Over 1,000 questions were posed to a panel of experts on the Education Perfect and ISC Research webinar: The future of education in a post-COVID landscape. The webinar provided chance for some of these to be answered and you can listen to a recording here.
A number of additional questions reflected those of many others, so the panel has sat down to answer these. Here are five of those questions. Look out for more questions answered in part 2 coming soon.
Question: How will COVID impact the availability of qualified teachers? How have salaries been impacted for schools and which benefits are under the most strain?
Sam Fraser, Head of Field Research at ISC Research answers: This is one of those questions that schools will be focusing on at the moment. I think recruitment challenges depend, to some extent, on where an international school is based. As mentioned during the Education Perfect webinar, international schools in countries such as India recruit almost entirely from the local market, therefore, schools will continue to have a high number of local teaching applications throughout COVID-19. Then there are ultra-desirable locations such as Singapore, where schools are usually receiving a decent number of quality applications per role. There are also those countries such as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, where we see strict rules surrounding teacher recruitment and therefore, schools can only attract from a smaller pool in the first place. These two countries in particular are yet to return to face to face education which will put more strain on school budgets and teaching staff.
If we look at current ISC Research data, the market has over 12,000 international schools. We have close to 300 international schools on our database that we are aware are due to open over the next five years, alongside over 1,500 schools that have opened in the last five years which are growing their enrolments and subsequently, their faculty. With this in mind, it is clear to see there will be a huge need for more teachers, and the demand for staff out of Europe, North America, and Australasia will likely increase heavily.
When speaking with school Heads this year, there have been two schools of thought. There are those who believe we will see a reduction in teacher openings as many people will feel now is perhaps not the best time to be moving to a new role, especially with the all-too-real possibility of being last in and first out. Most teachers will have heard about contract cancellations, salary reductions and non-renewals. If, as a teacher, you are in the fortunate position not to have first-hand experience of this, you may well want to stay put, especially if you are in one of those desirable locations – such as the majority of South East Asia! On the flip side, some Headteachers have been slightly less optimistic. The draw of being back home with close friends and family may well be too strong. This is likely more pertinent for teachers who have been told not to travel again over the 2020 Christmas period.
So far, we are seeing less turnover than initially predicted within the market as a whole, but the next few months will be crucial. If travel becomes somewhat part of normal life again, and the potential to get on a plane during Easter and the summer presents itself, teachers will be all the more likely to stay expatriated.
In order to counteract issues surrounding teacher entry into countries that have border closures or strict restrictions, many Heads have been looking to recruit from within country where the pool of talent allows. Schools will likely want a strong backbone of local staff in the future. Where there are clear needs to recruit from overseas, schools have been quite industrious regarding the entry of teachers into the country. One Head has mentioned chartering a flight for new staff.
In the long term, I do not think COVID specifically will have any extreme impact on the ability to hire teachers from overseas. What it will likely do is drive international schools to look at digital options i.e. working with external online providers such as Pamoja, Wolsey Hall, etc. in order to reduce on-site staffing numbers. There will likely be a greater demand for local talent, and I see more schools looking to try and train locals up to NQT status through universities with online programs. Also, I think more schools will pay close attention to their benefits packages and utilise research and benchmarking against competitor schools to make sure they are attractive to good talent. Keeping quality teachers for longer is good practice on a number of levels, not least because of the work that goes into recruitment.
Schools are yet to give a clear indication of which benefits are likely to be considered as expendable in the future. That being said, and after speaking with Heads, it is likely we will see some struggling schools reduce their budget for CPD and for free tuition. Some Heads have mentioned making salary cuts thus far and, in particular, to the benefits of their senior management team.
Question: Do you expect everything that has happened as a result of COVID-19 will trigger changes in how schools and governments look at curriculum implementation and development?
Tim Vaughan, CRO at Education Perfect answers: I tend to think of COVID as an accelerator rather than a change agent. Until tertiary institutions and workplaces are able to effectively validate an individual’s proficiency and knowledge, we’ll continue to be wedded to the current model of what is largely orientated around standardised testing, progression by age group cohort, and knowledge delivery in subject silos. Effectively the bedrock of the education system as we know it today.
But we also see the veil between what is taught in the classroom and skills required in the workplace is getting thinner. Digital platforms are enabling schools to better track and validate student progress and proficiency across all areas across the curriculum. This is opening up new opportunities for schools to deliver content and assess students. It’s conceivable that a curriculum tailored to each individual is not far off. AI and advanced algorithms will allow us to find correlations and connections across each student’s learning journey. Cross curricular and longitudinal data combined with student perception and sentiment will build a rich picture of what, how, and when a student needs to learn.
The degree of autonomy around delivery models and flexibility within each curriculum will increase. I believe the by-product of a more personalised, human centric curriculum will result in far greater student agency. When a student is empowered to learn at their own pace, in their own time, with the right balance of challenge and reward, we’ll likely see a very different kind of learner. It’s hard not to be excited by this kind of future.
