The world of education is threatened. It is at a juncture where one path leads back to where things were before the Covid-19 crisis, a system that, by and large, has been in place for more than 100 years.
The other concentrates on much more investment in education but also on student wellness and ensuring that learning is happening not just through test scores and output but by being more closely connected to the psychological and emotional realities of learners.
I propose that we aim for the path of wisdom: Investment. With Covid-19, we have learnt that it is important for a student to observe the rituals of schooling. Moments of social interaction and staying in contact with peers and friends is important psychologically during a crisis.
This begs the question of whether classroom rules are mindful of children’s basic social and emotional needs. There is a risk that, by focusing on academics only, schools tend to forget that wellness needs to come first.
Besides, the government must make every effort to ensure that systems and infrastructure can cope with lockdowns to minimise the harrowing experience of learners, teachers and parents.
The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) is obligated to modify curriculum and syllabi to suit the emerging challenges in teaching and learning, including contact time to ensure that students concentrate and stay engaged, and also introduce pedagogical strategies to ensure students are concentrating and engaged in “normal” classrooms.
But will there be a return to students often sitting passively while teachers lecture, masses of homework, late-night studying for tests and accumulation of content that makes deep, critical and creative thinking difficult as there is so much to “get through”?
Will more time and effort be spent understanding why students become bored and saturated? Will there be efforts to minimise that?
This calls on curriculum developers to review the syllabi to accommodate the intricacies brought about Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, implementers of the curriculum will be compelled to readjust their lesson plans and schemes of work.
Anxiety, fear and isolation are factors in the Covid-19 crisis that we cannot ignore. This means teachers have to think more carefully about building a sense for community and human contact.
The new situation demands a holistic and well-groomed tutors who are professionally committed to their calling and, more importantly, can adjust to new pedagogical reforms at short notice.
The national government has to invest heavily in the education sector, prioritising enhanced teacher salaries and allowances and professional development, including digitisation while ensuring disadvantaged learners are given access to the technology.
A status report by the government on the post-Covid-19 preparedness would give us vital insights.
By Wilson Sossion
Knut Secretary General