THE Covid-19 pandemic is the most disruptive virus ever to hit mankind in the last 100 years. The fullest brunt of the economic fallout caused by this virus has yet to be seen and felt.
Some 80% of the world’s population is under a complete or partial lockdown and Unesco has indicated that 138 countries worldwide have enforced closure of schools and universities – affecting a total of 1.4 billion students.
The pandemic has caught the entire world by surprise. In the education domain, legions of educators were blindsided by the sudden shift to remote teaching.
Although the pandemic is not over yet, there are several key takeaways from this globally disruptive health crisis and its impact on education and learning in Malaysia that can already be seen and analysed. Here are some observations worth discussing:
> The pandemic has demonstrated the reliability (or over-reliability) of education on the world wide web, while at the same time bringing into focus the role of the educator in maintaining an equilibrium between online learning for the students and mastering the art of online teaching for the practitioner. One needs to consider the effectiveness of such platforms used in achieving the learning outcomes of the course and the overall intended learning efficacy. Learning does not occur just because there is Internet connection and a teacher-student face time session. There is a lot more focus and preparation that goes into online teaching than conventional classes.
> While Internet broadband connectivity is essential in times of global crises, the teaching methodology adapted is more crucial than ever. Adopting a one-size-fits-all approach does not work in the current 21st century education landscape with students who are digital natives and who are individuals with diverse interests, intellectual capacities and attention spans. One needs to consider aspects of performativity in education and creativity in teaching as the new normal paradigm of education in times of pandemic.
> While there is now a global shift to online learning, traditional teaching universities must embrace the plethora of diverse digital information platforms while ensuring academic delivery, teaching and achievement of educational outcomes are met.
> While the issue of digital adaptability in learning, teaching and assessment is imperative to both students as well as educators, such skillsets can be taught and nourished. Educators and the system need to take cognisance of the value of compassion in trying times. Compassion and patience are essential elements for future educators in helping their students adapt to the future of education that is now forever transformed.
> On a point unrelated to education, we should rethink using trending, inaccurate terminologies that do not reflect reality and may lead to us oversimplifying and generalising the situation. In times like these, we should always question such catchphrases as they are far more complex and loaded in terms of their association and meaning. Phrases such as “social distancing”, “flattening the curve”, “the new normal” and “online learning” may be catchy but they are far from the reality of the situation and a poor reflection of the complex socio-economic and socio-political dynamics underlying the structure of society and the individual.
DAVID C.E. TNEH
Faculty of Creative Industries
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