Has Coronavirus Infected Equity in Education? Millennials May Be the Vaccine?

equity in education

The need to move education online without notice due to COVID-19 has made the distance between the haves and have nots more apparent.  Online access, network neutrality, and the ability to natively navigate the Internet are increasing socioeconomic disparity when it could, and ought to, be doing the exact opposite. 

As we look ahead to transitioning back into classrooms, a hybrid system of education incorporating digital and experiential learning is more critical than ever--not to mention that for many, “back to school” also means being able to have nutritious meals daily.  

I believe that the nation that does the above most successfully will emerge as a global superpower. Perhaps not immediately, but almost certainly once today’s students become tomorrow’s leaders. 

Incoming teachers and administrators are millennials who today excel over previous generations in two critical areas: integration of technology and advocacy for social justice.  Could they be the key to designing a truly 21st century education system with equity in education?

Millennials’ Transparency (and Dependency) with Technology

According to this article by Forbes, technology empowers millennials to change the world. The workforce is transforming fast and so are the needs of today’s high-potential employees. In this era of quickly changing technology, it is important to understand how technology has become an integral part of millennials’ goals to impact and change the world.”

While millennials are often depicted as lazy and non-committal, a Gallup poll mentioned in this Forbes article reveals that 87 percent value personal and professional growth, and they believe technology helps them achieve that.  The article goes on to say that millennials who feel their company offers an outlet to achieve personal and professional growth tend to remain loyal to their employer. 

It also notes that millennials crave feedback and communication and therefore request tech tools like instant messaging and group chat platforms from their employers.  This is another way they believe technology helps them shine in their careers. 

Their Proclivity for Social Justice

A recent article by Fast Company states, “Millennials are also optimistic, with 86% believing their actions can impact the world.” Platforms such as Facebook, Change.org, and Crowdfunding.com make it easy for millennials to feel like they can ignite change. Simple, everyday habits such as sharing viral Facebook posts, voting, signing online petitions, and using their dollars to support socially-conscious brands all add up to significant change across the global landscape over time. 

In the article, Fast Company mentions that one of the areas of concern most affecting millennials and inspiring them to invoke change is educational access.   This makes them a likely party to the solution of closing the digital gap in the educational space. 

The Need for Education to be a Hybrid System

According to the World Economic Forum, the shutdown of schools caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way students are educated around the globe, for better or worse. The article goes on to say that while the shutdown of schools has been “a catalyst for educational systems worldwide to search for innovative solutions in a relatively short period of time,” it will also widen the digital divide and equality gap.   

As we look forward into the future of education, traditional in-person lectures in the classroom will be complemented by digital learning tools such as live broadcasts and virtual reality experiences, allowing learning to be an “anytime anywhere” experience. 

But with digital innovations improving the educational system, what is to become of those left behind?  According to The World Economic Forum, 60% of the globe’s population is offline.  “Moreover, the less affluent and digitally savvy individual families are, the further their students are left behind. When classes transition online, these children lose out because of the cost of digital devices and data plans. “

Capacity must be built into our educational systems in order to shrink the digital gap.  If there’s anything we can learn about education during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is this.  The World Economic Forum article goes on to say, "Unless access costs decrease and quality of access increase in all countries, the gap in education quality, and thus socioeconomic equality will be further exacerbated. The digital divide could become more extreme if educational access is dictated by access to the latest technologies."

Final Note

With millennials attuned to technology and current social issues, will they be the "vaccine" needed to create a hybrid format in the wake of the COVID-19 education system "infection?"  They have the natural inclination for technology, the belief in their capacity to make a difference, and a leaning toward helping others. With that, will we let them invoke change to make digital learning more accessible to the less fortunate so that all students have the advantage of a hybrid education? Perhaps it is time to give them more space and room to lead.

We may find out sooner than later.

Let Me Help You Pivot Now

As a futurist who specializes in education, I can help you and your organization make the transition.  I have two keynotes that specifically address the above issues, each with a different emphasis but can also be combined: 

  • Reimagining Education to Create the Future We Need
  • Millennial Mojo, Building Tomorrow with Today’s Most Influential Generation.

Please learn more about my Keynotes by clicking below and let’s get the conversations started...your students deserve it!


Ravi Unites Schools Update

We had two Realtime Audio-Video Interactions scheduled with Shanti Bhavan in India: one with Bethel Elementary School in Virginia and another with Londonderry Middle School in New Hampshire.  All of these schools are currently closed due to COVID-19 and these interactions will be rescheduled for later in the year.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about becoming a strategic partner of Ravi Unites Schools, please send an email to connect@raviunitesschools.com.  Meanwhile, we will still be setting up interactions as we are able.

Other News and Announcements

Be sure to check out Ravi's daily "Minute to Pivot" video series. You can subscribe to it on his YouTube channel by clicking here, or visit any one of his social media pages @RaviUnites.

Ravi recently gave a keynote to the Virginia ASCD association at their annual conference.  It was very well received and he followed that up with a school convocation at Gloucester Virginia public schools.

A number of school districts have inquired about online convocations.  If you are interested in having Ravi deliver your 2020 or 2021 school convocation keynote, please send us a message through our contact page, https://raviunties.com/contact/.

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