Five current educational topics

As the world is ever evolving, education systems need to adapt. But what are current educational topics?

1. The Pandemic

The one topic that has become most prominent in recent months is the outcome of the pandemic. Austria, where I am from, had a two-month distance learning programme in March and April 2020 and older students were held back from the physical classroom even longer. The general rule was that online learning was not mandatory in order to not exclude students that didn’t have access to a computer. This decision brought many pros and cons. In November 2020, all students were back in Distance Learning – but what will be the impacts of this handling? Some studies have already come out regarding this topic:

Huber et al. (2020) researched in Austria, Germany and Switzerland and had more than 7000 people involved including parents, students and school administration. Their main topic was the difference between poor and rich students; in German called “Die Schere von Arm und Reich” – the scissor of poor and rich. The pandemic only furthered their distance even more. Big problems are in regards to equal opportunities in education. The group identified that schools did not focus enough on live communication and individualization even though online tools could benefit the lessons. Krammer, Pflanzl and Matischek-Jauk (2020) defined other aspects in regards to Distance Learning in universities:

GOOD ASPECTS OF DISTANCE LEARNINGBAD ASPECTS OF DISTANCE LEARNING
● Autonomous self-management
● Recordings to enrich studying
● Different tools and techniques
● Transparency in regards to assessment
● Different forms of exchange and
interactions (questions, meetings, input)
● Too many tools
● Only contact via email
● False estimation of workload
● No input
● Too much time spent in front of computer
● Technical problems

There are talks about technology advancements in the educational system in Austria, for example asking for free laptops for every student. One major conclusion Krammer, Pflanzl and Matischek-Jauk (2020) drew was that IT skills of teaching staff improved in different areas from using a word processor to more creative ways of using technology.

2. Technology

Very closely related to the COVID-19 pandemic was the topic of technology and the future of schools. Many talks in regards to digital campuses arose that involve administrative and teaching staff alike: What about digital citizenship? How can students learn to use their digital devices in a respectful and sustainable way? What about data protection? These questions got louder through the pandemic, but the fact of the matter is, that technology was a part of students‘ lives several years ago as well. With the ongoing pandemic and its problems, the chance arises for educational systems to finally face this topic. Another opportunity lies with new teachers, as they go into their profession and also grew up with technology, maybe even able to use it sustainably in their classroom. The chances of technology vary with the focus one holds: personalized learning, using tools to lifelong learning and assistance in learning.

3. Global citizenship education

I am personally very interested in Global Citizenship education (GCE). I believe that the current changes in the world, such as climate change and mental health crisis can only be dealt with through a society that believes in interconnectedness and cooperation. Through my teaching subject Philosophy, I’ve learned in my years at university that shying away from difficult topics is not a solution but only adds to the problem. It is a difficult task to address a difficult subject but also to not leave them depressed when they walk out of the classroom. I believe students should be empowered to believe that they can change something. It all depends on the people to educate themselves and find their voice. Through a concept like GCE people will become more aware to solve complex problems, think critically, communicate ideas effectively and work well with others.

4. Discrimination

Related closely with the events of 2020 is the topic of systemic racism. It was a topic I was aware of (in my studies known as Antirassismus or Rassismuskritik) but frankly unsure how to address it in the classroom. After learning more about it, I realized that this uncertainty was not so much about not knowing what is going on but rather how to speak about it as a white, privileged, female teacher. I learned more about it in this Podcast. The situation is not similar to America, but then again, the scissor I spoke about earlier is not much different: discrimination due to economic status and the relation to ethnic and cultural background. In Austria there is a law to not discriminate against sex, gender, ethnic background, religion and disability – but the day-to-day experiences of many people show that the existence of a law does not the automatically help to enforce the law.

5. Collaboration between schools

The fifth and last part of this entry ties all the topics in. In order for better education, laws need to be changed; we know that, but I also believe that taking accountability and ownership as a school is the way to know if you’re progressing forward. One method I believe in is collaboration – between teachers, schools and countries. We can learn from each other, through projects and topics. This behavior also encourages students to work together and share knowledge, learn from each other and practise teamwork.

Literature:

Krammer, G., Pflanzl, B., Matischek-Jauk, M. (2020). 39 Aspekte der Online-Lehre zur Förderung positive Erlebens und/oder Motivation bei Lehramtsstudierenden: Mixed-Method Befunde zu Beginn von COVID-19. Graz: Pädagogische Hochschule Steiermark.

Huber, S.G., Günther, P.S., Schneider, N., Helm, C., Schwander, M., Schneider, J.A., Pruitt, J. (2020). COVID-19 und aktuelle Herausforderungen in Schule und Bildung. Erste Befunde des Schul-Barometers in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. Münster: Waxmann.