What Should Faculties of Education Do with COVID-19 Issues in Developing ASEAN Countries?
COVID-19 is a game changer. Various ‘rules of the game’ will change in society during and after this pandemic, including those in the education sector. In this article, I will discuss what faculties of education (FoEs) should do, especially in the contexts of developing ASEAN countries, with a focus on issues in pedagogy, curriculum and support for student teachers.
Back to the Future
FoEs that do not have many facilities or human resources, as well as financial capacities for online learning, would have to go for non-online approaches — back to the future. Probably one of the most efficient solutions would be to have a partnership with and utilise the available resources of open universities. They have know-how and resources to deliver education for wider audiences in various parts of the countries — by printed materials, radio programmes, TV programmes, DVDs, and so forth. Faculty members can interact with student teachers on a corresponding basis by email, post or short messages even.
Some faculty members may be dissatisfied with this approach. However, it would save much time and labour. Otherwise, the cost of time and labour to support and train faculty members on online teaching will be immense. In considering all these costs, it is the best for FoEs to rely on open universities’ existing resources for the time being, if not permanently.
Rush to the Future
If there is no open university in the country, or if FoEs prefer their own ways of teaching, it is necessary to develop online teaching as fast as possible — rush to the future. In such a case, first, faculty members need to be able to access reliable online teaching platforms. Second, they need extensive support to familiarise themselves with new ways of teaching. Not all faculty members would have experience teaching online, and senior faculty members who do not use learning management systems such as Moodle, Blackboard and other platforms or social networks might especially struggle to adapt. Thus, it is crucial that universities rapidly invest in appropriate infrastructure and human resources to support all the faculty members for the transition.
If FoEs go online, they have to make sure that every student teacher has access to online lessons. To achieve this, quiet study areas, reliable Wi-Fi services and devices (e.g., laptop, desktop, tablet or even smartphone) have to be readily available. However, not every student teacher will have access to them due to their family and financial situations, as well as geographical locations. There must be interventions by either national or international agencies to support the procurement or rental of devices for student teachers.
Ready for the Future
Curriculum in FoEs needs to be revisited during this challenging period. Student teachers will face immense challenges once they are assigned to schools in which they will start to teach. FoEs will have to prepare them — ready for the future. The challenges include psychological and behavioural issues of their students, caused by socio-economic hardships. Then, the employment and incomes of students’ parents will be highly uncertain due to this pandemic. Parental stresses and anger may be passed on to children in various forms. Many of the students may have to drop out due to insufficient parental income.
It is critical for student teachers to understand and empathise with their students’ struggles. This is the first step in caring for their students and helping them learn. Their important job is to build up a classroom culture where all students can feel safe and accepted, as well as settle down for learning. In some extreme cases, classrooms may be the safest place for some learners.
Thus, in FoEs, there should be more courses on educational and school psychology compared to what is currently offered. Subject education courses such as mathematics education or science education are necessary but not sufficient. Student teachers also need to learn how to provide well-being consultation and counselling to their prospective students. In teaching those psychological subjects, then, the content should be practical, based on real cases and voices from the classrooms. Faculty members need to build up a strong nexus between the practices and theories in the given disciplines.
Subject education courses […] are necessary but not sufficient. Student teachers also need to learn how to provide well-being consultation and counselling to their prospective students.
Stay for the Future
There will be a huge increase in the need for financial support among student teachers — to let them stay for the future. I recently learnt that many students are wondering whether they can continue their studies, even in one of the best FoEs in ASEAN. We cannot and must not let future teachers drop out because of this pandemic. We need to let them stay in the teaching profession to serve the next generations. This problem is beyond the capacities of individual FoEs, so universities, ministries or international donor agencies have to support the teacher-education sector by providing scholarships to student teachers in financial need.
We cannot and must not let future teachers drop out because of this pandemic. We need to let them stay in the teaching profession to serve the next generations.
Trace out the Future
It is critical to research the actual impacts of COVID-19 in both FoEs and schools — tracing out the future. This can be achieved by conducting surveys, interviews and longitudinal studies to clarify the impact of the pandemic on schools. Further, both school and faculty practices need to be investigated by action research to understand how they might be used to mitigate the impact of this pandemic. These studies will inform teaching in FoEs as well.
I would like to make reference to two aspects of this pandemic. First, it is a health crisis and it requires a totally new treatment — breaking the classroom processes of FoEs into completely individual bases. Then, it is a socio-economic crisis that leads to people suffering from the huge extent of the recession. Efforts to keep FoEs as well as schools united through pedagogy, curriculum, support and research is key.