- While we must strive to invest in making face-to-face learning safe in the age of Covid-19, we must also re-imagine education.
- In the flipped classroom, learning is project-based, with teacher-contact time dedicated to more personalised learning.
There is no aspect of our lives or the economy that is untouched by Covid-19. The pandemic has hit education hard. Globally, most learning institutions remain closed to face-to-face learning.
Although class-size and learning resources vary vastly from school to school, learning is predominantly directed and delivered face-to-face by a teacher. Students assemble in a designated room and at an appointed time. The learning environment, both inside and outside the classroom, is intensely social and it is often hard to avoid body contact.
Coronavirus, airborne and highly transmissible, complicates and makes it nearly impossible to deliver face-to-face education. The model of pedagogy – sage on the stage – that we are most accustomed to in low resource public systems becomes nearly impossible to deliver. It is not surprising therefore that public schools in Kenya for example, remain closed.
The investment in classrooms, additional teachers, face masks, supplies for hygiene, and even basic emergency health services is staggering. Most governments cannot afford the full cost of re-modelling schools for safe resumption of face-to-face learning. Even with such investments, there would be no guarantee that schools won’t become clusters of dangerous Covid-19 spread.
While we must strive to invest in making face-to-face learning safe in the age of Covid-19, we must also re-imagine education. In many countries, the system of education is massively predicated on the content or knowledge-deposit model, where the teacher’s sole goal is to cover the prescribed content. Learners are hardly at the centre of the education.
The teacher-centred model – sage on the stage – where learning is measured by student performance in standardised test is now severely tested by the restrictions Covid-19 has placed on face-to-face learning. Even when learning has moved to online platforms, teacher dominated, knowledge-deposit model has failed to engage students.
The opportunity we have in the Covid-19 regime is to make education learner-centred. Experts have urged that we should move to the flipped classroom. In the flipped classroom, students have access to all the content they need, anytime, independently and away from the classroom in the community. These include video, audio, readings, PowerPoint etc, distributed via social media platforms, accessed by mobile devices.
In the flipped classroom, learning is project-based, with teacher-contact time dedicated to more personalised learning; coaching, mentoring, with teachers and students working on applying concepts learned to solve problems. Fundamentally, case studies or problem-solving moves to in-classroom sessions. Traditionally these are assigned as student homework.
With modest investments in technology and internet access, students can take charge, learning through projects and problems in their community, a real-life laboratory for significant learning. The content becomes the basis for knowledge upon which application and integration are deployed to solve real problems, which learners can relate to.
The thoughtfulness on how to reopen schools safely is laudable. But we must also accelerate research and innovation in curriculum and pedagogy to re-imagine education in a Covid-19 world. The future is blended learning—online and face-to-face learning.