COVID-19: A Challenge to Existing Classroom Practices

By Assadullah Khan
The Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED)
Professional Development Centre (PDC), Chitral

Change is like a flowing stream and human beings are like objects floating in the direction of the flow. We may ponder, deliberate, attempt and plan for our survival in the changing world, however, most of our efforts or struggle are driven by our survival instinct rooted in our prior thoughts and experiences.

It is assumed that our human intellect distinguishes us among the creatures, making us superior! Practically speaking, however, we rarely use our faculties for prudent adjudications to prepare ourselves for unforeseen situations. It wouldn’t, therefore, be far-fetched to say that we are in between the dilemma of being superior, in terms of capacity.

The prevailing COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call that has pushed us to use our intellect for wise and informed future planning to prepare for the inevitably unforeseen situations that might cross our path on the journey of change and progress. Education, being one of the basic pillars of our social fabric, should have a flexible framework to absorb the impending changes without major torpor.

The use of modern Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in educational context dates back five to six decades. It [the use of ICT] is considered to be “a liberation” from didactic or traditional approaches of teaching and learning, a teacher centered approach with emphasis on textbook, blackboard, chalk and talk. The intended change in the classroom demands provision of material and trained human resources. Hence, educational institutions should be equipped with ICT related resources and teachers should be trained to effectively use ICT resources for attainment of desired learning outcomes in the classroom. The most important and primary initiative must be taken in the shape of training teachers to be able to blend ICT in teaching and learning activities within classroom.  Leveraging ICT in the classroom is considered a powerful pedagogical shift vis a vis the traditional teaching and learning methods. It enables the students to become active, independent, dynamic, life-long learners having access to multitude of learning materials. In addition, students turn technology smart and can use each technology related equipment or gadget easily and with interest.  Furthermore, each and every school must be equipped with computer laboratories with stable internet connection. Classroom teaching strategies and methods must be student centered, tech-based and engaging. This will result developing high order thinking skills and better preparation to cope with ever expanding technological revolution.

Lamentably, as a nation we did not take this aspect of change in the educational institutions and classroom seriously. Our interventions in this regard taken as directives driven without understanding the underpinnings of the change initiatives. Interventions of small scale were implemented without proper monitoring and supervision mechanism. If we could have welcomed the intervention systematically then we might not have faced the challenges related with teaching and learning during COVID-19 pandemic.

When schools were going to be closed due to spread of corona virus we had no idea regarding students and teachers learning at home. However, later on government of Pakistan initiated tele-school and several other interventions were initiated at school and organization level. This initiation has shifted and changed the perception and attitude of students regarding teaching and learning. Students have been enjoying the graphics, simulations and animation laden lessons on laptops, cell phones and TV sets. Hence, we may say that the lessons and other media based interventions are meeting the immediate educational needs, while developing interest and aspiration of the students. In addition, they are flexible regarding attending the lessons having no compulsion or authority forcing to attend. If schools remained closed for few more months students will become habitual with ICT driven classes and expect the same from schools too. Hence, we have to think and plan to address the demands and needs of the students according to changing world and situations.

To conclude I may urge that while planning we must be futuristic and consider the unforeseen situations. Our teaching learning and teacher training institutions should be tech-laden and must meet the demands of the changing world and situation. Our schools must be equipped with ICT related tools with internet facility and teachers should be trained so that they can use the resources effectively enabling the students to access teaching materials and experts from all over the world. In this way we will be able to face the unforeseen situations like COVID-19 pandemic effectively.

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