There is no doubt that with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education, technology has become critical to the sector. Examining lessons from the pandemic, the contribution of technology in supporting resilience and innovation cannot be understated. Conversely, lack of fair access to technology and an imbalance in resource sharing has engendered new forms of educational impoverishment. The pandemic massively accelerated the rollout of technology and technology-based learning; however, it also emphasised the importance of non-technological issues. Not all the challenges in skills education delivery are technological, and questions have been raised around whether apprenticeships or other methods of training are also challenged by the tech gap. These are all issues worth considering.
Countries across ASEAN took different approaches to mitigating the damaging effects of the pandemic. By discussing and dissecting the various approaches, it is possible to note their successes or relative limitations. Vietnam focused on developing digital teacher skills and occupancy skill standards, not only in schools but also in enterprises. In the Philippines, teachers found themselves learning alongside their students, creating major challenges in meeting the demands of the pandemic and delivering effective education.
To relieve the burden on teachers, more non-teaching staff were hired, and comprehensive in-service teacher training was rolled out alongside pre-service training in digital skills. Thailand focused on data tech and analysis, rethinking the curriculum, innovating for higher education, and designing a new programme for assessment and evaluation. Indonesia saw teachers themselves as the driving force; encouraging teachers to share best practice and inspiring a movement to listen and learn from each other.
Where most countries in ASEAN moved to some form of hybrid learning, in Cambodia learning went 100% virtual during the pandemic. As some skills cannot effectively be taught verbally, this presented a significant challenge and brought concerns about widespread loss of learning. Cambodia has maintained a traditional teacher training system for many years, but the pandemic reinforced the need for an updated curriculum to include the use of technology. Brunei and Malaysia both focused on accumulating online resources, and Malaysia even had two dedicated educational TV channels broadcasting in rural areas with content by real teachers. Visual workshops for vocational education worked well, with textbooks converted to e-books to allow remote learning.
It is evident that ASEAN member states adopted different approaches to mitigating the enormous impact of the pandemic on education. The extent to which countries focused on involving teachers in the first instance varied, with some opting to focus on new technology rather than upskilling teachers. Despite varying approaches, it is apparent that the impact of COVID-19 has strongly reinforced the importance of skills in the education sector. Moving forwards from the pandemic, ASEAN member states may aim to become more robust in their capabilities to deliver high quality education in challenging conditions. Indeed, the need to embrace technological solutions must not replace the need for human skills and services.