Innovations in education
Abu-Saqib Shakeel Ahmad
It is practised since long in our education system that the three-month-long summer break is to allow children to help out with the crops. Another reason might be the hot burning sun of summer season in our country. A lot of time is wasted these days due to no proper planning.
Besides that, we are still stuck in an Industrial Age paradigm that does not prepare young people for the knowledge age. It is based on the ‘conveyor belt’ analogy of the Industrial Age. It stresses that all students learn the same content in the same amount of time. When an education system holds the time of instruction constant, achievement must vary as students learn at different paces as numerous researches prove.
Although our system has been changed a lot, yet the pace is too slow. Currently, most educational reforms happen in a piecemeal fashion that tries to ‘fix’ the existing system. What is needed is a radical systemic reform in the light of 21 st-century need. Instead of grouping students by age, schools need to give each learner the time he or she needs to reach the learning goals. Regarding this point, schools need to give each learner the time s/he needs to reach the learning goals; but who will provide this instruction as our current classroom structure dumps 50-plus students and provide one overworked teacher? How is s/he supposed to provide individualized pacing and instruction?
In this piece, an attempt is made to highlight one of the key areas, “how to utilize the vacations fruitfully”. What are the alternatives? And how can we give individual care to each student?
The possibility is there.
We should spotlight on the 21 st-century education systems of various countries, which indicates blended learning tools and techniques embedded in their systems. We should adopt a blended learning approach; it must include face-to-face teaching and e-learning parts to be offered to our students so that they may have valuable alternatives.
Presently, several universities and colleges have been switched to online classes to prevent the time-lapse of studies while students are confined to their homes adopting social distancing during the corona-virus outbreak in the country.
These institutes are engaging their students in virtual classes through video calling and other means of modern communications. These institutes are using different social media software and mobile applications to convey their messages to their students. This also includes social media groups and channels through which two-way communication, questions/ answers sessions, queries and assignments are exchanged.
Although this idea is a quick-fix type and working better for higher education in the present scenario to cover the vacuum of no classes.
On the school level, there are even no quick-fix or long-term type activities visible for the students. There is a dire need to think about the multiple alternatives present at hand due to technological blessings. As stated earlier, we need to have a blended learning model; Normal routine face-to-face classes are there but with technology blending.
In emergencies like prevailing now, we can get the maximum benefit of e-learning, online classes, e-books, webinars, audiobooks, educational applications and online assessments. A number of national and international organizations like digiskills.pk, sabaq.pk, Khan Academy, edX, Coursera, Udemy, Lynda models are spreading the light of knowledge through these means. Based on the ideas of these organizations, we can have an experiment in our country as e-learning is a powerful tool in knowledge sharing. It is cost-effective, globally available, based on any time (24/7), any pace, flexible schedule for the user with wider choices of the classes and courses.
Although there are some barriers like the cost of installation, app development, affordability on students’ part, yet comparatively it is still more feasible and more flexible. Even in Pakistan, e-books and tablet-based education has started, so we cannot ignore it in totality.
If the elementary and secondary education department develops its own LMS (learning
management system), which not only includes audio, video, animated course contents but also assessments, quizzes and assignment material too. We have an excellent model of LMS of the virtual university to have an idea from.
Through this LMS, schools can offer elementary level courses to all the students across Pakistan.
Through this LMS, schools will also be able to offer MOOC (massive open online courses) in the near future; i.e students from around the globe will access and can be benefited.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, we have already started tab-based training for the newly inducted teachers. It should be extended to all the teachers for updating their knowledge, keeping pace with the global community and become lifelong learners.
Teachers should be encouraged to update their knowledge by taking part in international teaching forums, enrolling in e-learning institutions to follow the global educational trends.
In a nutshell, it is suggested that a calculated step towards quality education for students be taken and a mechanism be devised at the earliest using these modern means to have 21 st-century outcomes in our institutions.
The writer is a PhD (Education) Scholar