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The Future of Education: Part Two

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Last week, in the first of this two part series exploring the future of education in an increasingly digital, post-COVID-19 world, We explored key areas of education that are likely to be very different in the near future. This included how students will be assessed; how students and institutions will work together; where students will study; and the future of funding for the sector. This week we explore the evolving role of educators, the future of professional development and the impact of schooling on families.

Role of educators

Classrooms have shifted online, and so the role of teachers has evolved significantly. In the future, the role of educators will be less focused on the delivery of the curriculum and instead as custodians of knowledge. This will mean that teachers can focus on personalising learning rather than preparing pupils for exams, which will make students more independent and agile in their approach to learning. Pastoral care and a focus on student wellness has become as important as conducting lessons.  This also means that active or problem-based learning rather than just presenting information at the front of a classroom will be integral to the future of education. As a result, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects are expected to take front and centre stage. Bahrain has recognised the growing demand for high-quality STEM subjects and has strong aspirations to attract specialist training providers aiming to equip its citizens with the requisite skills for the digital era, including cloud computing, cybersecurity, programming, game and app development, Fintech, IoT and more.

Cultural adaptation  

COVID-19 has presented a unique opportunity for families to spend more time with each other and reconnect, as commuting and external pressures have largely been alleviated. UNESCO estimates that almost 70% of the world’s student population in more than 100 countries has been affected by school closures, and people around the world are adapting to this new way of life. However, as the pandemic has forced schools to close, pressure on working families has increased. Parents are often asked to facilitate the learning of their children at home, which can be enormously challenging. Working parents who have continued to work at home have also had to simultaneously tutor their children. A study by the UK’s Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) suggests that working mothers’ working hours have fallen more, proportionally, and their work time is interrupted more often by childcare. Technology is an important tool to support home learning. Microsoft joined forces with Bahrain’s Ministry of Education to accelerate its e-learning strategy and make the transition to remote education in the Kingdom. This initiative grants public schools with free access to Office 365, including Microsoft Teams, for students, teachers and faculty. By the end of March 2020 nearly 250,000 students, teachers and parents were using remote learning tools.

Online training and professional development

With many institutions yet to fully embrace digital transformation, COVID-19 has challenged skills development. Virtual training is particularly difficult for professions which depend on equipment only available at specific centres. For example, apprenticeships and vocational training. Many of these locations have had to close as a result of the pandemic, which is likely to have a detrimental impact on individuals’ professional development.

However, generally, demand for online learning has surged, as the Harvard Business Review reported that there were 10.3 million enrollments in courses on Coursera, up 644% from the same period last year, in March 2020. COVID-19 offers an opportunity to accelerate online training for a variety of sectors. Despite the challenge of the digital gap – UNESCO reports that 50% of the world’s population has no access to a computer or to the internet – there is now a strong global case to reinforce online access to training. In Bahrain, Tamkeen has been providing funding to upskill talent, as have private companies such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) through their training programmes.

Adapting for the future

In conclusion, in the future, traditional ways of learning will be revolutionised, driven by the technological advancements already sweeping the globe but catalysed by COVID-19. One of the most significant global health crises in living memory has forced us to adapt how we learn, how we work, and how we live. As the world starts to emerge from the pandemic, many of the changes we have seen to our education sectors will remain.