DUBAI: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has presented the teaching profession with unprecedented challenges, education leaders heard on Friday.
A C20 discussion session was told that the outbreak had changed norms in the education sector, forcing teachers and students to adapt to new practices for the long run.
“(The pandemic) has disrupted the norm for all stakeholders – whether it’s the child or their parents who have suddenly become more involved in the learning of their children, and for the teachers themselves because they have not been prepared for this,” said Heba Abu Jbarah, who works in teacher education at the Queen Rania Teacher Academy (QRTA).
She pointed out that tutors, especially those new to the profession, had found dealing with the pandemic a huge challenge.
Panelists, led by the QRTA’s director of the teacher education professional diploma, Rola Said, agreed there was a need to build competencies for teachers to help them overcome the impact of the global health crisis on the delivery of education.
Dalal Hammoudeh, from the Arab International Academy (AIA), said the sector should build “skills that allow teachers to think for themselves, and make use of what is around them, and face uncertainty with the spirit of risk-taking,” adding that teachers could take advantage of local resources.
“You (teachers) should be aware of what is around you in your local community so that you can leverage it and then create those learning opportunities for your students,” she said.
Delegates also talked about how students and their families, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds, had been affected by the COVID-19 situation.
Jbahra said: “The current experience of COVID-19 unfortunately has shown us how inequitable learning circumstances are. Not all children have devices or internet connectivity that would make them continue their learning process all the time.”
The pandemic had revealed socioeconomic inequalities among students, the panelists agreed, and how they had affected the continuity of learning.
Kim Insley, from University College London in the UK, said: “One of the false statements that has been made has been that COVID-19 has equalized people, it hasn’t.
“People have been at different starting bases, and I think that that is something that has to be remembered. Countries have been at different starting bases.”
The C20 meeting recognized that some governments and organizations had reached out to marginalized communities and assisted them by providing access to technology.
Hammoudeh said education technology “should be at the center of the learning process rather than presenting it as a support component. The fourth industrial revolution has shown how easily technology outstripped human readiness. We need to create a context where human skills are adapting to new technology.”
The panelists concluded the session with a call for teachers to confront the challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak and prepare themselves for long-term changes.