Nearly 1.6 billion children were out of school during the pandemic, according to a UNESCO report.
COVID -19 has impacted major areas of life. It interrupted international trade, slowed the economy, and re-organized schools and colleges. The way education is delivered changed almost overnight. Education changed from in-class lectures to remote on-screen activity. The pandemic brought changes that were earlier unfathomable. It has shaken the fabric of education and redefined it as a completely remote activity. Consequently, school leaders need new ways to manage education. Executive education can help leaders in this regard.
Now getting children back into school has been a heated debate in the industry. Schools reopening are facing considerable challenges in maintaining social distancing, intensive cleaning, disinfection, and managing movement of children through the school. Many schools that are reopening are under the media fire, whether this is a safe and sensible choice.
The conversation about whether the schools should reopen or stay closed is inconclusive and divisive. We’re not sure about the results of the schools opening, but the worsening mental health of students trapped at home is a real problem. Now when need demand for quick solutions is increasing, the wellness of students, teachers, and everyone and everyone involved in the reopening of school should be on top of the list of priorities.
Additionally, the ongoing crisis exacerbates the well-being situation and highlights inequity in education among those who have the least. Access to digital devices and the internet in the U.S household is a common disparity that the current crisis highlights. Nearly 15% of households and 35% of low-income households with school-age children did not have high-speed internet. In April 2020, ⅔ of leaders in poor districts reported that lack of basic technology in the districts was a real problem.
Similarly, in the UK, nearly 1.6 million households don’t have internet access and tens of millions of households rely on pay-as-you-go services to access education, healthcare, and other benefits online.
Preparing for disruptive times
The past methods in the face of pandemic remain ineffective. School leaders will need to improve their approach to handle the current situation while maintaining their health and wellness. Leaders need to think outside of the box and shift their focus from traditional methods of teaching to deliver quality education.
School leaders should consider the following aspects while navigating through COVID-19.
- School leadership practices have changed significantly and perhaps irreversibly because of COVID-19. It is unlikely that traditional school practices will return to normal soon. Research indicates that principles of good leadership will stay constant i.e a clear vision, managing people, developing capacity, etc.
- Current education leadership training programs will need a significant modification to remain relevant for aspiring and practicing school leaders. It would be a mistake to reconfigure what was relevant before COVID-19 as much of the training and development program will no longer fit for the purpose. New programs that fully encompass skills, leadership practices, and actions suited for the ongoing COVID-19 situation. In a nutshell, executive education will need reform.
- As made evident by the COVID 19 situation, technology will play an important part in delivering education. Though it is just a means to deliver education, school leaders would need to be technology savvy to choose the best digital products that complement their pedagogy. After all, the quality of education is built on pedagogy while technology has a significant part to play in it.
- Crisis and change management will be essential skills for education leaders. Running education institutions in disruptive times requires more than regular problem solving and occasional firefighting. School leaders will be required to engage in constant crisis and change management. This will require constant collaboration and support from all staff. Executive education programs now will need to incorporate crisis and change management lessons.
Education has undergone significant changes in the past few months. While the effectiveness of newer ways remains to be tested, education leaders must realize that the traditional approach to education delivery must change to accommodate disruptive times like the pandemic. They must seek to learn and adapt to the time.