When the current school year began, no one knew it would end this way. Now, schools across the country have closed amid a pandemic, many of which are closed for the remainder of the school year. As a result, teachers are devising creative long-distance lessons, students are learning from home, and parents have been enlisted to serve as quasi-teachers. The struggle is quite real.
Yet, despite the upheavals attendant to doing everything differently, on virtually a moment’s notice, this situation presents a golden opportunity to transform the education paradigm. Old methodologies maintained simply because “we’ve always done it this way” have been set aside for now; perhaps they should be discarded permanently. And inequities that were often deemed nonexistent have become too glaring to be ignored any more. That definitely needs to be a permanent change.
With all this in mind, here’s what education can and should look like after the pandemic:
- Every student would have a laptop. While Zoom and other electronic methods keep teachers in contact with students, what about the large number of students who lack both mobile devices and wi-fi? Sure, many telecom companies are offering free wi-fi during the pandemic, but that does no good for students who lack devices. And, no, it’s not a parental responsibility to provide a means for public school students to learn. That’s the school’s job. And that’s why school districts need to provide one-to-one technology for students.
- Standardized tests would no longer be the standard of success. With the cancellation of standardized exams this spring, students have continued to work and even thrive. In fact, without the threat of exams to determine whether they are promoted or graduate, real, enjoyable learning can occur—not test prep. Yes, as I’ve suggested before, standardized tests can still exist but solely for the purpose of determining students’ aptitude as well as their support needs, not for belittling students and undermining teachers.
- E-classes would increase. Some students have discovered their element when learning online. Independent workers who require little to no assistance, they work best on their own. For high school students, having the option to take some of their courses online would be a boon not only for the independent learners but also for those who work after school. Why not offer an online equivalent of in-class courses whenever feasible?
- Classes would be more innovative and student-centered. By necessity, we’ve had to pare down learning during the pandemic, making it leaner and more student-centered, yet still challenging and creative. In the process, the unnecessary has been cast aside. And that’s a very good thing. Keeping these positive elements makes learning so much more relevant and enjoyable. Of course, that’s what learning should be.
These changes immediately sprang to mind. Other, equally compelling, changes are worthy of implementing as well, particularly those that would benefit students who are English-language learners and students in special education classes. What’s important is that we move in a fresh, positive direction.
As Maya Angelou often said, “When you know better, you do better.” So, after this pandemic, we definitely should do better. As unsettling as this period is in education, and in life in general, we have an opportunity we’ve never had in education before: to transform it into something new and better. Let’s get started.