Globally, over 1.2 billion children are out of the classroom. As a result, education has changed dramatically with the rise of e-learning whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms.
Research has also shown that online learning takes less time and efforts, meaning the study paradigm occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic has come to stay.
Most educational institutions in Nigeria and across the world have been teaching online as schools were shut down since mid-March 2020.
What does this mean for the future of learning?
Keeping children at home is pretty difficult. Apart from safety (especially when parents are out there to eke out a living), children are in most cases a restless lot. Many, sometimes, could indulge in unwholesome activities such as scam, theft and peccadillo.
Like learning in an internship from a mentor or understanding and grasping knowledge just by observing things around us, which is difficult for technology to impact, an education consultant and expert in education policy, Dr. Peter Ogundoro, vehemently opined that there must be a physical interaction between the teacher and the student for knowledge to be meaningful and impactful.
Speaking on “Hard Facts”, a daily talk programme on Nigeria Info 99.3 FM, Ogundoro said, “This should not make our education system automated and we should not rely on the trend. Technology cannot replace teachers. The human connectivity is a very essential part of learning, gaining experience, while maintaining a give and take relationship between the teacher and the student, besides receiving practical knowledge.
Stressing further, he said, “There are subjects that do not lend themselves to easy learning. For example, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and other empirical sciences. Even the radio is not an effective way to reach such subjects”.
Taking a panoramic view on the rise of online learning, a school teacher, Mr Gideon, also felt that it is better that the students are allowed to go to school at the various levels, albeit a religious observance of COVID-19 protocol. According to him, “The students are lagging behind in the coverage of the syllabus. In France, for example, President (Emmanuel) Macron sanctioned all students to put on face mask. In China, students go to school in shifts.”
However, while some believe that the unplanned and rapid move to online learning, with no training and little preparation will result in poor user experience that is not conducive to sustain growth, others believe the new hybrid model of education will emerge with significant benefit.
Recently, Data Science Nigeria and Malezi, in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation, created a platform for underprivileged children to access quality education through multi-channel platforms for the next one year.
The deal was built on the back of the school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic which elevated the application of technology in education delivery.
The “Learn at Home” project is designed to help children continue remote learning based on their access to technology. The initiative allows learning through mobile, radio and web.
Country Head, Nigeria MasterCard Foundation, Chidinma Lawson, said the initiative, funded by the Foundation’s COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Programme would help address inequality in access to education.
“This pandemic continues to upend basic assumptions about where, when and how we learn and work. Right now, the priority, in terms of education, is ensuring that children learn- no matter where they are or whether they have access to the internet. Ensuring the Universal Learning Continuity is critical if we are going to mitigate, not just losses in learning, but also the overall inequality being perpetuated by this crisis”.