The novel Coronavirus aka COVID-19 pandemic has impacted millions of fatalities and inflicted economic and social lockdowns across all the countries of the globe. Human life has been affected badly. The Education sector faced the most restrictions due to its devastating impacts. Millions of educational institutions were subject to closure by national and international authorities. UNESCO reported that in 2020, 91.3% (1, 576, 021, 818) of total enrolled learners were confined to their homes, virtual classes or complete schools-off.
Unfortunately, there has been very less research and study on the impacts caused by COVID-19 on educational sector. The analysis of the impacts of pandemic lockdowns on higher education will help strengthening and implementing healthy educational policy and health measures in the universities, students and the rest of the stakeholders would find an opportunity to continue learning while preventing the spread of the virus. Such preventive measures can improve environmental hygiene to mitigate the transmission of the infectious diseases. In this context, there are few recommendations which provide opportunities for higher education to respond to the educational problems that arise due to the COVID-19 like pandemics.
Firstly, higher education institutions should integrate environmental and health courses in the curriculum. The course needs to be easily accessible and complementary for all. Learning materials which are focused on environmental literacy can also be developed for utilization in classroom instruction and for training to a wider audience in the society. Such policy programs would help in producing citizens who can be environmentally literate and can exemplify environmental health concerns for social action. No doubt, environmental health is highly regarded worldwide, especially after having to deal with the global pandemic at the present time. This curriculum endeavor can help address future environmental issues.
Secondly, there is a need to adopt methods of strengthening environmental hygiene practices in all levels of learning. It can be done by creating awareness in students about societal issues, especially of health concerns challenging the universities. The COVID-19 pandemic has posited school closures globally, so, environmental hygiene should be a priority in schools to prevent the transmission and outbreak of infectious diseases in the future. Students should also be taught to gain knowledge and behavior practices on the prevention of infectious diseases. The students can be given health management tools that can let them practice protocols until good hygiene becomes a school culture. To achieve the goal, the universities need to craft policies to control the transmission root of the virus. Thereby, effective health and environmental policies should be crafted anchored on a sustainable environmental framework of a university.
Thirdly, the educational institutions need to strengthen its medical services and student support services so that constant monitoring and implementation of health practices are followed within the vicinity and beyond. Higher education institutions need to make the academic, career counselling and medical services accessible to the students. In addition, students should be given cheap and easy access to mental health counselling by universities through health experts such as psychologists and guidance counselors. Furthermore, for a basic understanding of COVID-19 impacts, higher education institutions should also formulate a management protocol and flow chart focused on campus medical services to serve as public health awareness measures. The information should map the symptoms, risks, and management guidelines to seek for primary care services contextualized in the school setting to prevent the direct transmission of the virus.
Fourthly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, globally higher education intuitions are shifting to online learning. Such practice has dual merits as it helps student to attain knowledge at their ease without physical presence in university complex and also control over the spread of the virus. Although the online teaching method can be a barrier for teachers in planning, implementing, and assessing the performance of their students. Besides, there is a need for teachers to acquire adequate training courses that can assist them to effectively implement the courses through electronic delivery. For this, they need to acquire online-driven competencies to coup up with their professional career. In this context, there are various apparatuses available with innovative tools for the teachers to access to promote learning for the students with diverse educational needs. This brings an opportunity for higher education institutions to scale up the training of the teachers for online learning instruction. Therefore, the training for the instructors can improve student learning in educational programming for the instructors to facilitate the goals aligned to the learning goals of higher education institutions.
Fifthly, any claim needs strong evidence and facts to be recognized. Therefore, higher education institutions have to demonstrate efficiency and effectiveness in their daily businesses of doings so their claims be recognized by relevant authorities. As COVID-19 has changed the world completely therefore higher education institutions need a great deal of evidences to respond to the educational impacts inflicted upon them by the pandemic. There is even greater need of producing research documents to find out the impacts of pandemic to the educational system in the world. Therefore, it is a best opportunity for higher education institutes to strengthen data monitoring, documentation and evidence-based practices of the services and programs that are offered to the students. In the context, the faculty, researchers, and professionals of higher education need to engage and strengthen the efforts in research, evaluation, and strategic planning to document best processes, increase evidence-based practices, and improve student learning in higher education even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic or possible spread of other viruses in the coming years.
Author’s Biography: The writer is serving as Research Officer at Baluchistan Think Tank Network (BTTN), Quetta Baluchistan.