Despite all challenges and tragedies, some dare to say that the future came earlier during 2020. This “future” is complex, it scares us when we realize that education inequality has increased even more when it was already unacceptable, and school closure set back successes achieved through hard years of effort and investment. However, this same future brings hope when we have witnessed how education stakeholders have moved innovation from the margins to the center of many education systems to overcome the challenges imposed by the lockdown and social isolation.
In August 2020, The Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAIS 2) opened a call for “projects to pilot and validate solutions to make Southern African startup ecosystems more resilient and better able to face an uncertain future”. The context of the call was the fact that Covid-19 has revealed flaws in the worldwide innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. They challenged applicants to find these flaws and offer solutions to the innovation business ecosystem in the region, so it would become stronger and more resilient against adversities.
When I came to Finland for my Master studies, I wanted to research about a topic that already intrigued me in Brazil when I was working as school psychologist in a rural school of Ceará.
I was interested in understanding how some teachers managed to have such a good relationship with their students, which impacted positively on the students’ learning; while other teachers struggled with it. By good relationship I mean when teachers and students are focused on teaching and learning the content while they are also relaxed. Spontaneous actions such as jokes, laughs, personal reflections, and life stories’ sharing color the interactions and are important parts of the education process. I could observe that the students were more focused on the content when they had such a good relationship with the teachers, than when they did not. I could also see how this impacted on the teachers’ satisfaction regarding their work from the way they talked about it.
Institutions that store and protect cultural heritage, such as museums and archives, are vital resources for mental health, well-being, social cohesion, and cultural learning. Today, more than ever, the importance of culture and creativity for society is clear. During the Covid-19, those with access to the Internet have constantly resorted to online cultural production provided by institutions and private initiatives. Who, during the past months, has not watched a live session with their favourite singers, read an e-book temporarily available during the months of lockdown, or visited a museum “walking” through its digital corridors in a 360-degree view?
Unfortunately, the lockdown measures over this year and the impossibility of physical visiting have caused massive loss of revenue for cultural institutions such as museums and archives. In addition, the digital gap due to lack of Internet accessibility in many regions around the world have increased largely and strongly affected those institutions that cannot resort to such resources, especially the smaller and private initiatives in small cities or rural areas.
When I arrived in Finland in 2016 to start my Master degree in Education, I was stressed. I had to carry luggage everywhere, buy and arrange furniture, organize University papers, attend meetings with supervisors… I also had to deal with the fact that I was in a new place, far away from home, my family and friends. But I was where I wanted to be and I was familiar with stress.
Eventually I started to focus on integrating myself in the University life. I had over 30 ECTS to complete and I was excited and ready to work “full-on”, get stressed by deadlines, reduce my social life and increase my Education expertise. After all, I didn’t come to Finland to make friends, I came to study and get a Master diploma. Well, things happened in a different way.
“We can’t organize the course exam as a mass event with everyone in the classroom. The exam will be organized online. How that happens, well, to me that might be an even bigger mystery than to you. I will get back to this, when we have come up with a solution.”
This is a direct quote from my professor in one of my university courses at the beginning of the semester. This is just one course that has been monstrously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Multiply this by the amount of courses and the amount of education institutions around the globe, and we can say that the education sector is facing huge challenges and a pressing need for re-organization due to the current crisis.
If you are a teacher or educator of any sort that have already organized a virtual lecture, and at some point of your presentation you wanted to engage your audience by asking a question, you know what I am talking about.
It takes about 5-15 seconds for someone to find the mic icon, turn it on, and speak up. But these seconds are enough time for you to wander around all your insecurities about teaching in a virtual setting. It goes more or less like this: “OMG, nobody is paying attention to what I am saying and I am speaking alone here” – since in many situations the video camera is off and you cannot actually see what your audience is doing.
Now that a new academic year/semester is about to start, the hot topic of the past weeks has been how to proceed with the reopening of schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic, taking into consideration the implications of it for the population health and education. Among teachers, parents, school leaders, and academic researchers there seems to coexist opposite, but also complementary, opinions.
So far, children who attend kindergarten and initial years of primary education seem to be the safest cohort of pupils to come back to school routines thanks to the shared evidence that the vast majority of them do not suffer from hard symptoms due to the virus. Additionally, parents with younger children might need a faster return of them to school activities, so parents can have better conditions to work. However, although younger children are safer to be exposed to physical and face-to-face socialization, they can also be potential carriers and spread the virus among family members, affecting mostly the ones who are in the risk groups (e.g. grandparents who take care of them).