The Complex Problem of Education in a Post-COVID World

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Traditional education at all levels is being threatened by COVID-19. Both in the short- and long-term, it will need to be reinvented . This is a crucial complex problem for society, one that will require an interdisciplinary approach to understand and address.

A Complex Problem Requiring Complex Responses
The first reason for this is the complexity of the problem itself. This overarching problem can be broken into individual but intertwined sub-problems:

(a) Health — The health of students, educators, and administrators
(b) Technology — Availability, access, know-how, and the digital divide
(c) Social Aspects — The fundamental social aspect of education; students learning
and interacting in classrooms or lectures halls with their fellow students and teachers
(d) The Educational Divide — The need to provide high-quality education to all
students in all locations, regardless of their socioeconomic situation
(e) New Educational Models — The need to explore and achieve the right balance between classroom and on-line learning; developing new hybrid models
(f) Family Dynamics of Home Schooling — The need for parents to balance their own work schedules with those of their children when not in school
(g) Educating the Whole Student — The need to build not only students’ factual knowledge (“knowledge that”) but also their skills (“knowledge how”) ; not only their minds, but also their communal, humanistic values
(h) Educating Future Teachers — The need to prepare teachers for new teaching methodologies and student challenges
(i) Economic Issues — The increased costs of public and private education
(j) The Future Workplace — Building students’ knowledge and skills in preparation for the
future workplace; many jobs 10 or 20 years from now do not yet exist
(k) Politics — Each state has its own structure, some of them deeply corrupted. Making difficult for poor countries to be able to apply solutions.
(l) Assessment — How to accurately judge the performance of students (e.g. for university) when the quality of provision varies so widely. To achieve success in developing and implementing successful educational strategies, methods and curricula, schools, universities, governments and policy-makers will need an interdisciplinary approach that addresses the various sub-problems listed above. As Alan Wilson said in July 2016; “These issues are highly interdependent and one important area … is to build policies and plans that take them into account”.

Guarding against Einstellung
The second reason for an interdisciplinary approach is to protect against the expert problem. One of the biggest potential issues is that those addressing these challenges are rooted in particular fields and methods, leading to the predisposition to create a new educational system from that base (Einstellung). The overarching problem of education in a post-Covid world is not one which can be fixed with a singular approach – for example through additional resources or governmental education departments – It needs a deeper, intertwined solution.

Reinventing education will depend on the following specialists working together and
discovering new opportunities to connect:

– Teachers at all levels and administrators
– University professors and administrators
– Academic programs working together: Education, Sociology, Economics, Sciences
– Students and families
– School board representatives, local officials, and national government federal officials
– Policy-makers
– Mental health providers
– Social care providers
– Content providers and publishers
– Technology specialists and innovators

Interdisciplinarity through Applying Technology
Thirdly, an interdisciplinary approach will be needed to draw on deep, expert knowledge bases to tackle this challenge. For example, technology as a discipline can be drawn on to develop unexpected solutions in broader areas. The pandemic has provided focus and urgency to use technology and weave it into our everyday experience. We have a chance to seize on this model to apply technological knowledge and skills to enable novel solutions to different educational problems. For example, online platforms could provide: .

Differentiation: a differentiated approach in terms of pace, repetition, and level, which is challenging to implement in a classroom.
Knowledge: the ability for each individual to build up knowledge before moving on: learning in bite-sized chunks.
Breadth: a greater breadth of topics and disciplines, providing better access to subjects not regarded as core to the curriculum (e.g. art history)
Quality: consistent quality of teaching/ student experience – a leveller for the geographical lottery of “good” and “bad” schools?
Integration: tracking and reporting of students’ performance – baked into the platform
Flexibility: flexible ways to collaborate and participate
Efficiency: better use of time, less time wasted travelling
Gamification: built in motivational elements such as rewards or stickers.

Beyond this, the application of technology could actually change how we define success. For instance, the Khan Academy has been able to stretch scalability and scope far beyond what could have been envisaged (now in 190 countries), partly as the objective has been redefined to focus on mastery, not tests. Or, as in the “Hole in the Wall Project” in 1999, has been able to make tech available in very poor and remote areas.

Applying Systems Thinking
And finally, to truly address this great societal challenge, we will need to draw the whole together to be greater than the sum of the parts by applying effective super-concepts. As systems thinking has been effectively applied to urban planning, this super-concept has great potential to lead us to a better holistic solution. As cities are thought of in terms of grids, resources, capacities and people, similarly education systems will need to bring together multiple layers to achieve a solution, such as technology, content, social development, funding and home.

Explore ID: Group 9 Blog: July 2, 2020
Olivia Fitzgerald
Richard White
Nataly Valencia Rozo
Phil Kohler

Revised, August 2020:
Olivia Fitzgerald
Richard White

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