Education of the future: Learning from the pandemic

In education lie the hopes for the future of any society. The benefits that properly grounded learning has on individuals are undeniable. Of the activities that a human being performs throughout his life, it is one of the most essential for personal, professional and social development. Despite this, in the context of the “Great Confinement”, education has been an area that has undergone radical and forced changes, which forces both those who receive it and those who teach it to adapt to an unprecedented situation. On May 18, more than 1.2 billion students stopped their teaching-learning processes. This is equivalent to 7 out of 10 individuals at all educational levels having their schools closed.

Education of the future

The common strategy in most educational institutions has been to move to the digital world in its entirety. Online classes were started, communication is carried out exclusively by gadgets and the Internet, and teaching materials as well as activities are shared and carried out on the web. As far as possible, teachers have adapted their plans and content to a digital world, supported to a lesser or greater extent by the corresponding authorities. It is clear that, in this situation, “Covid-19 amplifies the efforts that the [most vulnerable] children face to receive a quality education.” (Fleet, 2020).

In addition to the above, those students who ARE receiving an online education have experienced a deficient educational process during the crisis. Hence, thinking that difficulties generate learning from experience, and become opportunities, in this post we will talk about what is coming as the education of the future, which will be accelerated in a post-coronavirus world.

From an economic point of view, dominated by the forces of supply and demand, learning can be divided into those related to those who provide the education service – universities, schools, teachers, authorities – and consumers, protagonists of the educational process – the students.

Offer

The pandemic has forced the educational system to transform. After this crisis, an important lesson is that the offer must be sufficiently flexible and personalized, and thus prepared for the challenges that education may face. Flexible, because it requires adapting to various situations. Personalized because you must be aware of the strengths and opportunities of each individual, each region, each country.

In addition, it is essential to highlight that an online class is not the same as a face-to-face class. It seems obvious, but in a context in which most of the schools of all levels have improvised how to continue with their activities, he emphasizes that they only wanted to transfer their materials and their plans to a “technological” medium.

Using the same strategies in an online course and another face-to-face is pedagogically unfeasible.

It offers a reminder of what happened in the past decade when “21st century education” focused on digitizing textbooks. In the case of Mexico, for example, Enciclomedia only transferred the information from the books so that it could be screened in class, without any additional strategy. Thus without more, education is neither efficient nor effective, nor does it have the necessary scope to ensure that the teaching-learning process is productive.

Remember that in an educational and technological future, planning is important. What is designed to be face-to-face must be face-to-face, and what is designed to be developed online must be developed online.

In this framework, it is optimistically expected that the education of the near future will be strategically designed, with different content for a different population. Generations Z and Alpha are radically different than their predecessors as they developed in a digital world, marked by innovation and global interconnection. This requires planning that takes into account, as the main factor, the characteristics of this population sector, which is the one that is receiving and will receive the educational offer.

This educational transition will undoubtedly be towards an increasingly technological world. During the pandemic, teachers “have been forced to teach in a system in which they are not prepared. As a result, we are far from using best practices in online education, and we struggle in an emergency homeschooling ”(Petrie et al, 2020). Hence, the challenges, in terms of supply, necessarily imply teacher training, highly familiar with the use of ICTs, to take advantage of the digital resources that abound on the Internet.

In the same way, the adaptation of the teachers’ content will be imperative. It will be necessary to discern what information should be shared prior to class sessions, how they will develop, and what activities should be carried out afterwards. What dynamics will have to be used in order not to lose the attention of increasingly impatient individuals? How will communication with them be? These are issues that must be taken into account for the future of education.

Regarding higher education, the challenges will include creating spaces where students can relate, where they get to know each other and create solid networks. They should encourage “networking”, especially in graduate and MBA programs, as it is one of the objectives pursued by master’s and doctoral students. Whether in casual conferences, through videos, or through direct contact between each of them, it will be the Universities’ job to innovate to guarantee this, at least during the “new normal”.

Demand

Students are the demand of the education sector. From conception to culmination, the center of education is students, those who will receive knowledge, acquire skills and develop aptitudes that they will put into practice throughout their lives. Not only this, but the professionals of the future are the ones who will contribute to society, so without proper training, it is the population as a whole that is affected. In this vein, giant steps have been taken to meet the objective by making the student an active participant in the process.

This invites them to have contributions and will have responsibilities for the education of the future. It is customary that the way we learn during life is about replicating for the next generations. Furthermore, we would expect to learn in the same way throughout life. As mentioned above, different individuals require different manners. The Great Confinement, then, appears as an opportunity for students to participate in the transformation of education.

As there is no teacher in front, who is directly observing the student, requires a reflective process in him or her, in such a way that they can complement their own knowledge.

Regardless of age, not being face to face forces us to be more reflective, more aware, to be more interested and more daring.

The future of education will require, from the beginning, the elimination of the bias – common in Latin America – in which the teacher is the only one who has the information and the students repositories of it. Containers that only replicate what they have learned in controlled and repetitive situations, which will not contribute to their future beyond what can be seen in the classroom.

The teacher of the future, then, must be a learning facilitator who “sees an opportunity for the student to develop their capacity and training.” (Vainsecher, 2017). For this reason, the student of the future will have to take charge of their learning, become autonomous and independent, able to solve problems, curious and participatory. This will also include a “new distribution of time”, where, unlike traditional education, students “will be more focused on learning processes, than on meeting schedules or rigid curricular coverage” (Severin, 2020).

Institutions of Higher Education around the world have begun to apply techniques in this sense, so a person who plans to be part of the educational tomorrow will have to visualize himself in this scenario: forget about the lecture / sermon scheme, the simple transmission of knowledge. Begin to see the teaching-learning process in a dynamic, active way, where the facilitator will promote research and knowledge.

What will this lead to as students? The education of the future will have as an obligation the formation of participative citizens in a democratic society. It has been a misperception of the past to think that from the age of majority students will learn to collaborate, when throughout their traditional academic training they have done nothing but remain silent and fail to develop critical and analytical thinking. Hence, for most people it is difficult to contribute to society, from the contribution of ideas to getting down to work. Only with a democratic education, promoted from the beginning with the exchange of ideas, responsibility for participation and training, among other actions, can this objective be achieved.

The common challenge

In a post-coronavirus world, the common challenge for students, teachers, institutions and educational authorities – governmental and non-governmental – will be to think outside the box. A commitment from all parties is required to adapt to the new reality, to the “new normal”. The “adapted” status quo is not ideal. Moving a textbook to digital, attending only a Webinar or a virtual class, without reflecting on what is covered in them, and a traditional design will not be enough and will jeopardize the success of the process. More than a tool, “information technologies […] should become an essential component in school education.” (Li & Lalani, 2020).

It must be emphasized that the new normal will bring a wave of new teachers, with different points of view. Each University, each educational institution, each country will make decisions ad hoc to its specific reality. There will be schools that will open new paths towards modernization, and there will be others that will be stubborn in their methods. It will be imperative to promote attitudes of change, of daring to use creativity, of innovation, both in teachers and students.

Likewise, beyond the specific actions that will materialize during and after the pandemic, the situation reflects the deficiencies and areas of opportunity in today’s education system. It makes us reflect and be aware of what works and does not work, both for the educational system and for students. It forces us to be resilient, adaptable to change and flexible. To learn as you go, to strategize about what is not useful and what is. To have a spirit of change. To see solutions where others see problems, and learn to innovate at all times. Undoubtedly, these are skills and aptitudes that the education of the future and the path we are traveling will foster.