After almost a four-month hiatus, education institutions around the country that closed due to the Covid-19 outbreak are now busy preparing to reopen and awaiting the final nod from the government.
A profound impact has been felt in the education sector due to the coronavirus health scare – at home and across the world.
The sudden shutdown triggered a myriad of woes – for policy-makers, schools, higher education institutions, teachers, students and parents – which are yet to be addressed holistically.
Academic activities were affected and classroom learning disrupted, with the lives of teachers and students in disarray, while in some cases exams had to be delayed – leaving all stakeholders in uncertainty.
“The sudden closure of schools has impacted hugely on education delivery, which has shifted from the physical to distance and online learning.
“English literate students who had been exposed to digital education and enjoy independent learning were less effected by the closure.
“With schools shut, a lack of social interaction with their peers, as well as between students and their lecturers, resulted in anxiety, stress and other psychological problems among students.
“And these have directly and indirectly impacted students’ learning abilities and educational achievements,” said Sothy Khieng, an adviser at the Centre for Inclusive Digital Economy at the Asian Vision Institute, a Phnom Penh-based think-tank.
The temporary lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 has brought previously unthinkable changes to teaching and assessment in schools and universities.
Traditional teaching methodology – chalk and board – has taken a back seat as the virtual classroom became the buzzword in the teaching profession, and it is obvious that many institutions may be forced to keep this direction for an indefinite period whether they are comfortable with it or not.
Classrooms will now be laid out to accommodate fewer students and schooling hours may have to be adjusted flexibly to avoid overcrowding on campuses.
Schools and private institutions are reorganising their classroom settings, infrastructure and teaching methods to meet new health and safety and hygiene measures for a safe environment for all students.
For the moment, only e-learning serves as a quick-fix solution on a long list of measures needed for the effective delivery of quality education in public and private institutions in this unprecedented situation.
“Online and distance learning will continue, and the role of educators will be transformed from the traditional transferring of knowledge and skills to being a facilitator and coach.
“E-learning is not only delivering lectures on the internet, but should be a shift away from a standardised one-size-fits-all approach to flexible, accessible and quality education delivery.
“Blending physical teaching with e-learning and distance education will significantly improve the quality of education and be relevant to many young, tech-savvy learners who have shorter attention spans.
“Classrooms should be used for discussions, debates and mentoring, or for practicals and experiments, and less for lectures,” Sothy said.
He also cautioned that private education providers who do not invest in teacher capacity development and the infrastructure conducive to student learning will be more negatively impacted by the new reality.