Education in 2022: Inequality, Connectivity and Embracing Digital Technologies

In this third year of the global pandemic, educators are combating continued uncertainty, testing regulations, staff shortages and high levels of burnout. 

All that we have had to confront has taken a toll on mental health. 

All these factors have clearly cemented the importance and need for a virtual learning strategy, with clear and measurable outcomes. In combination with this, however, the pandemic has heightened the need for social and emotional learning.

This post is part 1 of my take on the state of learning around the world in 2022 and beyond.

The Start of Uncertainty

2020 saw a dramatic and rushed move towards remote learning through online platforms, TV, and in some cases, even national radio. In the connected world, children were learning at kitchen tables, teachers were at home, trying to create green screens in the lounge and parents were juggling jobs and at-home schooling. 

In the unconnected world, many young learners simply dropped out of school. The pandemic has amplified education inequality, shone a spotlight on the global connectivity divide and has had a devastating impact on learners in countries where access to technology is limited, with teachers resorting to posting homework, or students dropping out of school altogether. 

It has not been easy for anyone, however, a silver lining is that educators gained valuable and first-hand insight into an array of digital technologies and where once they may have been tech-shy, many educators have now become tech-savvy and embraced the power these tools offer. 

A Devastating 2 Years 

According to Unesco, 1.6 billion children have been affected by school closures and the data paints a stark reality. The closures have given way to a rise in dropout rates, and declining literacy and the World Bank predicts an increase from 53% to 70% in the number of children aged 10 and younger, in low and middle-income countries, who cannot read basic text. 

Whilst the world grapples with new COVID variants and the politicised issue of vaccination programs, education is struggling to not only recover from the last two years but also to carve a concrete path forward for learning in 2022. 

Unesco states that schools remain partially open in countries including the United States of America, South Africa, India, Indonesia and Thailand. Uganda re-opened schools in early January for the first time since the pandemic began and enrolments have fallen drastically in comparison to the 2020 year, with many students failing to return. The pandemic has highlighted the need to develop and invest in infrastructure to support virtual learning, not only at the school level but at a national level. 

In some towns in the Philippines, for example, virtual learning has meant that children have struggled to communicate with their teachers, often having to walk quite a way to seek out reliable cell phone reception. Work done by the Close The Gap foundation estimates that 1 in 4 American students are unable to access school online. According to a recent white paper from ISC research, countries like Indonesia have accelerated their infrastructure programs in order to address this issue and help to bridge the digital divide in their country.

Hopefully, an outcome of the last two years is that governments will prioritise digital equality and inclusion and encourage policymakers to strive for universal connectivity, as according to the United Nations, 3.6 billion people were unconnected in 2020. An immense percentage of the world’s population.

A Time of Constant Change 

It seems that for many schools, the adage that change is the only constant rings true. For a third year, educators continue to navigate a constantly changing environment as governments address emerging variants, as well as vaccination policies. Due to rising infection rates in Spain at the start of this year, many parents are simply choosing to keep their children at home. Whereas schools in the United Kingdom are struggling against a backdrop of crippling staff shortages, as well as testing regulations that require all students to be tested twice a week.

Educators are soldiering on, and for now many are shifting between physical and virtual learning environments as the learning environments in their corner of the world shift and adapt to deal with the threats of the pandemic. 

Through conscious intent, we can impact the change that the world of Education so badly needs in order to succeed as we start to adjust to the new normal. The new normal is learning in the aftermath of what appears to be the worst of the global pandemic.

Onwards,

Robyn Hobson 

Team Mobile Guardian

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