A call to action to avoid a generational gap
During 1992 U.S. presidential election Clinton´s top campaign strategist, James Carville, scrawled in a white board in their headquarters the well-known quote “It´s the economy, stupid!” Almost 20 years later seems that education has become the new political cleavage.
Nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 90 countries of all continents have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic creating the largest disruption of education systems known in history. This health crisis has exacerbated pre-existing disparities that will have substantial effects beyond education in many of the most vulnerable children, youth and adults by increasing current gender, age, race and wealth gaps.
Last September 10th the OECD organized a virtual panel about “Schooling in times of COVID-19: How the pandemic is changing education”. This event was attended by renowned experts that discussed, among other educational topics, about how this crisis has stimulated innovation in distance learning solutions within the sector to support its. Current decisions and its social and economic implications will be crucial in our societies as a whole.
Magdalena Brier, Managing Director of ProFuturo Foundation, contributed in this virtual event presenting ProFuturo´s modular and flexible digital education programme, created in 2016 by Telefónica Foundation and La Caixa Foundation whose main objective is to narrow the educational gap by improving, through technology, the quality of boys and girls´ education living in vulnerable environments.
The five pillars on which the program is based are:
- Teacher training and class management: In ProFuturo the teacher is conceived as the key piece to achieve a significant change in educational quality. Thanks to a blended methodology, with face-to-face and digital training, teachers acquire both pedagogical and digital capabilities.
- Digital platform and equipment supply: The digital solution includes 1,800 hours of training in 138 teaching units for each language (Spanish, English, French and Portuguese), as well as a system for teachers to incorporate their own content and monitor students. In terms of equipment, after evaluating the resources of the school participating in the program, ProFuturo offers three types of equipment:
- For schools without hardware or connectivity.
- For schools with hardware and connectivity.
- For schools that do not have all the equipment.
- Accompaniment and technical / pedagogical support: ProFuturo provided technical and training support in the implementation area, both during deployment and during the program adaptation phase.
- Community awareness: The program encourages interaction between the school and the community. It seeks to empower the community to ensure maximum continuity of the program, promoting its appropriation so that they assume it as their own.
- Monitoring and evaluation: ProFuturo has a tool that measures learning outcomes and the impact of the program in each community, allowing data-based decisions about future steps to be made.
Current situation is forcing us to innovate and do this transformation faster and in a more coordinated way. We should seize the opportunity to find new ways to address the learning crisis and bring out a set of solutions previously considered difficult or impossible to implement.
The United Nations has pointed out in a recent policy brief that the disruptions caused by COVID-19 to everyday life meant that as many as 40 million children worldwide have missed out on early childhood education in their critical pre-school year.
Preventing the learning crisis from becoming a generational gap needs to be a top priority for world leaders and the entire education community because all stakeholders have a role to play in order to make it happen.
Recently Telefónica has presented its Digital Deal, a proposal on how to tackle the current crisis, highlighting the importance of reviewing education in a life-long-learning attitude.
If we want to avoid skills shortages, mass unemployment and continued growth of inequality, more individuals must be empowered to participate in this transformation. First assumption to achieve that goal is to modernise our education systems and national curricula in order to meet the needs of a rapidly changing labour markets.
In addition to that, ensuring learning continuity during the time of school closures has also become a priority for governments over the world because, as quoted from scholars during the OECD virtual meeting, “there is something worse than going to school every day, not being able to go at all”
Telefónica's Digital Deal is a call to action to renew our social and economic policies that could help tackling existing and potential inequalities that put in risk the sustainable and inclusive society we must work for. Democracies need to be adapted for his digital age and education must be one of the long-standing commitments. Time is running out.