How do we bridge the learning gaps?Friday, August 27, 2021
There are talks in the media apropos the severe learning gaps that need to be bridged. Some people are even of the opinion that the face-to-face modality is the only medium through which bridging those gaps can be achieved. Therefore, parents, students and other stakeholders in education are in total reliance on the country going back to normal through the vaccination of teachers.
However, whilst the face-to-face modality may aptly solve some of the problems relating to access, there has to be a standardised approach to implementation to solve the most important areas that were adversely affected such as equity and quality in education. The aforesaid concerns are lacking in exploration; thus, the grimness of the situation has shown our inability as a nation to conduct effective problem-solving, which, ironically, is one of the things we require most from our students.
Bridging the learning gaps caused by COVID-19 will not require a solution, but rather multiple solutions. It is still indeed unprecedented times, which call for joint planning of school administrators, networking, merging of resources (both human and non-human), curriculum revision, implementation of new learning approaches, and school leadership flexibility and autonomy.
This is a new paradigm that will usher in several permanent changes, especially in the labour sector, and schools should, and must, adjust to these changes so as to prepare students for the world of work. Therefore, the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) in teaching and learning has to be more creative and student-centred. Consequently, now, more than ever, access, equity, and quality in education is being placed on the tables of administrators and the Ministry of Education (MOE), as these must be adequately planned for in order to bridge the learning gaps.
With schools being closed for more than a year, several stakeholders grappled to remedy the plethora of challenges that came with the time. Throughout the period, there were scores of students whose access to learning platforms and/or instructional materials were never fulfilled or only partially fulfilled, which, in many cases, resulted in regression.
At this juncture, the Ministry of Education has to pull on curriculum specialists to revise the curricula by using innovative strategies and approaches to teaching and learning which have the capability to bridge learning gaps.
There is no one quick fix at the moment; however, creative suggestions will create a pool of ideas to build on. These ideas are what I would refer to as progressive solutions.
Needless to say, it is a 'new normal'; therefore, schools' modus operandi must be revised. That kind of revision, as aforementioned, should embrace the development of innovative curricula, interwoven with a standardised approach to teaching and learning; less subject offerings at the various grade levels, especially for students with special needs; leadership flexibility; and a dual-modality shift system.
For many years, prior to the pandemic, several schools have been faced with the issue of learning gaps, specifically numeracy and literacy. Therefore, this is an opportune time to transform the education system. For that reason, it is a time where strategies to bridge learning gaps should be shared, piloted, and implemented for a transformed education system to protect the future of our country, Jamaica.