The appearance of COVID-19 late last year left education systems in disarray. The following months saw school closures across nations and the emergence of a completely new structure to education. In order to slow the spread of the infectious disease, governments closed schools and enforced quarantine guidelines. Students and teachers turned to education technology (EdTech) to continue schooling. School looked completely different— students and teachers interacted virtually, isolated within their homes. Some say the shift to distance learning is an opportunity to explore more personalized approaches, and may eventually improve education methods. However, that result can only be expected when countries and people have sufficient programs to support Edtech.
5 Countries Using EdTech to Improve Distance Learning
- Afghanistan: In order to combat the educational challenges of COVID-19, Afghanistan shifted to distance learning. In-person classes became broadcasted lessons. This solution is viable for the country because it utilizes existing technology throughout the nation. Broadcasting also offers advantages because it is compatible with so many different technologies, granting access to more people. Lessons could be broadcasted through television, websites, social media, or radio. Rumie.org, an international organization working to reduce barriers to education, has a program in Afghanistan that works to increase access to technology in struggling communities. They distribute digital learning resources and format their education plans to make them relevant across the nation. This organization aspires to make education more accessible, especially when distance learning is the only option available. Broadcasted school, in combination with organizations spreading interactive learning materials, is the future of Afghan education during the pandemic.
- Argentina: Argentina also has broadcasting capabilities and expands education options by offering both public channels run by the Ministry of Education and private channels contributing to university or community content. They also provide notebooks for children without access to broadcasting. Notebooks contain educational information and require the child to fill out the lesson plans. Seguimos Educando is another initiative supported by the Argentinian Ministry of Education. It is an online program that offers education by subject and includes everything from “self-learning resources, suggestions for families and teachers, films, interviews, educational and communication proposals through social networks and videoconferencing tools, agendas for online events as well as proposals for free time for students.” The government is committed to equal opportunity for students. The Argentinian government is asking companies to keep digital education free of charge. Additionally, they have been distributing tablets and netbooks to communities who would otherwise be unable to afford them.
- Bulgaria: Bulgaria began their adjustment to online learning by creating online textbooks and corresponding broadcasting channels. Using this method, students were expected to learn for about six hours a day. The Ministry of Education and Sciences has since introduced new programs to support their textbooks and broadcasting. For example, they organized an online library, the National Electronic Library of Teachers, where teachers can share resources, lesson plans, and ideas about how to make online learning the most effective for their students. All schools also received free Microsoft team accounts so teachers and students can communicate on a digital platform.
- Columbia: Colombia approached the COVID-19 school closures by developing two separate education plans based on internet access and resources. Students with internet access can use “Aprender Digital”, a website with learning tools for students, teachers and the general community. It features games and video games to keep students excited and engaged in the material. It also encourages language acquisition through its National Bilingualism Program. For students unable to use online resources, Columbia developed at-home kits to continue learning. The kits are also very interactive learning devices, equipped with games, art projects and even family activities.
- Kenya: Kenya established four major platforms for distance learning. The first two options are radio and television broadcasting. Their third option incorporates a new digital learning platform: Youtube. They created a Youtube channel called EduTv Kenya which live streams lessons. The last platform is the Kenya Education Cloud which stores electronic copies of textbooks so students can access them for free. However, Internet access is not guaranteed throughout the country. To make sure that students everywhere could use the internet, Kenya partnered with Google to allow Loon Balloons to fly over rural areas. Loon Balloons create internet connectivity with 4G-LTE capabilities. One balloon provides internet access to a population within a 40 km radius. Using a balloon-provided network, students can continue distance learning despite the pandemic.
COVID-19 pushed education into an unprecedented space. These countries, all with significant portions of their populations below the poverty line, utilize the resources available to them to continue to progress the education of their youth. Edtech is here to stay so that populations can stay safe from COVID-19. By prioritizing distance learning, these countries are displaying their attention to both education and safety.
– Abigail Gray