The Reality of the ‘New Normal’

Are we back to normal schooling or are we sticking to the ‘new normal’? (This study focuses on Key Stage 3, 4 and 5)

The pandemic has amplified the inequalities and gaps in education globally in developed and developing countries as schools are almost fully back to normal.

Most of the stakeholders in schools are excited to have curricular and extracurricular activities up and running; however, are we prepared for eventualities in the future? What has the pandemic taught us? Have we really learnt? Are we prepared to handle similar situations and still deliver quality education regardless?

Do we decide to go fully digital and ensure learning takes place on accessible media platforms like the internet, radio, TV  and apps? How about people who do not have access to these facilities?

People living in poverty or in regions in which IT and telecommunications are not widely available, or at least stable, were most commonly affected as students missed months of learning, and this also resulted in an increase in the scale of violence at home against children.

Quality education should be refined for any eventualities in the future that may cause children in developed, undeveloped and emerging countries to find it difficult to be in mainstream school systems. These eventualities may include but are not limited to severe drought due to climate change, infectious diseases, food shortages, inflation and national and religious extremism.

Should the curriculum be refunded or should there be a global framework to support how quality education can be developed remotely or structured to fulfil its purpose without the mainstream schooling system?

John Dewey has long been one of the big names in the history of educational theories. He was influential in countless fields and had a number of key ideas concerning educational reform. His collection of views and philosophies on radically different ideas on education have been combined in the ‘John Dewey theory’. In many countries, the modern educational system even looks the way it does thanks to John Dewey.

His approach to schooling was revolutionary for his time and still proves to be fundamentally important for modern education to this day. He likely gained most of his publicity thanks to his role in the studies into progressive education, which is, in essence, a vision of education that emphasises the necessity of ‘learning by doing’. According to the John Dewey theory, people learn best through a hands-on approach.

As a result, these philosophies and views are placed in the educational philosophy of pragmatism. Following this and the need to achieve the essence of education for a sustainable future, the sustainability of schooling should not rely on the standard school day schedule.

Of late, teachers have been relating their experiences in transitioning to the ‘new normal’ and returning to the regular schedule has been challenging.

In conclusion, we must work to synchronise enquiry- and equity-based learning into curricula around the world to cater for all students through research and change-driven learning with direct contacts to tackling problems with hands-on solutions. Assessments from one level to the other should be based on ability to show proficiency of a skill and projects to show progress in social, emotional, technical and academic integration should be assimilated into national assessment programmes.

If we are to witness a new future for education, it may be worth revisiting the early-to-mid 20th century work of one American educational reformer and psychologist.

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