thinks that teaching and caregiving aren’t labor-intensive jobs is profoundly undervaluing both,” says Corinne Purtill in The New York Times. Yet opportunities lie in these new schooling conditions. In France, many were surprised when a radio report titled ‘School at the time of the corona’ aired drop-out students who are finding learning fun again, now that there are no grades or constraints.
However, the transition to remote schooling is leaving some behind, namely those who lack the necessary digital tools to study, the home conditions suited to favor focus and sometimes even available adults who can tutor them. For some children, a closed school even means one less meal a day, overlooked health issues and more time spent in violent homes. UNESCO has already called upon the global community to take vulnerability into account and plan for equity during the outbreak’s school closures.
Moving forward, we can ask ourselves: How can we imagine a new kind of education, one that allows everyone to find creativity and ingenuity sparks, able to address current and future challenges? One answer might be in one of the fundamentals of schooling: connection. You will find in this newsletter several initiatives that allow us to continue learning during these troubled times. Let’s remind ourselves that, even if we have much left to learn, we can teach just as much and nourish the essential connection that makes us all human.
When organizations walk the extra mile
When it became clear that schooling was going to take place online, many EdTech stepped forward to ensure a smooth transition. The language-learning platform Busuu, for example, has launched an initiative called Keep Kids Learning. Free live-streamed language classes for children in English, Spanish, French and Mandarin Chinese are taught by Busuu’s network of experienced language teachers to age-grouped classes.
As borders become less and less meaningful, lessons from abroad become growingly available. The UK-based education agent InterGreat Education Group is providing an international-oriented curriculum with free online lessons for Chinese families. In a similar move, the education technology company Naviance by Hobsons has offered their complete curriculum of online self-paced lessons for free to all of their clients, enabling over 1.6 million students to keep learning.
In this time of sanitary crisis, we need science and people able to understand it more than ever. The company Labster, which offers fully interactive advanced lab simulations for students, has reached out to colleges and universities who had to close labs to provide them with extended access to their virtual lab resources. The initiative, which could help thousands of classes, has already convinced 5,000 new teachers to sign-up.
Worldwide, countries were unequally prepared to face the entire school system shutdown. To support both teachers and parents in this new situation, Nordic countries including Estonia, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden have opened access to more than 40 of their remote learning solutions to the rest of the world, free-of-charge. While a full-size laptop will always be a necessity for some majors, a tablet you can throw into your bag and take to class will be useful for all kinds of students.
Local initiatives against global disorder
Not every household has a computer, and the digital divide can feed educational inequalities during these times of remote learning. In the United States, the nonprofit ParentChild+ has decided to secure an emergency grant to distribute smartphones and tablets with data plans to Massachusetts’ families in need.
Schools’ closures could have dramatic effects on child hunger. No Kid Hungry, a national campaign to end child hunger in America, has been deploying USD 5 million in emergency grants to ensure children get access to free meals across the country, supporting local projects similar to this one in San Diego.
With #Cinemadacasa, the walls of the city of Rome turn into giant screens every night at 10 pm and show sequences and images of a diverse range of films, including feel-good movies, classics and vintage films. Requests for projections to be included in the #Cinemadacasa programme can be made through social media.
Let’s imagine further
While the current pandemic is a situation out of the ordinary, it has certainly a way of revealing less exceptional malfunctions. Jessica Calarco, a sociology professor at the University of Indiana, in the United States, shared in The Conversation her views on the hardships of online learning for every kid, especially for those already vulnerable due to the digital divide. From relying on parents to the consequences this may have for students, she calls upon us to accept that not every parent is equally able to help kids keep up academically during this disruptive time. Find out more here.
On a more scholar note, professor of political science at the University of Toronto Aisha S. Ahmad shared this week a fascinating to-do list with Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure. Coming from someone who has conducted award-winning research while under highly difficult physical and psychological conditions, here are some tips on how to adapt to hard conditions and still be able to produce bold new ideas: Be slow. Let this distract you. Let it change how you think and how you see the world. Because the world is our work. And so, may this tragedy tear down all our faulty assumptions and give us the courage of bold new ideas. Read the whole piece here.
At Sparknews, are convinced that the coronavirus global outbreak will lead us to draw valuable lessons about our globalized economic system. Whether on matters like education, solidarity, biodiversity or our way of work, it will be up to us to return to the status quo once the health crisis is over, or to reshape everything. Discover our #SparkMinute on energy, work, and food.