“Education sector needs a solid contingency plan”: Experts

Lahore (Muhammad Yasir) ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) hosted a series of high-level conversations to assess the current disruption caused by Covid-19 and its evolving impact on the education sector in Pakistan. Featuring renowned thought leaders from Pakistan, the Middle East, Europe and the U.S., the experts were engaged in future-focused conversations exploring how the current situation will shape the future of education.

The experts largely agreed that, like other sectors in the economy, the education industry was also not prepared for this pandemic and lacked a solid contingency plan.

The panels were divided in three focus areas: the higher education, school systems, and the technological considerations, allowing experts to carefully assess the sweeping effects of Covid-19 on learners of different backgrounds and review the availability of technology to support a contingency plan.

It was pointed out that despite the lack of preparedness, the majority of private sector educational institutes were quick in their response and were successful in restoring learning using online methods. However, a lot needs to be done to provide an ideal environment to learners and enable effective assessment of their progress.

The education leaders urged the government to ensure availability of fast internet connectivity across Pakistan to support their ambitions of introducing new models of blended learning that are not exclusive to students living in large cities only.

It was also highlighted that online delivery is pointless if institutes don’t move to online assessment. Options like online exams and remote invigilation were also discussed. Under remote invigilation, exams are taken online and supervised remotely by a live invigilator. There is a thorough system of checks involving biometrics, artificial intelligence and recording – rigour, security and integrity are paramount.

“The current situation has accelerated digitisation in the education sector. But we should only improve on this innovation-backed resilience, and must not go back to old, pre-Covid-19 ways of delivering learning.” – Sajjeed Aslam, head of ACCA Pakistan 

Commenting on ACCA’s response to Covid-19, Sajjeed Aslam said,

“The disruption in exams has made us to look at solutions such as online exams and online proctoring. As a forward-thinking organisation, we are blazing the trail and intend to pilot remote exam-taking in certain countries as early as June this year.”

The panellists who shared their professional insights included Ali Ahmad Khan, Chief Operating Officer, Beaconhouse School System, Reza Ali, Director of Professional Education, ACCA, Dr Sadia Nadeem, Dean, Fast School of Management, National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences, Hasan Azhar, Group CEO, HRSG, Fazeela Gopalani, Head of Middle East, ACCA, Attiya Noon, School Improvement Partner, The City School, Sarah Concoran, Director of e-Assessment Transform & e-Delivery, ACCA, Lee Rubenstein, Executive Vice President, edX , Dr Farrah Arif, Founder & CEO, EDTechWorx, and Almas Abbas Ali, Head of Education – South, ACCA.

ACCA believes that this pandemic has also given us an opportunity to come together and rethink and redefine the future of education. Its standing as a global super connector uniquely positions it to take the lead on such issues of public good and bring together important stakeholders.

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