Dr. Saima Dogar
History will now be written with the reference to COVID 19, before pandemic and after pandemic. It will lead to massive cultural and social adaption. The current pandemic, with all its negative implications on the economy and educational system, also presents a massive opportunity for us to evolve our mode of instruction. In these challenging times, our teachers and student must adapt to an online mode of learning for near future. If we succeed to adapt to a remote mode of learning we can use the already existing infrastructure to transition into a blended mode of learning, where technology complements in class instruction. This will then expand learning to places and peoples who might have not had it before.
Since March 2020 when the lock down was announced due to pandemic, if we were to analyze the situation of the country’s overall education system, in particular the public sector, three major conclusions could be drawn:
- We were lacking in disaster management.
- This forced educational leaders to look for alternative options.
- The System is moving towards an educational paradigm shift.
The education system of Pakistan is comprised of 317,323 institutions accommodating 50,292,570 students and 1,836,584 teachers. The system is composed of 196,998 public institutions and 120,273 private institutions. The sector wise enrollment details are quite alarming.
|Sector||Number of learners/students|
|middle school stage||6.445 million|
|high school||3.437 million|
|Higher Secondary / Inter Colleges||1.697 million|
|Degree Colleges||0.937 million|
Finally, the most important sector of academic arena is Universities. There are total 163 universities providing their services in both public and private sector of education. Out of these universities 91 (56%) are working under umbrella of public sector, whereas 72 (44%) are working in the private sector. The total enrolment in the universities, i.e., at post graduate stage, is 1.355 million.
In Pakistan currently each level of education is facing hard challenges, it is the higher education segment that may end up, by necessity, triggering a learning revolution. The situation is alarming with the huge number of primary, secondary and tertiary level who are even not trained enough to handle the new online work and technologically savvy enough to navigate and use new online platforms. As the Universities are dealing with adult students’ population but only some universities already had well established online learning system i.e. Alama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) and Virtual University. They extremely well coped with the pandemic situation, however, the other universities besides the fact that they have huge IT departments, were never fully utilizing nor where the faculty trained to use them. Another significant hurdle was the unreliable access to internet, especially for students in remote areas. Pakistani education system lacked training and necessary infrastructure for online learning. So, over all the pandemic that has shuttered the education of the country. This situation is generating a lot of serious questions, e.g. Can traditional, campus-based universities adapt by choosing the right technologies and approaches for educating and engaging their students? The successes and failures that unfold should give us all a better grasp of what is possible? How can we train the existing faculty to work in blended learning mode? How can we coop the situation by optimum utilization of human and material resources?
This current situation is not just unique to Pakistan, but other third world countries in the region are in the similar boat, “the economies around the world has also battered education systems in developing and developed countries. Some 1.5 billion students — close to 90% of all primary, secondary and tertiary learners in the world — are no longer able to physically go to school. The impact has been dramatic and transformative as educators scramble to put in place workable short-term solutions for remote teaching and learning, particularly in emerging markets, where students and schools face additional challenges related to financing and available infrastructure.”(Salah-Eddine Kandri, Global Head of Education, 12 May 2020 ).
Since Education is evolving quickly, and teachers and teacher educators and researchers needs to explore these changes, including a noticeable trend around life skills and workforce preparation. Parents and educators want children to have a more holistic education that goes beyond standardized testing to include social and vocational skills in alignment of 21st century job market. We must work and plan for a new blended learning model to emerge in post COVID-19 stage. The post COVID19, economic situation of the Pakistan is also worsening, which demands from the school to prepare competitive work force to targeting the 21st century international Job Market through Quality Education and the major challenges nation is facing.
- Children and students with closed school
- Great pressure on small economic System
This situation requires the country to declare an Educational Emergency with the proactive role of teacher trainers and move towards the best Quality Education through blended learning (a blend of Online and classroom teaching). It requires capacity building of existing teacher trainers and massive scale online teacher training of public sector teachers. The public sector education system has a huge teacher training set up; this presents a massive opportunity to finally fully utilize the teacher education system. In this educational emergency teacher education must be prioritized. In future this would also present an opportunity to use this system to train teachers in the countries surrounding Pakistan that lack this teacher training infrastructure. This is a hidden opportunity for us to first build our own capacity for remote learning and approach other countries through diplomatic channels to lend out services and in return bring in foreign exchange.