By Ramananda SG
It is said that survivors are not always the strongest but the smartest and rightly so, the time to adapt smart solutions and innovative thinking to revolutionize the education sector is now and here. This year has been consequential in every aspect owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we enter the Unlock 4.0 stage, more or less the economy has opened, and people are getting back to work. However, education institutes remain closed and depended on online lessons. While there are speculations that the government might open schools and colleges in a phased manner with 33% attendance initially by complying with the standard operating procedures, the situation is far from normal and it may be evitable that there is no going back to pre-COVID times in near future. To meet the high expectations and demands from the entire spectrum, educators are reimagining and recalibrating to address the challenges and grey areas indicated in the lockdown period. Furthermore, with new education policy coming into play in, the future of education will pivot on blended and skill-based learning, thus, redefining the curriculum and role of schools/universities/educators.
As emanations of nationwide lockdown owning to the pandemic, Pearson, through their Global Learner Survey, have identified key trends that have the potential to transform the concept of education led by better accessibility, self-reliance, and equitable for everyone. Let’s look at what they say –
1. Eager embrace of online education with an urge for its further progression
82% of Indian learners believe online learning will be crucial and form a bigger part of schooling for young people. 74% feel that there is a widening gap between children who have access to technology whereas on the flip side those to whom technology is beyond reach. The survey’s global respondents said they would prioritize technology for underserved learners, followed by ensuring schools are better prepared for online learning. 83% of learners in India want educational institutions to maximize the learning experience through technology. Also, 78% say the education community uses technology less effectively than other industries, such as healthcare or banking.
Hence, online education is desirable but demands better infrastructure and resources especially to underprivileged.
2. Digital skills predominant to thrive through and beyond the pandemic
Attaining digital/job-oriented skills such as using data effectively, virtual collaboration is essential as the job roles change with the surging demand for a skilled workforce. COVID-19 has redefined the importance of skills and people want to invest more in self-taught courses, MOOCs, and online upskilling. 89% saying they need digital skills to move forward in this economy.
Therefore, soft skills and leadership skills, such as creative thinking, reasoning, collaboration, complex problem solving are becoming critical. It will be essential for professional development followed by communication, English language and hard skills.
3. Universities and colleges to lead in inculcating soft skills and make students job-ready
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 80% of students agree that higher education will fundamentally change. Skills needed for the Future of Work in a technology-driven economy will need to be taught in colleges and universities. 80% of people feel that colleges and universities need to focus more on STEM subjects to prepare people for today’s job market. 83% of students feel that learning needs to be more relevant to a future career, that colleges and universities should do more for unemployed works-either by helping them retrain or reskill, or by offering lower-cost options. 84% of students think that colleges and universities should do more to teach “soft skills” like complex problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, and collaboration to prepare people for today’s job market.
Hence, the role of universities and colleges will transform gradually aiming to prepare the learners for competitive future job roles.
4. Blended learning: A preferred way to learn
Majority Indians prefer a mix of online and in-person training or course. 81% of people in India believe that students can have a good university experience combining in-person and online, hence giving way to blended learning. Whereas, 88% of learners globally say online learning will be a permanent part of primary, secondary and higher education moving forward. 87% of Indian students think online learning will be a part of education experience moving forward. Thus, the blended learning approach will be the norm in the new normal adopted by educators.
As a result of the pandemic, learners believe that education will fundamentally change and trust schools and governments will address inequality in the learning experience. The desire for digital skills, acceptance of online learning and shift towards practical education like vocational training will restructure the education system.
(The author is Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Pearson India. Views expressed are personal.)