While I remain convinced that the covid crisis is going to completely disrupt the education system, there is reason to pause and consider the case for an intervention. Every intervention has a cost, and someone will have to pay.
The disruption is here, and the first casualty has been the poor student who finds that those without electricity, internet, a personal device and a safe space to sit to listen and speak have not been able to access the bare bones continuity that was offered to the rich. The first and most urgent payment is not the monthly fee – but the digital highway for all, and the collection of devices for those who cannot afford it. We will pay, taxes or community, or cross subsidised fees – we pay.
Despite its hiccups, at least the rich schools and students had continuity of education. From there they can only get better in terms of learning outcomes. They are on the boat, poor students and their teachers are cobbling together rafts for themselves. We have had radio, television, megaphones, telephones, and other localised innovation. Policy intervention must create budgets for this. We will all pay.
But boat or raft, we again have proved that we can live without certain things for education to continue, and more importantly, we cannot manage without others.
Teachers, for example, should now feel more secure, because online learning still centres around them. Even with wonders such as AI, as graphics, virtual reality, augmented reality, automated lesson plans and so much more, the teacher remains central to holding the line of progress for their students. Friends, and cohorts continue to remain important. How much are we willing to pay for these?
What we have learnt is less than critical are things like large school infrastructure, traditional examinations, synchronous learning. We do not need to all be at the same place at the same time doing the same things for education to progress. What we call a school has to change in order to survive. Schools cannot continue as they were, providing rote learning pathways to certification, some babysitting and a demonstration of attachment to content and curriculum. Schools as regimented pathways are done.
There is a transition, and someone will have to pay the way through the transition.