The world today remains on a standstill. Sadly, the pandemic did not spare any sector. Everyone is left shocked as countless lives change drastically. In education, for instance, its effects are immense as it disrupts learning and readiness of young generations for the future.
With school closures left and right and most people are staying at home to control the transmission of the virus, digital learning is an innovative solution preferred by most educational institutions worldwide to ensure learning continuity for children and youth through online education.
The shifts in educational approaches during the pandemic, however, could be a change for the better. While, given that the digital divide is real, particularly in developing countries, this can be a change for the worse. That is considering the long-term aspect of implementation.
Online education is a promising approach to continue learning amidst the pandemic. Unfortunately, this could also widen the digital divide in education. And if this were to happen during school closures, inequality in education will likely increase as well.
This is why UNESCO has recommended that countries “adopt a variety of hi-tech, low-tech, and no-tech solutions to assure the continuity of learning.”
In reality, many public schools are not ready to have this kind of set up. Not every school has internet access to support this sudden change. Neither do all students.
In rich countries where the internet is highly accessible, there is still a percentage of people who do not have access to it. How much more those affected low-income-countries where public schools largely operate offline?
Statistics show that many people in Southeast Asia still cannot afford an unlimited and stable Internet connection. That is why online teaching as an option to continue education raises concern among educators.
The digital divide is not a new issue in education. The pandemic is a wake-up call to everyone that this is a serious problem. Most importantly, it must be addressed in response to COVID-19 as well as future crises.
As Julia Gillard said, “As we have learned from many nations in crisis, education planners must remain vigilant and flexible. Vigilant, to ensure that children are not kept away for too long from their learning. Also, flexible so they can adapt quickly and effectively to the unexpected. The stakes for anything less are much too high –- the time for considered action is now.”