The massive shift to flexible and remote learning due to COVID-19 has highlighted the scale of the equity gap in Australia’s schools, in particular the digital divide between rich and poor students.
However, new research has provided fresh insight into how educators and system leaders can tackle inequity.
Pivot Professional Learning and Education Perfect surveyed educators from more than 10% of Australian schools on experiences of online teaching and learning as they raced to set up distance learning this year.
Disadvantaged teachers were four times less confident in their school's capacity to transition to online learning; four times less confident using their school's primary technology; half as confident that they had the professional learning necessary to teach online and four times as worried about students’ lack of access to technology and the internet.
“The education gap in Australia is real and it is persistent, but the broader education sector has a chance here to learn from this experience and address some really important equity issues that are now at the fore – like digital inclusion which impacts students, their families, teachers and schools,” Teach For Australia (TFA) CEO Melodie Potts Rosevear, said.
“The role of technology in the classroom was already growing before this pandemic but we see clearly now the serious equity issues it brings – including lack of access to devices, lack of internet service, and challenges with digital competency”.
Potts Rosevear said the research also revealed “a very dedicated teacher workforce that wants to collaborate and wants to ensure they have the right professional development as well as effective technology platforms to successfully teach online and keep students engaged”.
Potts Rosevear said the organisation had many examples of TFA teaching associates and partner schools being innovative and agile in the rapid transition to distance learning this year.
“We are terrifically proud of our associates and partner schools but the stark reality is they have been responding to problems and issues that were far less significant – even negligible - for some other school communities,” she said.
“We’re grateful for the comprehensive work of Pivot Professional Learning and Education Perfect in collating and analysing teacher feedback from this unprecedented moment in time for education in Australia”.