RETHINKING TEACHING AND LEARNING POST-COVID-19
When, at its 14th session on October 26, 1966, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared September 8 International Literacy Day, little did the United Nations’ specialized agency know that the biggest test to universal education would come some 54 years later.
This year’s International Literacy Day pertinently focuses on the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed literacy to and what should be done going forward to ensure that teaching and learning are made more flexible, technology-driven and accessible to all. The theme of the 2020 International Literacy Day, “Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond”, is a reality check and wakeup call that the world has to re-imagine the role of educators and the medium of teaching and learning in the face of changing realities.
As a result of COVID-19, schools were shut down in more than 190 countries and the education of over one billion children and youths was interrupted. Over 63 million teachers of primary and secondary schools were affected by the pandemic one way or the other in over 165 countries.
“The recent Covid-19 crisis has been a stark reminder of the existing gap between policy discourse and reality: a gap that already existed in the pre-Covid-19 era and is negatively affecting the learning of youth and adults who have no or low literacy skills and therefore tend to face multiple disadvantages,” the UN said.
The UN Sustainable Development Goal 4, which emphasizes “universal access to quality education and learning opportunities throughout people’s lives”, can only be achieved, post-pandemic, if key state and non-state actors start to put mechanisms in place aimed at developing a creative way of literacy teaching and learning.
Of course, crucial to such innovative approach will be technology-assisted distance and virtual learning. However, as shown in some remote areas, especially in low-income countries, lack of access to digital tools is an impediment to this approach.
Finally, no new method of teaching and learning will serve effectively without the input of teachers. Therefore, they need to be supported through training and re-training, improved working conditions and adequate welfare.