Hundreds of thousands of students, teachers, and support staff have been able to switch gears and accept digital instructions thanks to the education sector’s effective response in the form of capacity development collaborations with service providers and technology-led solutions. In addition, students have returned to the classrooms due to vaccination campaigns and the relaxation of restrictions. But, after undergoing a metamorphosis in the previous year, what does the future hold?
The transition phase
The pandemic has had a wide range of repercussions on the world economy and population. However, some of the ways in which countries have responded to the challenges has resulted in great benefits that will shape its future.
One of the massive disruptions this pandemic created was in the education sector. It introduced new challenges for students and educators due to varied learning environments, including online and home-based remote learning. As a result, educators quickly found themselves transitioning to online learning.
“Education systems across the globe experienced an unprecedented impediment to learning as nearly 1.6 billion students in more than 190 countries were affected by school closures,” an Alpen Capital report revealed.
An unprecedented acceleration of the digitalisation process within the education system has resulted in great advancements in remote learning and revolutionary improvements in traditional schooling.
Keeping doors open
In response to significant demand, many online platforms offered free access to their services. For example, Byju’s, education technology and online tutoring firm announced free live classes on its app. As a result, the company witnessed a 200 per cent increase in the number of new students using its platform.
Meanwhile, Lark, a Singapore-based collaboration suite developed by ByteDance, began offering students and teachers unlimited video conferencing time, auto-translation capabilities, and real-time co-editing of projects, among other features.
Furthermore, the Tencent classroom has been used extensively after the Chinese government instructed a quarter of a billion full-time students to resume their studies online. This reportedly resulted in the largest’ online movement’ in the history of education, with approximately 7,30,000 K-12 students attending classes via the Tencent platform, K-12 online school in Wuhan.
Meanwhile, the GCC nations have prioritised education and invested heavily to create an environment that meets international standards, a trend that is projected to continue. For example, in 2020, the UAE committed 14.8 per cent of its federal budget to education, while Saudi Arabia allocated 18.9 per cent of its yearly projected spending to the field.
The Saudi Ministry of Education launched the Madrasati platform for distance teaching and learning for schools. In addition, the country has taken unprecedented steps to develop and promote the use of e-learning platforms. The Ministry believes that a hybrid model for learning is the future. It is also reported that the Ministry has announced plans to replace physical books with tablets in the next academic year.
Chief of Technology and Artificial Intelligence in Education Unit at UNESCO Fengchun Miao said that Saudi Arabia is among the few countries that developed and implemented quality standards to ensure effective and qualitative e-learning and education outcomes.
According to Ken Research, the Saudi Arabian e-learning sector is estimated to reach over $1 billion in revenue by 2025. The deployment of sophisticated technology services, which may improve the quality of learning material and the integration of LMS with smart classrooms across universities and schools in the kingdom, are expected to boost the e-learning services market.
Undoubtedly, from kindergarten to high school seniors and graduates to post-grad students, all have had to adjust to a new reality. From less pollution due to no commute to a lower cost per student, online education is making its mark.
In the Middle East, the region’s young population is exploding. By 2030, it is expected that the Middle East and North Africa will have a 23 per cent increase in the school-age population, resulting in 25 million children that need to be accommodated in the education systems. The region’s expanding young population, along with a growing interest in digital solutions, provides a compelling rationale to invest in and enhance the formal academic landscape.
While the jury is out on whether online learning will take over, one thing is for sure; the education landscape has changed forever.