Overcome the loss in learning due to COVID-19: A wise man once told the story of how he went on a joy ride with a boat off the South African coast. It was a beautiful day, but within a short time, a storm came up. He described how thankful he was that he had an experienced skipper. I remember how told us that he was standing behind the skipper – watching over his shoulder. The skipper explained to him: “You must be able to see the way through the waves,” as they safely navigated to the beach. Governments, educators, parents and students are currently facing a perfect storm. The challenge now is to find the way out of the storm.
In the eye of the storm
International figures indicate that 1.6 billion students around the world were out of school at the peak of the COVID-19 lockdown in April 2020. The learning loss caused by the lockdown will impact on two areas. An estimated loss of 10 trillion dollars in earnings overtime for this generation of students; and secondly, many countries will be severely challenged to achieve their Learning Poverty goals.
According to A. Dixon and J. Saavedra from the World Bank, we need rapid, decisive, and coordinated action. They indicate that we were already living in a learning crisis before the pandemic. The situation threatens to pose a massive setback to hard-won gains in human capital. Because of the coronavirus, the learning crisis will be even more profound – and the baseline from which we need to accelerate and improve learning is now even more challenging.” [i] In short, the outcome of the lockdown aggravates the challenges regarding exclusion and inequality – particularly for persons with disabilities and other marginalised groups.
Before the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic, the world was already struggling with a learning crisis, with 53 per cent of children in low- and middle-income countries living in learning poverty being unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10. The World Bank report indicated that close to 7 million students from primary and secondary education could drop out of school due to the income shock of the pandemic alone – as of the latest GDP projections. This number is likely to be revised further upwards as estimates of the magnitude of this economic crisis are revised.
The added challenges we face is that I4R is placing a higher demand on learning, unlearning and relearning. We will all need to achieve higher, to develop more, to read faster, think smarter, learn better in the future. Even students that were doing good before might not be doing well enough going forward. We are all faced with oceans of information. Neuroscience has shown that the cognitive load exceeds the capacity of the working memory, intellectual abilities decrease. We must find a way to effectively increase life-long learning and bridge gaps caused in learning by and worsen through the lockdown.
Governments have already identified that education plays a significant role to improve human capital. Good education outcomes ensure macro-economic stability; ignite inclusive growth and advance their country’s ability to be globally competitive. Improved education outcomes also lead to an increase in tax revenue and GDP. It lessens the demand on social services, health services and safety services. It contributes to low levels of crime and improved health. A lot has been done to research new and efficient ways to improve education. New curricula are developed, and vast investment is made to enhance learning environments.
The most significant gap currently challenging the improvement of educational outcomes globally is the lack of capacity in our learners, students and workforce to intelligently work with visual information. To achieve this, and other development outcomes, the foundational skills and strategies needed for visual intelligence should receive urgent attention.
The basis of learning is to interact intelligently with information. This includes the skills and strategies needed to find relevant information. To know how to connect new information to your schema of understanding. And to understand how to use the information you have now internalised to create new knowledge. Visual intelligence is the ability to process, understand and express visual information. One of the cornerstones of visual intelligence is reading with adequate comprehension. If 74% of our Grade 4’s cannot understand what they are reading, they will struggle to work with, and learn from visual information for the rest of their lives! They won’t be able to use the information they have to make intelligent choices towards a better future for themselves and their children.
Reading is not just recognising symbols or reading and writing basic words – there is much more to reading than what meets the eye. Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols for the intention of deriving meaning (reading comprehension) and/or constructing meaning. Adequate reading does not develop naturally as the human brain is not ‘pre-wired’ for written information, but for spoken. This is one of the reasons that humans have, for generations, transferred knowledge through singing and storytelling. With the advent of written language, we’ve developed different strategies of training the brain to read with understanding. This has arguably been one of the most significant challenges facing nations in the last few decades. One of the critical aspects of learning that was recently proven through neuroscience is that the human brain is a self-organising creative system.
Every skill and ability you have was constructed in a specific region of your brain, as a result of practice and application over long periods. Learning is connecting neurons: developing neural pathways and enhancing neural networks. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Connections within the brain are continually becoming stronger or weaker, depending on what we use. This is the ‘muscle-building’ part of the brain, the physical basis why repetition strengthens the power of choices and actions. Over time it becomes automatic. This is then why developing the skill sets, and learning new strategies to improve visual processing, reading and comprehension are vital. Without it, life-long learning cannot become a reality for each individual person. Literacy is a continually evolving, complex and essential skill, and it is an ethical obligation to prioritise it for people universally.
Eyebraingym has the means to support and empower teachers and students online. The system helps individual students to develop the skills and acquire strategies to see more, read faster, remember better. Eyebraingym (and its range of activities) is designed to develop foundational learning skills through augmenting the science of neural wiring. We bridge the gap between information and knowledge by training and optimising neural pathways in the brain of each user. Eyebraingym use actions within the reading process to re-wire the brain to produce healthier and stronger minds. These foundational skills increase visual intelligence for our users and establish them as active, involved citizens that can make intelligent choices towards a better future.[i]
The lockdown has allowed the world an opportunity to build an education system that is more resilient, adaptable to student needs, equitable, and inclusive. Technology will play an increasingly important role, and the possibility to develop, support and improve foundational skills for reading and learning online should receive the attention it deserves. Eyebraingym is geared towards mass-market implementation and has proven to achieve encouraging results for users of all ages.
“We cannot waste this crisis,” stressed Saavedra. “This shock might have lasting negative impacts, but it must be an opportunity to accelerate, not go back to where we were before. We will go to a new normal with a different understanding of the role of parents, teachers, and technology. The new normal should be more effective, more resilient, more equitable, and more inclusive. We owe it to our children.” To find out how you can partner with us to create impactful change in global education. Let’s not waste this opportunity but rise together to make a difference for our future generation. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/06/18/covid-19-could-lead-to-permanent-loss-in-learning-and-trillions-of-dollars-in-lost-earnings https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/06/18/covid-19-could-lead-to-permanent-loss-in-learning-and-trillions-of-dollars-in-lost-earnings https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/education/publication/simulating-potential-impacts-of-covid-19-school-closures-learning-outcomes-a-set-of-global-estimates