I’m a Malaysian who has been employed in education for the past 10 years. Many things took place in Malaysia during that period:
- we’ve had political rallies (and counter-rallies),
- Najib Razak, Jho Low and 1MDB (and clown posters of politicians),
- and a nonagenarian prime minister for almost 2 years.
Seemed like an eventful decade except for one thing: education.
It appears that education overall hasn’t changed at all over the past century:
Following a trend towards progressive education which began earlier in the twentieth century, reforms continued in school curricula, teacher training, and styles of instruction during the 1920s. In accordance with the progressive education movement (which focused on educating the whole person instead of enforcing the memorization of key facts), educators conducted laboratory studies, tracked educational statistics, and published the results of their findings
(One could swap out “1920” for “2020” and this would be usable today)
You may call me ignorant and point to a plethora of things the government and non-governmental agencies have implemented (to varying success) over the decade. However, I dare say that those would be outliers in the larger scheme of things.
One would think that with the advent of technology, how we teach would change. But that isn’t necessarily the case. What I’ve noticed over the years is that teachers who are using technology in classrooms are conducting lessons just as how they would without it.
For example, having computers in classrooms didn’t revolutionize learning because teachers just used them as electronic notebooks and textbooks. Remove the whiteboard and give them projectors? Well, they will start using PowerPoint like it’s a whiteboard. Nothing changed.
Educators aren’t alone in this
Technology is a tool to be wielded in the hands of someone with the know-how. But even in the hands of a skilled educator, other obstacles are standing in the way: parents and students.
Let’s assume a school wanted to implement a flipped learning approach in the past. They would probably experience push-back from parents and students. Parents might complain that learning has to happen in school, or that children just aren’t disciplined to study at home.
On the other hand, students might protest that they learn better with the teacher instructing them in class because they “learn better that way” (I was told this by my class of teenage students a couple of years back).
However, One thing COVID-19 has shown us is that all our excuses were invalid:
- Parents are now opting to keep their children at home (some even for months more after the lock-down is lifted) and are finding ways to occupy their children.
- Teachers who used to complain they lack audio-visual and computer skills are now discovering that Google is their friend, more than ever before (if a granny at 94 can get started on Twitter, we can manage).
- It used to be that computers were not available in every household, but that’s not true anymore. Everyone carries one in their pockets now. No, it’s not the same as having a computer but it just takes a mindset shift to work around the limitations we face.
What does this mean for us?
I think we are now in an interesting time for education, as far as challenging the status quo is concerned. This pandemic has forced us to look past the shadow of a century-old approach.
If much of what was only possible in-class can now be done alternatively, it frees us up to redefine what “coming to school” might mean moving forward.
Maybe in the past educators were afraid to implement changes because the pain of change was greater than the pain of not changing. This pandemic has altered that.
We need to take what we are learning now to invent a new pedagogy that will better suit the current generation.
Creative Lead by day, writer by night, husband and dad throughout. I write about things that interest me and lessons I’ve learnt. My views are my own. Check out other things I’ve written.