Schools undertaking 'largest educational experiment in human history'

Prof Anne Looney: “When we come out of this we will be going back to a different kind of education.”
Schools undertaking 'largest educational experiment in human history'

Teachers and students are currently undergoing the largest educational experiment in human history and will return to a different kind of education once the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

That’s according to Professor Anne Looney, the executive dean of Dublin City University’s Institute of Education.

Inequality will continue to grow as long as the schools remain closed, Prof Looney also believes.

“The longer we remain out will exacerbate the existing inequalities that are already there, not just in a digital sense, but others, that schools work so hard to mitigate. What we are experiencing now has been described as the largest educational experiment in human history."

Wellbeing and an enhanced focus on the emotional health of students will be among the top priorities of the Irish education system in a post-Covid world, according to Prof Looney.

“When we come out of this we will be going back to a different kind of education.”

Professor Looney said wellbeing and an enhanced focus on the emotional health of students will be among the top priorities of the Irish education system in a post-Covid world.

With kitchen tables now the hub of teaching and learning for thousands of children across the country, Prof Looney said sustaining the rhythm of this will be a challenge.

There currently is a nation of children who want to return to the classroom, who are missing friends and the social interaction at school, she added.

“Ireland’s students are among the 1.5bn learners across the globe affected by school closures since February. However, the experience of this will be different in each area.”

“Around the world, parents, educators and learners are going to be asking themselves 'what are we learning from this', or 'has the system learned, as it resets itself'. We will have to experience what I call a more ‘contemplative education’ approach when we return to the classroom.”

“Children will need to be with each other when they return to their classrooms — rather than just doing lessons. We will move into more time ‘just to be’. And teachers too will need to be minded and supported when they return to the traditional classroom.”

Prof Looney also echoed the comments of educationalist, Andy Hargreaves, of Boston College, who believes students will need extra support when they return to schools.

Society will also have a greater appreciation for the work of teachers, and more respect for people with vocational skills, with working that may have been considered ‘low-skilled’ in the past now proving to be essential during the crisis.

Teachers who enable the spark and the learning to happen — the magic of the teacher in the classroom is very hard to replicate online.

Prof Looney was speaking during the Institute of Education’s ‘Facebook Live’ series ‘From A Distance’.

This series looks at how we think about education, schooling and learning as we grapple with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

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