The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the world in ways unimaginable. As we look back on 2020 and the harsh repercussions of the pandemic that continue until today, it is apparent that one of the most impacted sectors was education. Neither the world nor educational institutions were prepared to embrace the shift to online platforms brought on at lightning speed.
Educational institutions worldwide promptly responded to the pandemic by going online. In record time, students moved from physical spaces that provided them with much-needed social interactions, to being seated behind a screen for hours on end. In Lebanon, the shift to online platforms happened at a slower pace, and was mainly driven by the academic institutions that already had digital learning platforms in place, and the means to operate them.
The effectiveness of online learning is still the subject of debate. Experts have been studying the retention of information by students and how remote learning has impacted the development and social skills of children. They conclude that online learning’s effectiveness is dependent on the following three conditions:
- Students having consistent access to the internet and computers
- Teachers receiving the needed training to administer courses online
- Platforms that provide personalized learning, to match the journey of each individual student
These three conditions posed many challenges for Lebanese schools, their faculty and the students – the latter perhaps bearing the brunt of the shift to online methods.
Given the state of infrastructure in Lebanon, internet connectivity was and still is choppy, and quite expensive for underprivileged students to gain access to. In addition, many children from less fortunate backgrounds do not have access to desktops or laptops allowing them to take part in courses.
In addition, remote education has shown the need for much more support, and self-development courses, for children to grow academically.
How has education changed positively as a result of the pandemic?
Students learn, retain and apply information most effectively when they have received personalized education paths and when sufficient resources are made available to them. In typical classrooms, students that require more attention or support are tended to – however, with the pandemic, this was no longer the case. This challenge was responded to with the rise of online tutoring platforms and digital learning Apps, to complement the journey of learning.
Despite heightened disengagement levels due to the loss of social interactions (especially amongst younger children), students did learn new skills, such as time management and responsibility.
With reduced learning time, estimated at an approximate 2 to 5 hours of screen time, depending on the students’ age, along with the loss of social connections, the development of the child, as a whole, has been impeded. We foresee numerous changes when life returns to ‘normal’ post-crisis, with an abundance of summer activities, self-development courses and more personalized learning modules to enrich all facets of the students’ learning journey.
What is Alphabetical Order doing to bridge this educational opportunity gap?
Alphabetical Order, since its founding, has been adamant on creating educational opportunities for students from underprivileged socioeconomic backgrounds. Students from low-income families have been most impacted by the pandemic. The organization’s efforts cover two main areas:
- Subsidized tuition on a needs basis, to ensure that students and their families, facing financial hardship, have access to education, even if it is through remote learning methods.
- Rebuilding and repair efforts by the organization have been focused on enhancing the infrastructure and facilities of schools, most damaged by the Beirut blast. These efforts have been extended to cover schools in different municipalities across Lebanon.
- A school development program, including projects such as teacher training to enhance learning paths and work closely with schools to optimize how information is delivered and retained, is currently in the works.
Learn more about the ongoing projects and programs by Alphabetical Order, and how you can support them, here.