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WEF: Covid-19 presents a "unique window of opportunity" for global online education

The World Economic Forum was a staunch promotor of lockdowns and closing of schools, from March 2020 on. And yesterday, July 21st of 2022, they released a statement that says that the closure of schools has been “the worst ever shock for education” worldwide, especially for the poorer world regions, like the Caribbean, Latin America, and South Asia.

(Pedagogues who knew and said this two years before, were cast away as covidiots, by that same WEF. Isn't that a bit odd?)

Part of their statement reads:

“We’re facing a global “learning catastrophe” because of the way the education of millions of children was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report from leading world bodies, including the World Bank and UNESCO. The report says 70% of 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries are now unable to read and understand a simple written text – the measure of learning poverty. That could mean the generation of students whose schooling was hit by COVID-19 stand to lose a massive $21 trillion in lifetime earnings – more than earlier estimates and amounting to 17% of today’s global GDP.” So the World Economic Forum proposes a new universal teaching model, named the RAPID framework, to repair that huge learning loss as quickly as possible AND make the people healthier and wealthier. They present this framework in collaboration with Unicef, World Bank and, of course, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and are dead serious about it. The statement continues:

“Under the framework, education systems should:

Reach every child and keep them in school Assess learning levels regularly Prioritize teaching the fundamentals Increase the efficiency of instruction, including through catch-up learning Develop psychosocial health and wellbeing.

“We have solutions that can work at scale and in government systems,” says Dr Benjamin Piper, Director of Global Education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Committing to substantial learning recovery programmes is a start, but the composition of those programmes matter: measure learning outcomes, but also invest in improving instruction through structured pedagogy or teaching at the right level interventions while increasing instructional time.”

A unique window of opportunity Strategic investment in education could be part of the broader recovery from COVID-19. A World Economic Forum study highlights the scale of the potential benefits, estimating an additional year of education leads to up to 15% higher lifetime earnings. The report says countries have a “unique window” to transform education as we recover from those long months when the pandemic emptied classrooms and locked school gates around the world. " Their explanation of RAPID is quite cunning, because we don’t see much the notion ‘online’ or ‘digital’ in that explanation, but if you reason a bit, you’ll probably conclude that World Economic Forum and the other filantropic institutions mentioned, are heading straightforward to an exponential growth of online learning, with more and more standardised online learning programs all over the world, so every student, from Tokyo to Buenos Aires and Paris, knows the ‘fundamentals’ of the new global Fourth Industrial Digital Society and how to fit in and make it work, as an obedient (digital) world citizen. And that would probably even be the fastest way to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goal on Education.

In another opinion piece of WEF, from three weeks ago, they are quite more explicit on their eagerness to digitize en uniformize education all over the world, starting with higher education. Even though it has proven quite a disaster for many, many students in those parts of the world that were forced to stick tot he screen for more than 40 or 60 hours a week in '20, '21 and parts of '22, with minimal three dimensional social contacts.

And anyone who bothers to look up the chapter on education on the WEF website, will realise how deeply their vision on a standardized universal digital learning program, is key for their further development of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

And of course, this circle of the mighty will keep on repeating that there is no alternative for education, that online learning is better and faster and cheaper and more effective and climate friendly than the old normal of engaging in learning through dialogue in a class room, hearing and seeing each other, feeling each others frustration and enthusiasm, being connected with other learning human beings.

And they will also claim teachers should be able to be creative and connecting emotionally through the screen, and, where possible, see their pupils live from time to time.

And yes, I believe online teaching can have its advantages from time to time, under certain conditions, but to make it more and more digital and uniform globally, beginning with higher education... that should worry quite some of us.

It worries me, for one. Enough to be on my guards everytime some new "education experts" talks about necessary priority investments in "digital innovation" for pupils, whilst we have a pandemic of burn-outs with our teachers, as well as depression and anxiety disorders with way too many youngsters.

So, this will not stand.

Surely, education can use some, or a lot of, change, but than one in the way of more dialogue, human interaction, authenticity, problem solving, and cocreating, and mostly NOT isolated behind a screen.

That's not how most humans want to learn, or teach.

Luckily, we have a fantastic legacy of pedagogues, that can show us the way. Time to read or reread some of Piaget, Vygotski, Montessori, Steiner, Dewey, Horton, Rogers, Holt, Freire, bell hooks, Robinson, Cornell West, Biesta, and so many visonaries on the human-shaped education of the future.


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