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Global outbreak of infectious diseases; Signal for Ed-Tech take-off?

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The most immediate step that educational institutions can take is to improve their e-learning systems and employ sophisticated measures to deliver education to people from across the globe.
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 Written By Peter Anti Partey - The effort by countries to attract international students is highly threatened by the continuous global outbreak of infectious diseases.


Over the years, there have been outbreaks of global infectious diseases that have killed many people and led to countries closing their borders, employing strict immigration policies and preventing people from travelling across borders.

Since the dawn of the 21st Century, there have been outbreaks of infectious diseases that have threatened the very existence of humanity.

The century began with the SARS outbreak in 2002, which spread across 29 countries, infected 8,098 people and killed 774 (WHO, 2010).

Again, the Ebola outbreak in 2013, which was described as the most widespread of the Ebola Virus Disease in history, infected 28,616 people and killed over 40 per cent of those infected (11, 310 deaths) (WHO, 2016).

Consequence on education

These outbreaks have also had grave consequences on global education.

For instance, in West Africa, over 10,000 schools in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were closed for an academic year.

This was necessitated as a result of the ban on public gathering which invariably affected schooling.

According to a World Bank research, the reopening of schools offered a fresh start for most of the students even though a majority of them had lost track of what they had been taught over the years.

Coronavirus & education

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) was first detected in Wuhan, China and reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in China on December 31, 2019.

The rate of spread has become so alarming that all countries are taking serious precautions to ensure the safety of their citizens.

The bigger question, however, is how the spread of these life threatening diseases affect the promotion of international education and what should be done by countries to continuously benefit from international education during global disease outbreaks.

For instance, in the case of Ghana, available data suggest that about 5,516 Ghanaian students are studying in China, with 1,006 having received Chinese government scholarships.

The number of Ghanaian students in China has been ranked as the top African students in China for three consecutive years.

The impact of these disease outbreak on these international students cannot be underestimated.

The issues of travel ban, prohibition of social gathering and quarantines impact significantly on education at all levels both within countries and internationally.

Those who are currently in these affected countries would have a distorted academic calendar and in some instances might have to abandoned their education till the host country is able to control the spread of the outbreak.

Ed-Tech ERA

The most immediate step that educational institutions can take is to improve their e-learning systems and employ sophisticated measures to deliver education to people from across the globe.

Education Technology refers to hardware and software designed to enhance teacher-led learning in classrooms and improve students’ education outcomes.

Online learning, webinars and flipped classrooms will be the potent mode of education delivery in the advent of such outbreaks.

The use of modern technology and innovations should make it possible for countries to still deliver education to their citizens while pursuing their international education agenda.

There are various Ed-Tech platforms available and which are being used by some countries such as Australia to assist their students.

These platforms should be optimised and made an alternative to residential education.

Affiliation

Again the global education platforms should be used to promote the practice of affiliation among institutions of higher learning. Even though not novel, it is important for universities across the globe to pursue this policy of affiliation vigorously.

Education should assume a different structure, format and dimension in this era of technological advancement.

Educational institutions should metamorphose to offering quality education to the global community through a non-residential format than focusing on residential set-ups.

There is the need to use technology to create access and promote quality education; that is the quintessence of Ed-Tech.

The writer is an Education Economist, Researcher and Curriculum Expert and Currently the Ag. Executive Director of the Institute for Education Studies (IFEST), an education think tank in Ghana.

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