Period of remote learning should influence future education policies

The Covid-19 pandemic has paved the way a combed digital and traditional approach to teaching and learning - but governments need to act so that progress from the past year is not lost, according to the latest report from Oxford University Press (OUP).

The report, Education: the journey towards a digital revolution, captures insights from experts across seven markets—the UK, Brazil, South Africa, Pakistan, India, Spain, and Turkey - as well as hundreds of teachers and extensive secondary research. With the pandemic affecting more than 1.7bn students worldwide[1] over the past 12 months, the report analyses how teachers, students, and parents adapted to new ways of delivering education, and will continue to utilise digital learning tools and resources to shape educational practice in the future.

Within the UK specifically, OUP’s experts believe that although printed learning resources will still be valuable, blended learning will become the standard. Fortunately, confidence in delivering digital learning has significantly increased over the past 12 months; before the pandemic, 65% of UK teachers were confident in using digital learning, compared to 92% of teachers who feel confident now. They also predict that the ongoing digital transition could result in rethinking assessment models in the future, particularly at GCSE level.

When asked about what steps governments should take to support digital learning, UK teachers called for increased funding for technology (57%), more funding for schools/ institutions (50%) and support for improving connectivity (50%). 40% of teachers and 73% of OUP’s UK experts called for the government to work with education experts to shape future education policy.

While there were clear regional trends, there were also similarities across all markets: 98% of OUP’s experts said they believe digital learning will be firmly embedded in teaching practices in the future.

The factors deemed to have impacted the most on the effectiveness of digital learning were socio-economic barriers (79%) and uncertainty in day-to-day life caused by the pandemic (74%).

Long-term impacts of the pandemic such as the digital divide and the impact on wellbeing need to be addressed; 70% of OUP’s experts concluded the shift to digital learning has raised concerns about student wellbeing, and 85% believed that learners from disadvantaged backgrounds have fallen behind their more advantaged peers. The experts also agreed that curricula needs to evolve so that learners develop the core skills needed to navigate future uncertainty and become ‘digitally fluent.’

Drawing on the insights, OUP is urging governments and educators globally to address the challenges brought about by a year of educational disruption and ensure that positive developments from the past year are not lost.

The OUP recommends that governments should actively collaborate and learn from teachers and students and use their recent experiences to inform future policy and curriculum development. Governments need to work with institutions to address the digital learning divide, not just now, but for the future too.

The OUP also believes that wellbeing is considered as part of education policy as digital becomes increasingly embedded in education­—including support for teachers and parents, and that curricula should evolve to provide learners with the skills they need to be both digitally fluent, and adaptable to whatever the future holds.

Speaking about the research, Nigel Portwood, CEO of Oxford University Press, said: ‘The coronavirus pandemic has, unsurprisingly, prompted a rapid increase in the adoption of digital learning. As we start to reimagine what education may look like in the future, it is imperative that the UK government—and indeed, governments all over the world—learn from those who have been on the frontline, delivering and receiving learning. We have a huge opportunity to learn from all our experience to develop education systems that will work for both local and global society.’