The Covid 19 pandemic has shined a harsh light on humanity’s faces and posed multidimensional challenges to our education systems. It was not just the move from classrooms to computer screens. It tested basic ideas about instruction, attendance, testing, funding, technology’s role, and the human connections that hold it all together.
As the education of more than 1.5 billion students worldwide has been hampered due to school closures, many parents, teachers, and educators now might be wondering: Will the pandemic change the way we teach and learn? When will our kids be able to join their classes in person? Or are they welcoming this school year virtually? Will online learning become the future way of learning? And how will it affect children academically, mentally, and socially?
At Everest Education, we can not give you a clear answer yet. The only thing we know for sure is: “we cannot return to the world as it was before” – as UNESCO put it in their report for the International Commission on the Futures of Education. However, the pandemic has allowed us to implement innovative approaches that we never tried before, in the efforts to support families and students to keep on learning without disruptions. We can also see the promising future of learning, where going to school no longer requires going anywhere.
This article will give parents a clearer picture of global education in a post-COVID world. Just as we all learned to adapt to social distancing, it’s time to be aware of what will possibly come, what parents should expect during the transition, and what we can do to help students adjust when we all come out of lockdown.
1. School by screens: Remote learning keeps going
Online education has traditionally been viewed as an alternative pathway particularly well suited to adult learners seeking higher education opportunities. Even before COVID-19, there was already high growth and adoption in education technology, with global edtech investments reaching US$18.66 billion in 2019 and the overall market for online education projected to reach $350 Billion by 2025.
However, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has required educators and students across all levels of education to adapt quickly to virtual courses. During the coronavirus crisis, many countries use digital pedagogical tools to deliver lessons as schools close.
There are, of course, challenges to overcome. Some students without reliable internet access and technology struggle to participate in digital learning. The effectiveness of online learning also varies amongst age groups because kids are more easily distracted. In Vietnam, we can see that many parents are still skeptical of the quality of online learning.
Even though it is challenging to respond to these challenges directly, many schools have adopted equitable and inclusive access to good learning conditions. Synchronous online conferencing systems, such as Zoom and Google Meet, have allowed teachers and experts from anywhere in the world to join online classrooms and have allowed presentations to be recorded for individual learners to watch at a time most convenient for them. Furthermore, the importance of hands-on, experiential learning has led to innovations such as virtual field trips and virtual labs. In Vietnam, we also witnessed a significant surge in using many digital learning platforms since COVID-19, whether language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, or online learning software. Many students are also taking advantage of learning opportunities on the most popular social media platforms, from exploring TikTok’s educational hashtags like #LearnOnTikTok to Facebook’s Digital Literacy Library.
In Everest online classes, we are incredibly proud to see our students, even the youngest ones, become more open and fluent in using technology to energize their learning. It’s a very positive sign to see our students expanding their tech-savvy to connect, learn, and explore creatively.
Having developed our online software and learning models since 2015, Everest Education has more experience with online learning than anyone else in Vietnam. Our Everest online classes are not just temporary solutions for remote education like Google Classroom, Zoom, Skype, or other online classroom tools. With the technology, and more importantly, our dedicated teachers – we can cultivate that same community engagement with our online students as they do with our offline students. Students enjoy joining classes to learn, play games, and challenge themselves.
These changes have also highlighted that the promising future of learning, and the accelerated changes in modes of delivering quality education, cannot be separated from the imperative of leaving no one behind. It will be interesting to see which aspects of emergency remote teaching remain in the next generation of education when the threat of COVID-19 is no longer a factor. But paths for greater access and opportunities to online education have been forged, and there is a clear route for the next generation of adopters of online education.
With all that said, learning how to learn is fast becoming an essential skill for any children that parents need to equip them with to get them ready for the “new normal” of education in the future world. In the book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, scholar Yuval Noah Harari also outlines skills such as critical thinking and adaptability will be the key factors students need to succeed in the future.
2. When your child struggles: More support for mental health
We’ve seen many mental health challenges while children and teens have been at home, especially older kids. The pandemic continues to wallop college students with depression and anxiety on the rise. According to a new BestColleges.com survey, 95% of college students have experienced negative mental health symptoms due to COVID-19-related circumstances. In a Boston University study of 33,000 undergraduates, 83% said worsened mental health had negatively impacted their academics. Many students must cope simultaneously with isolation, economic insecurities, fear of contracting the virus, care for their families, and academic pressures. Classes moved remote, and students moved home. Students watched family members and friends get sick, lose jobs, even lose their lives. Some got sick or lost jobs themselves. The world shut down. These were situated in the notion of self-directed learning and self-management. These notions entail discipline, personal commitment, motivation and so on.
Through the height of the pandemic, many colleges and universities upgrade their priority level on students’ mental health. For example, Harvard has doubled their volume of Counseling and Mental Health Services. They also conduct frequent webinars, virtual conferences and activities, and build a strong alumni network to help students overcome their mental challenges. Currently, UCLA also offers a more formalized screening option. They are conducting massive online screenings to measure anxiety and depression in 100,000 students, staff, and faculty.
>> What would it feel like to study online at Harvard? Listen to Chuyện Du Học podcast with Lê Mỹ Hiền – our College Compass student, who got a full-ride scholarship to Harvard, and now is experiencing her 2nd year at the school:
For younger students, it’s also crucial for parents to pay more attention to your kid’s mental health than ever before. There are also children who imagined that going back to school or activities would feel like they remembered it before the pandemic. It can be distressing when it is not as anticipated. Maybe because the rules are different, their friendship groups have changed, or they have gotten used to a different pace of life. Unanticipated challenges for children and teenagers are tough. So, parents need to know what the school or afterschool activity logistics will be, so together with their child, they can anticipate what it may be like for the initial return to in-person experiences. More than that, parents should use this time to help kids build their resilience. That’s the ability to recognize and withstand or respond to the challenges that present themselves in life. It’s the key for all of us in maintaining our mental health.
3. What parents can do to make the post-Covid transition easier for kids
Parents can talk about not just what their children are feeling but what other peers may be feeling, too. Help children and adolescents to know it’s not that they have lost 16 months. It’s that they have learned workarounds and had to be adaptable. And also, they likely have been frustrated, lonely, confused, disappointed and sad, and they’ve weathered that, too. Use the experience to help them feel more rigid and resilient, heading into the new workarounds and adaptations required by the following months. You can teach your child to think about this time as having been in some ways like a tunnel. When we exit the tunnel, we won’t be in the same place we entered. We come into a new environment, our eyes readjust to the light, and we take in the new scenery. As we exit the tunnel, parents can remind their children of where we’ve been, and that we know how to handle setbacks.
Another idea to help kids overcome mental stress is telling them more resilience-based stories. You might wonder what your child will say to her grandchildren when they ask about this pandemic time. You want to hear what their narrative is. Is it a narrative of: This was hard, but we learned valuable things? Or is it a narrative about this was terrible, and it’s never going to be good again?
The fight between us and the pandemic has not come to an end. For the next few months, we should anticipate that there will be stumbles and setbacks. Promising that it will not happen again is a guarantee of losing our credibility with children. There’s not going to be a COVID Is Over Day when everything goes back to pre-COVID. In fact, it will never be the same, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be free and open and joyful.