Education, Universities and Schools – COVID-19

Work is something we do, not something we always need to travel to, this was coined in the time of COVID-19 pandemic. It is also true what concerns education “education is something we do and not necessarily something we always need to travel to”. This may not be true in all situations but at least it can be a suitable alternative or it can be a supplement as well. From what we currently see around the world it is evident and clear that knowledge is needed to reach all and everyone specially in times when most of us has to be in collective or self-quarantine ( However, free movement of ‘quality’ knowledge may be simple to say but how can this be implemented and achieved in reality is totally different not only what regards education ( but also for the sake of public awareness (; In both cases it is a major challenge for many, if not a puzzle for some. For both it also a matter of “what, why and how”. Knowledge empowers everyone and provide safety, security and welfare on several scales. Knowledge ( in itself is not a goal but rather an instrument that is also renewable. Knowledge-transfer is going through major transformation process, distance learning and online education can’t and will not take place overnight. We still don’t have accessible, affordable, well-structured and coordinated solutions on the global level that can help providing effective and high-quality distant education ( and e-learning ( for schools and universities. What regards public awareness there are constraints and uncertainties in the quality of knowledge as fake news and disinformation ( are penetrating everywhere. We have the tools for remedies and to mitigate the pitfalls. By being academic and yet a citizen in a society that is facing collective and deadly threat, COVID-19, that has already caused a state of emergency and considerable economic damage on regional and global scale, it is imperative to engage in finding practical and operational answers. It is a global urgency as, for different reasons, we will face similar situations and we will certainly need to have solutions for how science and technology in the ICT-era can be taught online. This also applies to all academic disciplines ( and school education on all levels ( If the vaccines will take time to produce and medical treatments can’t be provided to everyone then we can ask ourselves, are there any alternative approaches to communicate knowledge not only for e-learning but also for the sake of effectively protecting our follow citizens from health and socio-economic losses? Universities have a third duty besides research and teaching, i.e. social engagement. Universities don’t need to wait to be asked from policy-makers to assist. They have possibilities to team up and initiate contacts with other public and private actors in order to innovate in new distant education and e-learning, also to take part in filling gaps in production and socio-economic services that are still needed in times of severe crises as those facing us now ‘COVID-19’. Much and very much more the academic staff and the higher education in general can do to create resilience in e.g. education and related services by effective implementation of ICT-solutions. Politics tell to implement social distancing, close campuses and recommend working at home on-line. Higher education, however, should have all the facilities, tools and expertise to deal promptly with wicked national crises such as COVID-19 that is currently paralyzing the whole society. Science and Technology in a state of emergency should be a solution to the problem and not part of the problem itself. Here ICT can be of considerable help, what regards how universities can have dynamic and effective roles in generating effective and powerful “university-society” synergies, by promoting what is required to achieve sustainable societies as stated and formulated in the UN-SDGs. Goal 17 of the UN-SDGs, i.e. ‘Partnership for Goals’ is for example a call for action by cooperation and collaboration between stakeholders. UN-SDGs are strategic goals for all sectors and actors in the society, including higher education and universities, to promote and achieve sustainable societies. In this context, the following components are of value to couple UN-SDGs with academic activities: curriculum; quality and benchmarks for sustainable developments; diversification in teaching, research and society interactions to achieve sustainability; policies, actions and guidelines; student engagement; and academic response in socio-economic crises. Many sectors in the society call for help to solve newly emerging and upcoming needs in times of crises ( Student nurses are set to be mobilised to join the workforce early in order to support the front line response to coronavirus, as is the case of NHS in England ( This is also the case for medical students which is indeed can also provide an opportunity to gain training ( Schools are sending kids home with devices, workbooks and other resources — but many others may not. Either way, parents are left with a dual challenge: managing new ways of working, while not allowing their kids to disappear into social media and video games for weeks or months. To minimize disruption to childrens’ education, keep a strict schedule and a list of goals to meet, we need to learn from Hong Kong what regards online learning during the coronavirus. What happened when Hong Kong’s Schools went virtual to combat the Spread of Coronavirus. A temporary solution during months long school shutdowns, the online classrooms may be an experiment the rest of the world can learn from ( Yet not as schools close amid Coronavirus concerns, the digital divide leaves some students behind “We still had classes today, so I was asking my professors, ‘What if we come from an area where internet access isn’t readily available or reliable? About 15% of U.S. households with school-aged children don’t have high-speed internet access at home ( This is even much worse in e.g. Africa because of different reasons, so coping with pandemics in the era of globalization may have severe feedbacks on global health and economies. What we learned from COVID-19 is that we are living in a globalized world and education is a global sector without boundaries and needs to be integrated and managed to meet new realities and needs.

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