Lessons learned from education in conflict that could be relevant to COVID-19
- Balance quality pedagogy and equitable provision. An assessment of the quality of pedagogical approaches, combined with an analysis of the needs and contexts of learners, should be at the centre of decision-making around any technology-enabled responses. Solutions should always be built on sound pedagogical foundations – both utilising existing evidence and gathering new evidence – that constantly prioritises the needs of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable learners. Education technology has the potential to exacerbate inequities (in relation to access, capacities and costs).
- View any education technology interventions as an enabler rather than a transformer.
When using technology in education, the tools should always remain a means to the end of delivery quality education to all students. The INEE checklist can support decisions’ immediate priorities. These priorities often involve sweating existing assets; for instance, exploring how radio – or ideally Interactive Radio Instruction – can be repurposed or rebroadcast, or using existing databases to support SMS messaging to teachers or families.
- Stimulate rapid collaboration solution design and scaling between non-tech and tech providers, fostering principles and practices of equal partnerships.
In face of the Covid-19 challenge, policymakers have needed to become highly entrepreneurial overnight, rapidly building coalitions for change and action that can balance the interests and share risks and accountabilities across all partners, as well as withstanding justifiable public scrutiny (for instance, around procurement). Regulations and oversight need to be balanced with speed and potential efficiency.
- Where possible, opt for multi-modal approaches that include a range of low, mid and higher-tech interventions, all of which can be dialled up or down in response to different local contexts and stages of school re-opening.
- Strive to be adaptive at all stages of your decision-making processes, building a greater adaptive tolerance amongst donors, governments, NGOs and school leaders and practitioners.
- Ensure that psychosocial support – for learners, educators and families – forms part of any intervention.
Technology-enabled distance learning channels can be levered to communicate messages or provide low-maintenance interaction opportunities that can be crucial to the wellbeing of learners, educators and families.
- Communicate regularly with school leaders and teachers, and encourage peer networks to support well-being and professional learning.
Teacher peer-learning groups and Communities of Practice (COPs) are among the structures for teacher development that are strongly supported by education technology in emergencies. It is vital, both during and after the pandemic, to ensure that these elements include opportunities for teachers to seek support for their own wellbeing.
- Use education technology to support lean but long-term evaluations of all interventions, simultaneously building capacities of practitioners.
Policymakers have a role to play beyond funding, in ensuring state-level coordination of data so that it is aggregable and comparable, ensuring that data protection and safeguarding regulations are upheld, and that programmes respond adaptively to the findings revealed through these methods.
- Use education technology resources to support future shock responsiveness, as well as immediate shock responses.
Teacher training programmes and institutions should introduce good practice in remote education (including online synchronous and asynchronous learning), as a preparatory measure. There will be school closures in the future – at local, regional and national levels, at the least – in response to conflict, disease, natural disasters and climate change.