Over these couple of months, a lot of discussions and debates have been initiated on the widespread impact of the Coronavirus outbreak. The pandemic hasn't only forced people to adjust to the ‘new normal’ but has also left businesses and industries practically paralysed. Even the education sector has also been the collateral damage in the war against this virus.
Now, the education sectors in most countries have felt a massive impact of this pandemic, and Australia is no exception. Considering the country is known for providing quality education to students, these unprecedented circumstances have definitely given rise to many challenges.
On that note, let’s explore how the education sector is dealing with the COVID crisis.
- Massive job losses in the education sector
Australia’s universities are said to be facing significant economic catastrophe and massive job losses unless it receives significant government aid during the Coronavirus crisis.
The education sector has called for immediate attention from the federal government to extend interest-free loans, as institutions – large and small – develop plans to cut down hundreds of millions of dollars from their 2020 budgets. This is based on the anticipation that the income from foreign students will eventually be drained in the second semester.
Universities have also expressed concerns that their economic woes will reflect through other areas of the economy as they postponed the construction projects within campuses in an attempt to save resources.
- Challenge of switching to digital
Many educators believe that access to tools and technology are only part of the solution. Such technologies generally don’t take into account students who don’t have steady internet access or to a device, or in case of children sharing a single device, or if they don’t have a printer, or somewhere quiet to work.
Students can access to educational videos online from different notable platforms to help them understand new content. In fact, the teachers will have to record themselves when they start providing more customised lessons for students. This again comes with its own share of concerns.
- Adverse impact on the students’ livelihood and personal finance
The COVID crisis will accelerate the already precarious financial situation faced by many students in Australia.
Students who are working part-time as sales assistants, waiters and baristas were vulnerable to the condition because they were in contact with people. And while the personal hazards the virus posed to mostly young students was comparatively low, this could mean a period without wages for many of these students.
However, the work prospects of some students could benefit from the crisis. On March, the government declared that it would temporarily waive the 40-hour fortnightly limit on international students. The decision was taken to meet the high demand for essential items at major supermarkets and to help ensure that stores remained stocked despite coronavirus-induced panic buying.
This crisis has posed many challenges to the education sector in Australia. But it would be wrong if we ignore the silver linings even amidst the testing times.
- Flexibility in University admissions
According to The Guardian, the Australian universities are altering the traditional admission policies amidst growing concerns of the pandemic. The state education authorities to modify the requirements for students caught up in the Coronavirus pandemic during their final year of schooling.
Some universities have already started taking significant steps to change the way they carry out the admissions process. Universities Australia, the governing body for the tertiary sector, had announced that all universities were creating alternative plans if there was widespread disruption to the admission processes.
Some experts believe that this disruption caused by COVID-19 could be a blessing in disguise to take the pressure off students to proceed with the university admissions.
- Significant push for online learning
Schools and universities in Australia have been using online learning platforms for some time now. But it was still quite difficult to organise everything quite smoothly. Also, some students from lower socio-economic backgrounds didn’t have access to technology as they would in the traditional classroom. In this case, some state governments are putting in consistent efforts in providing laptops and free internet to the students who need it most.
In Victoria, nearly 6,000 students will receive laptops and internet access for term two.
In fact, the state governments are taking advantage of this situation to introduce innovative technologies to help teachers in their curriculums. In South Australia, for instance, teachers have been offered a platform to initiate virtual classrooms.
The service powered by the Cisco Webex platform, lets teachers create their own individual online learning space to offer live video lessons and learning content for their class.
Opportunity for data-driven learning
The pandemic has presented an opportunity to infuse digital technology into the education sector, which has been slow as opposed to other sectors like retail, utilities, and manufacturing. However, even after the trying circumstances that have brought about this change, it may be a catalyst for some exciting innovation in education, if educators take advantage of this time and begin utilising data-driven approaches to learning.
Since it has been brought up, it presents a great opportunity to encourage the move to data-driven approaches to the classroom with increased student ownership of learning, more flexibility for teachers to deliver a more customised curriculum to students backed by the transparency of data for parents.
Providing psychological assistance instantly
Schools and universities are also encouraged to offer guidance to students on how to support their peers and maintain their own well-being amidst such difficult times.
Students or even teachers who have family or friends who are impacted by the virus or experiencing stress or mental health issues during this time of uncertainty may benefit psychological assistance. These employee assistance services and programs are not only for the corporate sector but also crucial for the education sector.
Promoting information sharing
It’s imperative to continually share valuable information with teachers, staff, students and their families. This also involves updates on the virus situation and prevention and control efforts at schools or colleges. Institutions should establish a seamless channel for COVID-19 related communication, like utilising the existing parent-teacher forums and committees while making sure everyone’s details are up to date.
Presenting information and facts about COVID-19 will help decrease the anxiety of the students and the broader communities around the virus and help promote an inclusive environment.
Wrapping it up,
It may take some time to sail through this crisis altogether. So, until then, the alternatives implemented by the authorities in the education sector in Australia will ensure that the learning never stops among the student community.
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