Future of Education: What Can We Learn from Adjustments of School Systems to the Remote Learning?

Anthony Salcito
  • Up to 1.6 billion students affected by school closures worldwide
  • Only 38% of teachers in training and early-career teachers feel prepared to use technology effectively in the classroom
  • 183,000 institutions in 175 countries are connecting education leaders, teachers, staff and classmates remotely, through the use of Microsoft Teams for Education

In Slovenia, education leaders and professionals gathered at the Future of Education summit, organized recently as a part of the virtual event NT Remote, to share ideas on the impact of the remote learning on the present and future of education. The participants, including dr. Simona Kustec, Minister of Education, Science and Sport of the Republic of Slovenia, and Anthony Salcito, Microsoft Education Vice President, explored how education systems adjusted to remote learning in the current challenges, what was the role of the technology, as well as how this unprecedented disruption could accelerate deeper education transformation with hybrid education models and more personal learning.

The incredible effort that educators around the world have made in recent months to adapt to remote learning quickly is worthy of special recognition. This change required everyone to work together and is unlike anything we have seen in the modern history of education,” said Microsoft Education Vice President Anthony Salcito. “In this new reality, educators empowered with technology will have an opportunity to create a more flexible and inclusive learning environment,” added Salcito.

Anthony Salcito

Behind us is a period that we will all surely remember. The year 2020 will be connecting us forever. I believe that we have worked well in an extreme situation, so I would like to sincerely thank all workers in educational organizations, pupils, parents, and other professionals for a valuable contribution to the rapid establishment of distance learning,” said prof. Dr. Simona Kustec, Minister of Education, Science, and Sport. “Extraordinary circumstances have taught us a lot, and we must stay prepared for the next. In the field of digital education, we will provide an even higher level of coordinated action at the Ministry, public institutions, universities, and schools. To this end, we will also set up a Center for Digital Education in the future, which will upgrade the efforts under the E-education and the Digital University projects. In this, cooperation with external stakeholders and coordinated collaboration will be important, too.

“The response of Slovenian schools and teachers to a sudden transition to distance learning was very good. This can be attributed to the fact that a large proportion of teachers is following technological trends and are also active participants in several skilling programs. Organized training for teachers popped-up in the early days of the school’s closures, too. The experience gained gives us a good starting point for further improvements. We will then also need to focus more on the differences in the capabilities of all pupils to participate in distance learning,” said Dr. Vinko Logaj, director of the National Education Institute of the Republic of Slovenia.

According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport`s data, in the crisis period, the number of online classrooms at the Academic and Research Network of Slovenia (ARNES) increased by more than 80  percent, to almost 24,000, and more than 400  schools also used Microsoft Teams to organize virtual classrooms.

According to the data from UNESCO, up to 1.6 billion students (or 91,3 % of total enrolled learners) have been affected by school closures in more than 194 countries worldwide.  Microsoft recently announced that 183,000 institutions — including individual schools, universities, districts, states, and regions — in 175 countries are connecting education leaders, teachers, staff, and classmates remotely, through the use of Microsoft Teams for Education.

When schools were closed all over the world, educators were facing a massive challenge on how to keep students learning and engaged without the face-to-face closeness and comfortable daily routine of a classroom. And while everyone looks forward to the return of everyday life, this trying period changed how some teachers are thinking about technology as a way to augment learning plans and navigate future unexpected hurdles.

Empowering teachers

With education systems around the world changing at a swift pace, it is critical to understand better how teachers see what the profession might look like in the future. Microsoft’s recent whitepaper, “Staff of 2030: Future-Ready Teaching,” showed that only 38 percent of teachers in training and early-career teachers felt that their training prepared them to use technology effectively in the classroom. Similar were results of the survey carried out by UNESCO that found that 60 percent of teachers in 60 countries said that they were not prepared for online learning.

The challenges of building remote and hybrid teaching strategies will be even more challenging for teachers who feel uncomfortable with technology. As we look toward the future, it has never been more important to increase the training of teachers with expanded opportunities for professional development. 

Preparing students for future jobs

As work and learning are changing fast, everyone needs new skills to be successful tomorrow, be it one year or one decade from now. This is particularly important for students (and the educators teaching them), with the World Economic Forum predicting that two-thirds of students today will work in jobs that do not yet exist. Likewise, LinkedIn continues to report cloud and artificial intelligence as top emerging jobs.

Today’s students are the innovators and inventors of the future who can use technology as a bedrock to help find solutions to the types of problems we are facing today — and those we cannot predict. Microsoft is, therefore, aiming to help skill millions of students in the coming years — helping tomorrow’s leaders gain knowledge in areas spanning topics like responsible AI, Internet of Things (IoT), and building cloud-native apps, among so much more.

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