After my recent musing on how VLE’s could signal the death knell for the snow day, I got to thinking about the other ways in which the internet can help overcome some of the challenges facing education.
So picture the scene: you live in a small community, with a small school, on a small outcrop somewhere in little Britain. Sounds idyllic doesn’t it?
Computer says no.
Small schools are facing the brunt of austerity measures brought in across the UK, and in England funding for small schools is being closely scrutinised by reviewing bodies. Here’s the thing; most small schools are in remote areas of the country meaning rural communities will be left with either a hefty school run on their hands or stifled access to learning. In real terms, over 2000 schools fall into the ‘small school’ category and every single one is under threat.
And that’s where e-learning comes to the fore, offering learning opportunities beyond the school gates. As well as that, online resources such as revision and online tutoring sites can give students the chance to keep up with, or even learn niche subjects that just aren’t on offer at small schools. When budgets are tight and schools are low in population, there’s a tendency to focus on teaching just the ‘crunchy’ subjects (as bumbling Boris calls them), maths, science, english; you get the picture. But rurality shouldn’t get in the way of the dreams of children who have a passion for niche subjects.
According to a TES article, Scotland are lagging when it comes to investment in e-infrastructure, and with perhaps the most rural communities in the UK Scottish kids face restricted access to learning opportunities that others in Britain take for granted.
Perhaps I shouldn’t grumble, there’s far worse off places in the world where learning is hampered by more than just rurality. In Haiti, a country ravaged by natural disaster and disease, online learning is keeping education going amongst the rubble of the school walls.
The University of the People, an online classroom for uni students, has been set up to give Haitians access to learning while the long task of rebuilding the education infrastructure goes on. Centres are being set up across the country that offer electricity, computers and an internet connection – everything you need to enrol in one of the free online courses.
It’s something that had never occurred to me before – how does education continue when a nation has crumbled in the wake of a natural disaster, war or crippling debt? It’s not a new concept, but the internet has the power to reach people who are cut off by distance. If Haiti can manage to provide in times of disaster, I see no reason why a little distance should get in the way of learning over here.
Just a thought.