Think about your education system. What kind of school did you attend? Did you use on-line media to study or everything was touched and learned face to face using paper?
One of the biggest challenge of any education system is how to transform their material and learning methodologies from 18 century style to the digital age. Many governments promise this transformation to happen during their mandate and many failed to do so.
Before we continue to analyze the challenges, it’s better to start with what will be the benefits.
Benefits of moving to a digital system
There is one famous quote which I am sure won’t lose its popularity soon:
” We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” Richard Riley, former US Secretary of Education
The first benefit is flexibility. It’s easier to change and fix errors in the school materials when everything is digital. The life-cycle of a school book is usually one year, which is way too long time in today’s fast pacing world. It’s true that most of the material won’t change so drastically, but still it’s nice to have the option to update and fix typos or confusions or even wrong answers to quizzes.
Reducing the size of a backpack.
Have you seen lately a school bag of a typical child?
It looks enormous compare to their small size. For a grown-up, carrying a lot of things in a backpack is not such an issue. We have developed skeleton and muscles. On the other side, for the little kids, this could pose a real risk in developing wrong posture from an early age, which would be difficult to correct during their adult years.
Collaboration with the business.
Ask yourself what is the main reason for education?
In the past the schools were developed, because during the industrial revolutions, factories needed people who could read and being educated. This doesn’t imply that everyone who goes to school should become factory workers. However, this indicates the promise that the school system should provide the most common and useful skills which would help the business or the society in general. The business is constantly complaining that they need to start and teach all their new employees from scratch, which adds additional costs and adds big question towards the quality and adequacy of the current methods used in schools.
The current approach to creating curriculum is by some experts who may not even have a real business background to design the school books. There could be one team proposing their ideas to the government or multiple teams. But still the process is done in isolation. If the education is moved on-line the business could help with some subjects and add their own requirements and co-develop the education system, which would provide more opportunities to the students early on.
Reduce the total cost of change.
Let’s look at the use case of Wikipedia, once the material is on-line and is accessible, other teams in the education system could borrow ideas and build on top of them. Writing a new school book, by new government or team, won’t take so long, because the material is already there. Adding more pictures or supplying Audio coverage would be a snap. The Education system will have more resources to focus on the things the bring value, which are not tests or the latest school book, but the well-being and the education of their students.
If everything is so great in having a digitalize education system, how come it’s not a standard at the moment?
And that is a great question to explore it.
The challenges of the current education system
Too many lobby interests.
Education system generates a lot of money. From the schoolbooks and textbooks to private lessons depending to the market, it can as well by billions of dollars in industry. Just take into an account the time a person spends in the education system.
Teachers lack the preparation
Looking at the age of the teachers in the education system, one thing is sure. Most of them graduated when the technologies were not so advanced. The average age of a school teacher is 41 years, according to: https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sass/tables/sass1112_2013314_t1s_002.asp
This means that in many schools the teachers who work there are way over 40 years old. Usually they don’t receive a lot of training using the new technologies, and there is also a little incentive for them to propose it to the school systems. This means that once they graduate, the majority will stick to the same level they were taught when they graduated from the university. And the universities don’t have a lot of incentive to change their models, because they own the monopoly to certified school teachers and the government is usually fine with the established and conservative models of education.
It is expensive
Every transformation and change is expensive. And it’s not only about the money, it takes a lot of time and effort to transform a big organization. Take a look at the many examples of big companies who go through such a painful process. However, the companies have the incentive, make the change or become extinct like many before them, like a dinosaur in the modern world. In order for a government to be successful in implementing this paradigm change, there should be a solid investment fund to make the change happen.
At the moment of writing this article, there are crises worldwide, because of the spread of the Covid-19 virus, which ironically brings a lot of opportunity for the education system to reform. There are a lot of free opportunities now available for the education system to teach their teachers and students to use on-line tools in the context of learning.
The two big corporations, Microsoft and Alphabet, both provided to the education system free of charge to use one of their tools in order to facilitate the learning process.
If your education institution doesn’t have a way to stream virtual classroom, you can request Microsoft Teams licenses for free. (Source: https://www.pcworld.com/article/3530374/microsofts-solution-for-covid-19-is-a-free-teams-subscription-for-six-months.html)
Now it’s the best time to try something new and to bring closer the education system to the 21st century.
What is your opinion?
Would you be happy for your children to have more on-line interactive lessons as well or you are against this idea?