With the start of the new academic year in July just around the corner, educators and policymakers just have to be prepared for the new normal for the 44 plus million students across the country.
In light of the joint ministerial decree by the education minister, religious affairs minister, home minister and health minister announced on June 15, 2020 regarding the school reopening during the pandemic, schooling practices need to be reimagined and reshaped to prevent a possible second outbreak.
Lessons learned during the current school disruption should drive educators to change their perspectives and practices. Reshaping schooling perspectives and practices should deliberate on the why, who, what and how of education.
It is true that the current pandemic and concern over a potential second outbreak have disrupted traditional schooling practices, but the why of creating the new normal should go beyond the current pandemic and delve deeper than fear of illness.
Reimagining anew forms of education may open doors for more equitable quality education for all young Indonesians. Despite all the COVID-19 maladies, the pandemic disruption has brought awareness to new possibilities in reviving our education system and in ushering young Indonesians into the future on a more level playing field.
The impetus for capitalizing on the demographic bonus toward the Indonesia 2045 Vision has collided with the reality of economic and geographical disparities. The current school disruption has amplified education inequities across social economic classes and regions. This prevailing concern can hopefully give rise to renewed initiatives by education stakeholders to transform schooling practices and create equal learning opportunities for all.
First things first, the who of education are entities that need to transform themselves. The learning-from-home mode has abruptly changed the roles of teachers, students and parents. The need for autonomous learning requires that teachers shift to be designers and facilitators of learning instead of the sage on the stage.
Lessons learned from the sudden disappearance of the traditional classroom stage and the isolation of each learner in his or her own space should drive teachers to unlearn old habits and acquire new skills of online learning engagement. Thanks to the pandemic disruption, the online learning execution — no matter how disorderly and inequitable the practices are across the country — has forced teachers to realize that they have to reach out to each student in isolation and examine the effectiveness of their teaching.
Our ongoing research reveals that teachers’ fear of technology has given way to an emerging sense of obligation to master technology and explore ways to integrate it into their pedagogy in order to maintain their professional duties (Anita Lie et al., 2020). This awakened desire can hopefully snowball into concerted efforts to restore the teaching profession.
By the same token, students need to build up a character of interdependence, discipline and responsibility. Along the same lines, the current learning-from-home practices should gear parents to be a beacon of these character values instead of extended academic tutors for their children.
Education experts and researchers have long lamented that one-size-fits-all curriculum does not work for all learners. Unfortunately, this discourse within scholarly forums does not seep through the classroom walls and fails to influence the what of the education system.
In the name of efficiency and system for the masses, the education enterprise found it impossible to meet such diversified needs of the learners. Small-scale initiatives have emerged to customize learning in the forms of homeschooling, elitist schools and alternative schools. While their success stories should be applauded, scaling up the best practices intended for the privileged few to serve the 44 plus million is a utopian endeavor.
The school disruption has compelled all education stakeholders to accept the fact that what matters is not the completion of the written curriculum coverage but the recognition of students’ diverse needs and the discovery of possibilities to meet those needs through resources other than the teachers themselves.
The teachers’ primary task is now to guide students to seek those possibilities. This new normal will hopefully drive education authorities to design a sustainable framework for a needs-based curriculum and provide a repertoire of learning modules. Multiple types of literacy and modalities required to survive and contribute to the 21st century should be included in this curriculum.
With a renewed understanding of the why, who and what of education, the how is a matter of technicality. As Friedrich Nietzsche said: “If you understand the why, you can endure any how.” The learning-from-home isolation cannot continue forever. Children and youths need physical interaction with their peers as part of their learning processes. After all that teachers and students have gone through during this disruption, the new normal should be blended learning.
Even if there is no postponement of the start of the academic year in the green zones, rotation models of blended learning can be a way to maintain social distancing in school, especially when classrooms are too cramped.
Despite its promises, Clayton Christensen (2008) warns that effective technology integration requires a focus on pedagogy and practice, rather than an emphasis on technology and tools. He found that, although teachers integrated technology into their classrooms, the technology did not necessarily lead to student-centered learning processes.
One caveat in this new normal is that teachers often use technology to perpetuate existing teacher-centered pedagogy rather than using technology to shift themselves and their teaching to student-centered pedagogy.
Therefore, professional development is a continuing need for teachers not only to learn the skills but also to integrate the newly acquired skills into sound pedagogy.
Professor of Education at Widya Mandala Catholic University Surabaya
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.