Many industries experienced a standstill from the onset of the pandemic, and technology seemed to be invincible until everyone turned to their mobile devices and computer systems. Then it started to crumble under the weight of demand. But that did not last long.
Companies mandated their staff to work from home, and freelancing became the greater order of the day. Streaming platforms bore the brunt of closed cinemas and entertainment hubs, and education is now mostly online.
All these, on the back of technology.
A while ago there were conspiracy theories that 5G was a plan from a country to take over the world, but more people are now concerned with the importance of seamless interconnectivity and the ways we can leverage technology to have better lives.
As schools have been shut down to protect children and vulnerable people from spreading or contacting the viruses, countries around the world have seen an increase in educational technology systems to keep students busy while at home. Edutech or Edtech, as commonly abbreviated, is a combination of IT tools and educational practices aimed at facilitating and enhancing learning.
This article will highlight how some countries are applying technology to support remote learning, as the pandemic ravages on.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development has taken several steps to support learning during school closures.
The Ministry has been broadcasting specially prepared and adapted educational content for elementary and high school students on television channels of the Public Media Service of Serbia, Radio Television of Serbia (RTS). This content is broadcasted six days a week including lessons from selected subjects and is aligned to the curriculum. The schedule for individual grades is available on the website of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, one day before the television broadcast. For all students from grade 1 to 7, educational content will be broadcasted in a two-hour block each day. Grade 8 students will have programming for three-hours each day with two lessons of Serbian language and mathematics, and a third lesson for each of the subjects of the final exam. Lessons will be broadcast in the languages used by national minorities, and the schools will be informed about this promptly through the website of the education ministry and websites of the National Councils of National Minorities.
If the Internet is not available to all students, school principals and class teachers are obliged to publish the schedules of lessons planned for broadcasting on the RTS in a place that is directly available to students and parents/caregivers (example, in school entrances or external notice boards). The timetable can be also shared through text messages and social networks (using Viber groups and similar networks).
It also established a repository of educational video content for elementary and high school students on the free RTS My School mobile phone application, on the RTS website, on the online learning platform RTS Planeta as well as the national online learning platform Moja škola (My School). All broadcast lessons will also be available on the RTS Planeta, where they can be accessed as on-demand content.
Tools for online communication between students and teachers (Viber, Zoom, Microsoft Teams) were made available.
Rising Academies Network has committed to supporting governments and partners to provide quality teaching and learning to millions of children beyond their existing network in Liberia and Sierra Leone during this coronavirus pandemic. Their intervention, Rising-On-Air, is a free distance learning solution that uses Rising’s curriculum content, redesigned for delivery via radio and SMS. Each lesson starts with an introductory health and safety message and is easy for family and children to follow while not in school. No learning material is required for students learning at home but there are optional printable worksheets available and additional SMS support.
Rising-On-Air includes Radio ECE by Rising, Radio reading and numeracy by Rising and Resources for SMS. Each area focuses on specific grade and age levels. The radio ECE program targets children of ages three to five years and includes a family-child interaction component. Radio reading/numeracy program is divided into lower and upper learning levels with content focused on foundational skills that all students must master. Initial content focuses on literacy and numeracy at the early childhood education level, lower and upper primary levels with secondary level to be added soon. Resources for SMS will also be added soon. The lesson scripts can be downloaded and edited to meet individual country needs as lessons can be re-recorded and adapted in local accents. Important safeguard and child protection content and timely guidance from the health minister is also added to be able to reach students and families that these programs are broadcast to.
The Ministry of Basic Education shared measures for schools and communities separately. The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation put out a statement on March 17, 2020, regarding the measures taken to deal with the impact of COVID-19 on the post-school education and training sector.
The Department of Basic Education provides a host of distance educational material organised and accessible through its website. Students can find multimedia resources (such as videos, audios, or interactive workbooks), reading and study materials. The page also includes a section for parents with different pedagogical recommendations to continue the learning at home. The website also has a section with information about support related to educational broadcasted content, including television (DBE TV on Channel 122 OVHD) and radio (Gauteng KZN and Mpumalanga).
The Department of Basic Education and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) launched the education television and radio curriculum support programmes for learners impacted by school closures. The programme began on April 9, 2020, and broadcasts lessons to learners in Grades 10, 11 & 12 and Early Childhood Development (ECD) across three SABC television channels and 13 radio stations coupled with online support. The covered subjects include Maths, Physical Sciences, English, Life Sciences and Accounting, as well as a variety of African languages within the ECD basket.
A telecom operator, Telkom ZA, has zero-rated education websites to provide cost-free access to learners.
The Ministry of Education and Professional Training of Spain has taken various measures to minimise the impact of the suspension of schools on teaching and learning in Spain. Education is autonomous, hence it is the responsibility of each region in the country, instead of and the central government. Based on this, the situation and decisions of each region vary. In several regions, authorities of education institutions began closures by March 10, 2020. By the end of the week, the central government began the lockdown which impacted students. Thus, new resources and guidelines were created, also useful for other Spanish-speaking countries.
The Ministry of Education and Professional Training of Spain has created this website “Recursos para el aprendizaje en línea” (“Resources for online learning”), to offer teachers, families and students access to different types of resources (materials, training courses, platforms, tools, etc.) that are available online.
The Tunisia-based Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) launched an e-learning initiative on March 12 that aims to ensure the continuity of learning and teaching during the coronavirus pandemic. ALECSO has prepared a dedicated website aggregating a list of freely accessible Arab educational resources, websites, platforms and applications for use by students and teachers, in collaboration with partners and experts in the field of educational technology. Ten North African and 12 Arab countries are to benefit from this initiative.
The Ministry of Education and Sports developed a preparedness and response plan for all stakeholders which outlines the coordination and communication strategies, as well as the capacities of the government to ensure continuity of learning during school closures. To ensure students are still engaged in learning, education programs will be aired via radio services to reach the population, of which about 97% have access to radio services.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
The UAE government says that says it can offer free education to 50 million Arab schoolchildren with its digital teaching platform, madrasa.org.
In Zimbabwe, the Education Sector Response Strategy developed by the Ministry of Education is focused on mitigating the immediate impact of COVID-19 on teaching and learning and is thus focussed on the short-term. Within this, it is focused mostly on prevention, public awareness, as well as to ensure the continuity of learning through the provision of remote learning services via radio, online and offline electronic resources. The government is encouraging the use of digital platforms. For example, a private organization, Higher Life Foundation, provided free access to its online learning platform but there is limited utilization by children due to the limited connectivity access for students.
For extensive reading, visit the World Bank website here.