While schools are closed, working remotely, or in a hybrid setting, a recent report compiled by UNICEF estimates that nearly 114 million students are currently out of school due to inequity in education provision. While some will still receive some education, this is not the case for millions of children pre-pandemic and, looking to the future, post-pandemic.
Furthermore, the uncertainty of schools being open for on-site learning has led to confusion. Many have been left without the tools and resources to continue learning throughout the school year. Often, international schools in countries such as Argentina and Brazil have been open for business for a couple of weeks. Then, with little warning, the schools are instructed to close again, leaving schools scrambling to operate in either a fully remote setting or a hybrid learning model. In addition to this, other challenges remain surrounding learning loss, bridging skill gaps, and filling teacher vacancies for certain subjects or year groups. There is also the challenge of supporting teachers and students, reducing stress and anxiety, and producing content during an already difficult time when working remotely.
The use of technologies at school could support addressing these challenges, especially as tackling the effect on skills of unfavourable conditions; for instance, socio-economic disadvantage is more effective early in life (Cunha, Heckman and Schennach, 2010).
As Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) aims to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 ("inclusive and equitable quality education"), it faces several significant challenges: low student performance, poor teacher training, and high dropout rates. Students in the region spend 2.5 years less in school than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average. Moreover, deficient performance in standardized tests suggests that even students who finish their mandatory years of schooling struggle with the basic skills required to enter the labor market successfully.
Digitalization is transforming the way people work, consume, communicate, learn and how families, societies, and business's function. Innovative technologies are bringing many opportunities for better social, political, and economic inclusion.
What is the status of the digitalization of education in Latin America? How is Edmentum catalyzing digital education across Latin America?
We are helping catalyze digital education by evidencing that the programs can reduce the time to plan curriculum, lessons, or create content for the weekly lesson plan, become more competitive in the region, and reduce running costs for schools.
We have learned that many students are without education due to the lack of digital resources to help them maintain their learning and complete local, national, international, or other qualifications. This, of course, impacts some students' chances of securing a bright future.
Edmentum started as Plato Learning and has developed since this time to add programs to specifically support SEL and wellbeing, customizable test prep, adaptive diagnostic, automated reporting, enhanced course offering, and online curriculum.
What other challenges have schools faced in the region?
Many schools were also experiencing a complete loss or reduction in testing, so struggles emerged in understand their learning gaps. The learning gaps were apparent, but there was no way of bridging them. Our personalized learning platform automatically identified students who needed more support through its diagnostic assessment or by importing the schools' last NWEA MAP score data (Edmentum integrates with MAP data) into its system. From this, it then showed educators and students their learning gaps. It supports local and international curricula and maximizes English proficiency, a subject that became a victim of the pandemic due to missed learning.
Many educational institutions also had limited access to a digital curriculum and noticed that they had to implement a resource to address this. It became apparent to many international schools that Edmentum's programs could help them with digital curriculum access. The programs could also support planning for the future, reduce teachers' stress levels because the content was already written for them, save educators time by automatically marking content, track students' progress, and identify any skill gaps. Hence, these were ideal for these institutions looking for a reliable digital curriculum.
Staff shortages and schools closing their doors indefinitely were issues the region faced, and one which Edmentum also addressed. This meant that schools that were still operating had to change their business model. With our support, we enabled them to do this and continue operating.
For instance, a school in Haiti recently enrolled five additional students but did not have the accreditation to offer high school diplomas or teachers to deliver the credits they needed. They had teachers but were already stretched. Edmentum offered full-time teachers to deliver live lessons for full-time students or deliver a particular subject to students (which was helpful for schools who had lost their math or English teacher, for example).
Alongside a fully Cognia and American International Accreditation Association (AIAA) accredited online school, Edmentum provides consulting, Continued Professional Development (CPD), mentoring, digital curriculum, supplementary tools, online tutors, and test preparation to schools. We are in a unique position to support any school or education organization with their digital or school improvement needs, whether it's to help attract new students, or offer additional curriculum and subject routes.
Our partnerships with schools add flexibility to their education provision by providing age-appropriate solutions driven by adaptive technology and pedagogy that can be accessed anywhere, anytime. Teachers are, and will always be, critical to education, and it's an essential factor that technology will never replace them. Similarly, Mark Estrada, Superintendent at Lockhart ISD in Texas, comments in Education Week what EdTech will look like 25 years from now. "While I believe technology will never replace a great teacher, there will certainly be advancements in how we use educational technology to assess learning, communicate/report learning, learn content, learn skills, and improve the capacity of our brains to learn." Technology is becoming ever advanced and will undoubtedly allow teachers to become more effective by relieving some of the planning, administration, and assessment burden, enabling them to focus their skills on improving the quality of learning that is taking place.
Author: I am the International Senior Consultant, managing and supporting schools, school groups, associations, and colleges across Central & South America and the Caribbean. I aim to help students gain the education they deserve, wherever learning is taking place.
In my role with Edmentum, I partner with and support schools worldwide as they introduce a range of Edmentum's flexible digital curriculum and learning solutions. Our solutions are award-winning and perfect for blended, hybrid, distance, and face-to-face teaching and learning. They are being used by governments, large school groups, and individual schools to accelerate learning, recover credit, improve attainment and growth.