The latest updates about Oxford University Press around the world
In this regular series, colleagues from across OUP worldwide share their views and insights into how their markets are navigating the changes facing our industry, and what the future has in store.
With last month marking one year since lockdown measures were imposed in most countries across the world, it’s time to take stock and consider how our world has significantly changed, including the way education has adapted to ensure teaching and learning can continue. The way we live, work and learn has transformed, with remote teaching and learning becoming the new way of life for many. Teachers, parents and students have adapted quickly and should be praised for their resilience, but the impact of these changes on learners could be both profound and lasting. While many assume that hybrid learning will become the norm, with so much uncertainty remaining, despite the vaccine roll out, it’s hard to truly know what the future of education will look like.
While online learning became the default method for learning and allowed education to continue for many, the UN estimates that nearly 500 million children, especially those in poorer countries or rural areas, have been excluded from remote learning due to a lack of technology or resources. Further to this, Oxfam estimates that the pandemic will reverse the last 20 years of global progress on girls’ education, which in turn will further increase poverty and deepen existing gender inequalities. This comes after the UK Prime Minister said earlier this year that supporting girls’ education in developing countries was key to improving the health, wealth and security in communities facing poverty.
It’s no surprise that these realities are having a detrimental impact on wellbeing for many young people. From our work with teachers, trainers and experts across the globe and in different teaching contexts, we know that students’ mental health was a concern before the pandemic, with a rise in those reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression. But with the events of the past year, evidence now suggests that the problem has substantially worsened, and the global mental health crisis has exacerbated. Data from Save the Children revealed that children worldwide are at risk of lasting psychological distress due to coronavirus, while academics at the University of Bath say this negative impact could continue for 10 years or more.
More than ever, we have seen a link between student wellbeing and education. In a recent impact study, Oxford Impact found evidence of a direct relationship between wellbeing and academic attainment, with most educators in agreement that happier, more fulfilled students will maximize their learning potential, meaning they ultimately learn better and achieve more. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of ensuring children feel supported so that they can cope and adapt to this unknown future from an early age. And that means looking for opportunities for them to develop valuable life skills such as resilience, adaptability and lateral thinking that will support their future personal, academic, and career success, and help them to navigate an ever-changing world.
Instead of focusing solely on academic attainment, education—whether it’s delivered at home, in a classroom or through a blend of the two—must evolve to prepare young people to thrive and contribute to wider society. At OUP, we have already taken steps to support this with our Oxford International Curriculum taking a new approach to education by focusing on wellbeing, developing those core life skills, and placing joy at the heart of learning. The feedback we received from customers trialling the curriculum has been overwhelmingly positive; as one parent so aptly said, ‘happy children learn better.’ We also recently sponsored ISC Research’s ‘Wellbeing in international schools 2020 report’, which found that the wellbeing of 5.6 million students and 576,000 teachers at international schools around the world had been affected by COVID-19. The report includes practical advice on how teachers and school leaders can respond proactively to both their own wellbeing and that of their students.
However, there is still more we can do and supporting young people’s wellbeing is the responsibility of everyone. From parents and carers, who have become a lot closer to their children’s learning throughout the pandemic, to teachers and education providers—we all have a crucial role to play in creating a learning culture that encourages positive mental health and wellbeing, and ultimately helps to support young people throughout their lives.
Bruce Neale, Managing Director, International Education