Leveling the Playing Field: Education Equity

The pandemic has affected us all, from school districts to educators to those of us who serve the education industry. And without a doubt, students have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. But the impact was uneven. A large study has confirmed that which most educators have probably noted anecdotally: marginalized students and impoverished students were impacted far more severely by losing access to the classroom.

Key Findings: Addressing the Digital Divide

Oxford University Press (OUP) published a report, Addressing the Deepening Digital Divide, which “captures the views of 1,557 school and English-language teachers from 92 countries.” One of the key findings was that across the globe, “limited digital skills” are virtually as significant of a problem as is the lack of physical access to technology.

According to the report, 68% of students had poor digital access – either no access to internet or to an internet-abled device. But 56% of the teachers surveyed reported that a lack of digital competency was a barrier for themselves and students.  And 58% of disadvantaged students received less support at home, in part because their parents also lacked the digital competency to provide support.

The Future of Education Requires Digital Competency and Digital Equity

Those students who lack both the means to access digital devices and learn how to effectively use them for education are being left behind. If we truly want to advance education in ways that prepare students not just for the future workplace but to adequately function in an increasingly digital world, we must focus on improving digital skills while addressing equity issues.

  • Broadband should be like any other utility and delivered seamlessly to every home
  • Schools should work to provide approved devices to every child
  • Schools should work with their communities to offer adult education programs to help improve parents’ digital skills
  • Education policies should be overhauled in recognition of the new realities of teaching and learning

OUP Recommendations

The world of education continues to undergo significant digital transformation, and yet so many learners are being left behind because of the digital divide. As our research shows, it isn’t just about ensuring people have access to the relevant devices, or improving connectivity; unless we fill skills gaps and make sure teachers, learners, and parents know how to use digital tools effectively, the digital divide will only continue to grow. ~ Nigel Portwood, CEO, Oxford University Press.

With a call for immediate action from governments around the world, OUP has appealed for:

  • A greater focus on independent learning
  • Building digital competency skills
  • Targeting resources at both ends of the digital divide

Read the full OUP report here.

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