Quality education for all
Can digital provide equal, high-quality education opportunities for all on a global scale? Gareth McLean thinks so.
The education gap
As Nelson Mandela once said, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
This remains as true and relevant today in 2020 as it ever did before. A high-quality education is essential for individual development and well-being, preparing learners to create the solutions for a better, fairer, and more prosperous society. Still, equipping all learners irrespective of socio-economic or ethnic background with a first-class education remains one of our biggest global challenges.
Currently, the standard of education which learners receive across the world is greatly impacted by geographic location, poverty and gender. Over 72 million children are not in school. It is estimated that 759 million adults are illiterate and do not have the awareness necessary to better their living conditions and those of their children. The cost of an education remains one of the main issues preventing equitable learning opportunities. A lack of resources, shortage of skilled teachers, outdated textbooks, and even having access to basics such as a safe classroom, all mean that many learners miss out on the chance to study.
Fundamentally important skills
Indeed, there are 130 million children in school who are not learning fundamental skills, such as reading, writing, and maths due to poor teacher availability, according to Global Citizen. UNESCO estimates that the world needs almost 69 million new teachers to reach its 2030 educational objectives for inclusive and equitable quality education. Many young students are also forced to prioritise earning money and caring for their family members above their education. Even with the option to visit a classroom, such responsibilities make it an impossible task for a large proportion of learners. Surely, if we can provide greater flexibility by supporting learners outside of the conventional school room, this would have a great effect on providing more equitable educational opportunities.
Access to learning
It is essential that every person has access to high-quality learning and knowledge sharing, especially when we consider how it can transform a person’s lifelong prospects and opportunities. The Global Partnership for Education says that 420 million people would be removed from poverty with a secondary education. This would have the potential to reduce the number of poor worldwide by more than 50 per cent. For a woman in particular, just one additional school year can increase her earnings by 10% to 20%. This is a testament to the power of continued education in reducing the wealth gap and making societies fairer and more sustainable places, with greater equality between men and women.
Long – term disadvantages
Students who lack an education early in life are immediately placed into a long-term disadvantage when it comes to succeeding in the dynamic and highly competitive jobs market. An illiterate adult for instance, or someone who lacks basic skills in mathematics, will likely struggle to keep pace in a world which is constantly changing thanks to emerging technologies, the creation of new jobs, and demand for particular skillsets. Supporting learners with a richer education enables those individuals to better themselves and crucially pass on the knowledge to their children, to foster a more positive cycle of awareness and understanding.
Making a change with digital learning
The global education disparity clearly cannot continue. If physical classrooms, textbooks, and a limited availability of skilled teachers are some of the barriers to an education, what if we explored virtual pathways to a good education?
Technology and digital tools are available now to support teachers and deliver a personalised education experience for all students, no matter what their situation. Digital learning provides the flexibility not only to educate more pupils with less, but to engage them with fun and interactive lessons for an enjoyable learning experience.
For example, a school which lacks sufficient classroom space and learning supplies could use an online learning resource to reach hundreds of students and provide the most up-to-date curriculum lesson plans, without needing the physical presence of a teacher or even to hand out a single textbook. For learners who cannot easily travel due to personal commitments, or in areas of conflict where schools might be dangerous for students, digital learning portals enable pupils to continue their studies in the right place and at the right time which best suits them.
There is a vast library of online learning resources available so that students of all ages can continue their learning and receive individual monitoring and assessment. Learners can take grade-specific tests through the virtual school, for instance, enabling progression to further education and the opportunities which follow. This ensures pupils are given the best possible chance to fulfil their potential and have a brighter future.
Global education is making progress. However, there is significant work to be done before all students regardless of background are receiving a good quality learning experience. Digital learning holds the key to unlocking the doors which hinder educational equality, enabling students anywhere to enjoy and continue their learning and improve their opportunities.
Digital Learning specialist, Gareth McLean is the International Business Development Director of Edmentum International a company which has developed a range of online learning solutions which combine digital curriculum and assessment for students aged 3-18 in over 80 countries.