Finally, implementation of any curriculum change will require a greater level of training and PL for teachers. I believe the teaching profession will continue to evolve from primarily subject matter expertise towards moderating and enriching discussions, enabling student learning through pastoral support, and mentorship on each student’s learning journey – all supported through real-time data and insights to guide the process.
We need to take advantage of the tailwinds the disruptions COVID has created. It’s likely changes across the broader education system will take longer to evolve, but now is the time to be asking the big questions and challenging existing paradigms. Find the incremental stepping stones towards rebuilding the kind of future we want to see, and bring our school communities on the journey.
Question: How do we protect teachers’ health and wellbeing within the COVID landscape when expectations are constantly changing? If we ignore wellbeing now, are we going to look at a greater shortage of teachers in the future?
Simon Mann, Consultant at Mann Education Consultancy answers: This is a great question as I would suggest that we have to begin with teachers’ wellbeing before we can begin to address the broader issue of wellbeing in schools. In fact, it should start with the wellbeing of leaders. We need to be regulated and walking the talk! That said, the wellbeing of an individual has to be that individual’s responsibility. These are the things I suggest and attempt to practice:
- Provide meaningful professional development in the area of personal wellbeing for all staff. This can include integrating this work into existing meeting schedules, performance management and other regular routines. Avoid this being another ‘add on’.
- Make gratitude and kindness central to the way we function as schools, as teachers and as leaders
- Aim for staff to identify areas they want to pursue and solicit a commitment. Many practices that support wellbeing are reasonably low on time commitment, however, ‘getting into the habit’ is harder.
- Review school practices asking yourself the question, is this enhancing learning? My experience tells me that what we ask and require of teachers is often very administrative and habitual. Areas you may wish to focus on; reporting processes – for students, department etc.; use of meeting time for things that could be placed into an email; promoting collaborative learning environments for our teachers during school protected/designated time; celebrating achievements and moments that make us proud and happy to be doing what we do (see above).
- Less is more – fewer initiatives with more focus on learning.
I don’t think we will lose teachers, but I do think we should be making schools places where we all learn and grow, with wellbeing central to this. I hope you/we have teachers who love to learn and if this is the focus then schools are places that can be part of our personal wellbeing and provide us with meaning.
Question: How will universities change due to this, with changes trickling into the secondary and primary school?
Diane Glass, Commercial Director at ISC Research answers: ISC Research does a great deal of work with universities, and the relationships they have with international school college counsellors to support students in their pathway planning. This year has been the catalyst to some significant shifts for universities; in their marketing and engagement, their selection processes, and their delivery of learning, some of which will likely continue into the future.
Most universities are providing a blended learning approach right now with a heavy focus online. Some are providing all learning online, however, this is not the preferred option for most university students who, according to the latest Unifrog research, value a certain level of in-person engagement with lecturers and tutors. Many universities are currently evaluating their blended learning models to develop future solutions, formats for engagement, and an effective online platform for long-term blended provision.
More international school students chose to study in their home country for the 2020-2021 academic year than in previous years which meant many new undergraduates staying in the country that their international school is located. Reports from many college counsellors suggest that a good portion of these students are planning to transfer to a university overseas for the 2021-2022 academic year and beyond. According to college counsellors, international school students certainly appear determined to follow their higher education dreams. These dreams don’t necessarily centre around the United States and the UK as has traditionally been the case. The Netherlands and Australia have increased significantly in university destination popularity, as have universities offering English-speaking degrees in other countries, particularly throughout Europe.
Students have experienced the good and the bad of universities this year in a profound way and this is raising awareness of what they want and expect from an institution. Application demands and shifts will drive change.
Recruiting students, particularly international students, will likely take a different approach in the future as new ways of virtual engagement have been introduced this year. We expect to see more virtual university fairs and events that focus on subject themes or countries, and that are targeted to multiple schools of a similar type in the future.
As for examinations and selection procedures, we wait and see. Universities have a responsibility to address this as a collective.
Question: How will the digital learning period that took place virtually all over the world (albeit at different times and to a different degree) shape the educational world in a post-COVID situation? In other words: after all is said and done, what will be left?
Alex Burke, CEO at Education Perfect answers: I don’t think there is a world where we want to entertain going backwards. We need to identify the points of pain in the process. Get feedback from teachers, students and parents – who have never been more engaged. Take all the learning and move forward.
It often comes back to focus on the core business – the individual student and their learning. How can we remove demands from teachers to give them back time to know their students and to explore new technologies to support each individual student. We need to shift the focus away from the downsides of tech, or the things it’s less good at than traditional methods, and double-down on the stuff that it enhances – engagement, automation, differentiation. Tech has the ability to take these to a level of effectiveness and efficiency not before possible. Not only can some of this be done better but also faster, which frees up time for more of the rich face-to-face personal interactions.
I do think it is important for education leaders to lead from the front on this rather than it being a free-for-all of hundreds of different tech solutions of differing quality and efficacy. Our mission is to humanise technology – we believe the use of technology should be an inherently human process.
There is potential benefit from better connection between educational experts and tech companies.