South Africa’s education landscape has been reshaped forever, with e-learning possibly addressing shortage of public schools
Distance Educator, Brainline, says the recent Covid-19 pandemic has reshaped basic education forever and has highlighted the importance of e-learning for the future which could address the current shortage of public schools. Hundreds of thousands of learners were affected by the school closures which kicked-off in March and saw the last learners only return to class at the end of August. Brainline CEO, Coleen Cronje, says never before have we witnessed educational disruption on such a scale.
‘To say COVID-19 has disrupted education is an understatement. As of mid-April, according to UNESCO, 1.5 billion students or roughly 87% of the world’s student population were affected by school closures in 195 countries, from pre-primary to higher education. In South Africa, even the exams for grade 10 and 11 learners have been scrapped and replaced with tests set by schools, based only on material covered during the past year, where the curriculum was severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,’ Cronje says.
Cronje says it can never be business as usual and the education will more than ever have to prepare for remote instruction, technology like video conferencing platforms and learning management systems. She says the time to adapt is now.
‘The coronavirus pandemic has changed how millions around the globe are educated and it is unlikely that South Africa will return to the status-quo in the near future. We have already seen a rise in online educational platforms where traditional classroom and its “talk-and-chalk” way of teaching have been radically changed. This is a true indication of what can be expected in the future and both parents and learners are getting more comfortable with this method of learning. There are a great shortage in the number of public schools to accommodate learners and this could be a solution,’ she says.
But there is a need to look at the cost of e-learning to ensure inclusivity.
‘Unless access costs decrease and quality of access increase, the gap in education quality, and thus socioeconomic equality will be further exacerbated. The digital divide could become more extreme if educational access is dictated by access to the latest technologies. We have seen network operators coming up with solutions to lower the cost of data but this is something that needs to be escalated for the benefit of education’
Brainline’s online school has over the last few months seen unprecedented levels of new enrolments, especially from Grade 12 students. Cronje says it has been a mammoth task to ensure that these new students are ready for the upcoming final exams.
‘We were inundated with new Grade 12 students who joined our ranks since the school closures at the end of March. In most cases, our new students did not complete the work that is compulsory for a valid School Based Assessment, also known as the year mark. The new Grade 12 students have received additional support to ensure they cope with the added stress and challenges and we are confident that they will fare well during the final exams.’
Meanwhile, Brainline has also opened its doors for 2021 registrations and Cronje is confident that many learners who were forced to resort to online schooling will continue and not return to traditional class rooms.
‘We are very excited about the new academic year and our theme for 2021 is ‘We see greatness in you’ Over the last few months we have become a safe haven for many learners who have had to look for alternative options due to the school closures. We know that we have been able to assist them with a successful transition and our goal is to ensure that our learners reach their full potential despite outside circumstances.’
Brainline is IEB recognised. Learners who are enrolled with us to complete their final examinations and who fulfil the requirements for this qualification will receive their National Senior Certificate (NSC), as issued by Umalusi.
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