Public health personnel are the frontline in the fight against COVID-19. Similarly, the frontline for Thai schools are the teachers. In this case, teachers support the students and their parents, not only against the pandemic, but also in coping with changes in teaching and widening education inequality.
Not only did our teachers need to scramble to figure out how they themselves can teach online, they also needed to visit students at their home, bring books and worksheets, and show parents and students how to access online materials. When the nationwide online learning experiment came under heavy criticism, teachers also fielded complaints and provided moral support to anxious parents. Now we must ask, who is supporting the teachers and how?
Recent international reports and articles echo similar concerns for teachers and how they can possibly cope with this unprecedented disruption to their roles. It is clear that a compassionate approach to teaching and learning is as important as ever. Learning, and teaching, during stressful times is difficult. Teachers and school administrators must adjust their outlook. Expectation should be tempered with real-time data and input from teachers.
An international survey asked teachers in over 30 countries if they felt ready for their current role of providing online teaching and learning. The survey found that a fair number of teachers had a positive attitude and some technical knowledge toward teaching online. However, they felt that they lacked experience, were concerned about ethical considerations such as online responsibility and privacy, and were unsure how to adapt from the classroom setting to online.
The outlook for Kenan remains unchanged, as teachers continue to need our sustained support in pedagogy, technical knowledge, and ethics. They will also need more innovative tools to adjust their teaching, so their classroom is adaptable enough to work online, in person, or as a blended approach.
Thailand must support teachers by providing them with the training, learning materials, and technology necessary to deliver 21st-century education effectively. Teachers themselves will need to become students to adapt to the new paradigm of blended learning (the combination of online and classroom instruction), and, most importantly, master high-impact teaching practices, such as inquiry and project-based learning, that enable students to engage actively with materials, ask questions, and find their own solutions to problems. This hands-on approach is the key to developing students with the 21st-century skills that Thailand urgently needs to drive the country forward.
It will be challenging, but our teachers, with the support of Kenan and others, can do it. We have seen amazing results at Thai schools, when teachers have had the opportunity to join our 21st-century professional development program. COVID-19 is a tragedy on many levels, and we cannot afford to allow today’s nightmare to cause us to lose hope. Instead, we must use the current situation as an opportunity to reimagine Thai education so that Thai students can lead us to a better future.
What are your thoughts on how to drive education forward in the time of COVID? Please leave your comments below.