Technology Is the Key to Equal Opportunity Education in APAC

Hundreds of millions of students in Asia are facing an uncertain future. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools and universities to close, leaving many young people without access to education.

With the future of education in Asia at a crossroads, Scott Beaumont, president of Google Asia Pacific, sat down with Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at the OECD, to discuss the way forward.

According to Schleicher, the pandemic has reinforced two ideas: first, learning is not a location but an activity, and second, education is not a transactional event. It’s a social experience.

Schleicher believes a hybrid model of education, combining face-to-face and online learning, is the way forward. This model, he says, is more than just an hour in the classroom and an hour online. It’s about totally reconfiguring places and technology to enable learning.

“We can’t manage learning loss by just adding back learning time—we need to focus on managing students’ time better, finding out which students learn the best in what context and how we can best support them,” he said.

To achieve this, Schleicher proposes prioritizing access to technology. He notes that only 20% of students have access to a computer at home in Southeast Asia. This number needs to increase if all students are to have an equal chance at getting a quality education.

Furthermore, governments need to ensure that schools have online learning platforms for both remote learning and classroom teaching. And not only that, but teachers also need to be confident users of these technologies.

Collaboration is another crucial area for improvement. According to Schleicher, only 28% of teachers run classes as a team. He believes that stakeholders need to do more to foster collaboration between teachers, both within schools and internationally.

“Collaboration is how new ideas and approaches emerge,” he said. Despite the challenges, Schleicher thinks the future is bright. Over 80% of the counOECD surveyed countries committed to ensuring secure internet connectivity for all teachers and students.

Furthermore, other countries can learn from a good collaboration between the tech industry and governments to equip schools with the software, hardware, and training resources needed to transition successfully to online learning.

“These are steps we can build on, not just to mitigate the impact of school closures or restrictions, but to rethink how we provide education in future,” Schleicher said.

Schleicher closed by saying that countries can build on the progress made during the pandemic and create a brighter future for all students by prioritizing access to technology and education.

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