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COVID-19 Impact on Australian Education System

Jun 19,20

Universities in Australia are preparing for the transition to online delivery of education. Students are choosing courses like data analytics, automation, and Artificial Intelligence to be better prepared for the future.

The Australian education system, like everywhere else, is divided into three stages:

  • Primary and Secondary education: School education from Year 1 to Year 9 or 10 (depending on the state or territory you live in) is compulsory for children between 6-16 years of age. Primary education starts from kindergarten or preparatory school level to Year 6 or 7. Senior education starts from Year 7 or 8 to Year 10.
  • Senior Secondary education: It refers to Years 11 and 12.
  • Tertiary education: Higher education (including college and university courses) and vocational education & training (VET) courses are referred to as tertiary education.

COVID-19 has greatly impacted the education at all the levels in Australia, especially the higher education sector which contributes more than 66 billion dollars to the country’s economy. The pandemic has opened a Pandora’s Box of problems and challenges for the current education scenario in Australia.

Also Read: 5 Most Preferred Colleges in Australia

Students are excited to return to their classrooms

Never before, Australia has witnessed such excitement in children to go back to school. They were happy to wear their uniforms and meet their friends again. The teachers and the principals welcomed the kids at the school gates. Many did not want to go home when school time ended.

Bring locked down in their homes, made children and parents realize the importance of schools in their daily lives. Learning over the kitchen table did not seem as wonderful as they thought. They realized that schools not only educate the workers of the future and allow parents to work but also brings the community together and provide a safe place for most vulnerable kids.

During the lockdown, schools and universities had to put all their coursework material online. Teachers were given crash courses in online teaching. But many students and parents found it difficult to adapt to new ways of learning. Now, institutions are wondering whether they should conveniently continue with the old, traditional way of teaching or invest in introducing educational reforms that allow uninterrupted learning for students in the times of crisis.

Also Read: Balance of Nature – Everything You Should Know

Emerging trends in Australian higher education during the Coronavirus pandemic

  • International movement of students may diminish.

Many students will not want to leave their home country for studying in Australia as it will not be as safe as before the pandemic. On one hand, geopolitical tensions are rising, and on the other hand, stricter rules and regulations are expected to be in place for overseas students. The incentive of post-study working and living in Australia may also diminish significantly for international students.

Government regulations in travelling into and out of the country may also impact the flow of international students in Australia. It is high time that online teaching and learning strategies are revised to help students feel more engaged and ready for the time when they return to campus.

  • Online study is becoming more popular.

Many institutions are transitioning to online delivery of their courses due to the outbreak due to social distancing norms. Unfortunately, many students feel that online learning is taking away many student experience opportunities that are only possible on-campus. But they understand that it is safer these days. A wide range of learning opportunities and the flexibility of the online medium may make up for this loss in the near future.

We may soon see universities designing distance education and online education programmes according to the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF). Many institutions are already offering MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and dedicated online courses.

  • Some degrees are less attractive than others.

With an uncertain economy, recession, and growing unemployment, students are selecting courses that can equip them with skills for the future. While traditional favourites like Accounting and Marketing are losing their attraction, Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and Automation are the preferred courses now.

Also Read: Australian Education System – An Overview

Education reforms Australia needs

COVID-19 pandemic made us realize that we need to be better prepared for crisis management in the education sector. Some of the reforms that the Australian education system sorely needs are:

  • No more passive lectures:

As early as the 18th century, Dr Samuel Johnson advised that reading books was better than being taught by lectures. Lectures should be restricted to showing how to experiment, such as in Chemistry. Studies prove that many university students stop attending 50-minute classroom lectures after a week and prefer watching them at home. Passive lectures, which do not require the active engagement of students, should now be retired. Students should be allowed to watch a recorded lecture if they like.

  • Cut down education costs and widen its accessibility:

Education is way too expensive in Australia. Like other work sectors, the education sector should also try to bring down its costs. Universities should consider stop spending on non-academic costs (such as building iconic structures) and adopt new work practices. Lowering fees means that students will have less education debt – a win-win situation for everyone.

  • Making education affordable for international students:

International students account for as much as one-third of the revenue of the Group of Eight (Go8). They contribute almost 9 billion dollars to the Australian economy. With the pandemic affecting the economic growth of the developing countries, Australia may welcome more students from overseas by reducing its education costs and make it more affordable for international students from middle classes of other countries.

  • Technology should be employed to make the student experience better:

Australian universities take students’ personas into account at the time of recruitment. But it is high time, we use the latest technology to offer customized teaching experiences and academic support services to students based on their individual needs and abilities. The one-size-fits-all policy should be chucked out in favour of tailored student experiences.

Coronavirus has made us realize that online education is here to say. It has its pros and cons. The Australian education system needs to evolve to meet the needs of the future and the online way is a good way to go.

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June 19, 2020

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