BC – Before COVID-19

Once upon a time pioneers in education formed a collective voice sharing a desire for change – change to the status quo. These pioneers were teachers of different subjects including languages, educational managers and administrators, researchers, and scientists. In Europe the voices of these pioneers were given particular force through the active support of the European Commission. This was because both language learning levels and the learning of other subjects were sub-standard across the continent. Similar conversations could be heard around the world.

We saw the problem, we came together to explore solutions. CLIL was born.

The key innovative quality of CLIL was integration – social integration alongside pedagogical integration. This meant showing how pedagogy  – the science of teaching grounded in the theory and practice of learning  – could be applied to enhance not only the learning of languages, but also learning in general, and bring even greater value to students’ future lives.  

During BC 2000 the highly influential OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) was launched.  This rapidly expanding transnational worldwide study of 15-year-old students’ learning performance in mathematics, science and reading acted as an accelerant for improving education. In so doing it opened up discussion on integration (e.g. STEM and CLIL), new cross-curricular subjects (e.g. Environmental Science and Coding), and the integration of competence-based learning objectives into study programmes.

Integration became the name of the game throughout the two decades BC in discussion on curricula and the potential of the meaningful use of integrated technologies as an integral part of the learning experience.

Once integrative movements start in our societies, they unleash significant potential, and one of these key areas is the marriage of traditional learning (physical presence at a school) and learning in the digital world. During BC practical pedagogies in using VR and AR were emerging, and there was excitement about a combination of these through Mixed Reality (MR).

And then we went into shock. 

DC – During COVID-19

Wherever we are located in the world, COVID-19 continues to have a profound impact on our societies and lives. One feature shared by communities around the world has been the experience of lockdown resulting in schools abruptly closing and efforts to find ways to continue teaching online, through TV or radio, and sometimes home delivery of printed materials.

At home, this has become a game-changer for parents and students in understanding first-hand the difference between high and low quality teaching. For us as educators it has involved a sudden and steep learning curve in designing and managing non-physical-presence teaching and learning.

Even though some of us have been remarkably successful in transitioning from physical-presence teaching to online, reports from different countries reveal that the experience of remote schooling is leaving many students in difficulty or even stranded. If the rates of detachment and motivational drop-out were significant BC, they are at the time of writing during DC, frighteningly high.

Confined to domestic spaces for months has now resulted in a profound realization by the people who matter, students, parents, and key stakeholders in our economies and societies, that if education was not good BC, it cannot transition easily DC as online learning. However if teaching BC was high quality, and if students have access to online resources, much can be achieved.

Successful transition often requires profound changes in navigation of learning pathways, and structuring of learning processes.

We see the problem. We come together to explore solutions. An online signature pedagogy will come.

AC – After COVID-19

OECD PISA is instrumental in shining the light on intended learning outcomes as a combination of knowledge and competences. This is a light which focuses on learning much more than teaching. It promotes an outcomes-focused system which connects students with a purpose for learning. It shows that achievement of 21st century skills require that individuals learn-to-learn so that they emerge as adults with working life competences.

Fairfax County Public Schools assistant director of facilities management Todd Jones stands in a classroom where desks have been spaced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Mantua Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia, U.S., July 17, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

PISA 2022 focuses on mathematics with additional testing on creative thinking. This is relevant for CLIL because of the link between quality CLIL practice, bilingualism, and creativity. PISA 2025 will focus on science and assessment of languages with a special part devoted to CLIL. It will also include the innovative domain of Learning in the Digital World which examines students’ ability to manage self-regulated learning while using digital tools.

This brings us to looking one more time at the word integration.

What we have learnt during this dreadful pandemic is that many parents have first-hand experience of a new phenomenon – helping their children learn at home hour-after-hour, day-after-day. This has made them realize how demanding this is intellectually, emotionally and physically. It has made them re-conceptualize their respect for teachers. It has made them question the value of the education their children receive and the school fees they pay.

The experience of DC lockdown-education means that parents will demand that their children have access to education fit-for-purpose and be fiercely resistant to accepting previously widespread poor teaching practices. AC will see shifts in public and private education because during this crisis parents and students can better see and articulate what they want: quality education and learning environments in which knowledge is combined with 21st Century digital competences, alongside the cognitive, social and psychological benefits of speaking two or more languages.