.
S

hould access to quality education be a human right? Not an American right, not a right for those who happen to have resources or the right zip code, but a global human right?

Most students in America suffer needlessly at the mercy of an inadequate and inequitable system, one which has always unfairly distributed. Implicit bias, leaves black students twice as likely to be unprepared for college, and once/if they graduate, African Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts at almost every education level. Beyond bias and opportunity, access to basic education resources is a significant barrier to minority students. Low-income, rural, and minority students are far less likely to have internet access at home than other students, with 14% of these households lacking access to the internet altogether. Global crisis aside, the status quo as we know it today is something we should all be unwilling to accept, much less endorse.

The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a harsh and revealing light on the inability of our already strained learning infrastructures to address these equity gaps. 25% of students in LA Unified schools are lacking computer access, leaving nearly 150,000 students unable to receive communications and assignments during these times of social isolation. A third of Michigan’s K-12 public school students have no access to the technology they need -- that’s 500,000 students without internet access or a computer at home. Societally, we should be ashamed for having ignored this digital divide for so long. With global economies collapsing, we can no longer afford to sit idle and watch the gaps grow wider.

In a special COVID-19 Crisis Report released by Inside HigherEd, it was reported that 76% of university heads surveyed are concerned about access to online learning and platforms, while 57% expressed concern about technological readiness to conduct online learning. Despite these concerns, 98% of institutions surveyed moved the majority of in-person classes online. With 48% of institutions needing additional support for instructional technology, it’s unequivocal: universities are unable to bridge these divides on their own, let alone be expected to do so equitably.

This crisis demands we do more than make yet another aspirational proclamation. It demands that we unite to address the issues that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to plain sight. Turning blind eye (or returning to the familiar status quo) would hand down an unacceptable, and likely unmanageable, cost to future generations. These circumstances call for rapid, accelerated change, rather than the tired rhetoric and slow, incremental progress of times past. With every crisis comes both opportunity and threat. In this time of fear and uncertainty, an opportunity has emerged to leap-frog systemic inequities and collaboratively build a more resilient and durable future, one which finally favors human potential and public goods over profits.

To meet education equity challenges we face, we must rapidly:

  • Connect the most vulnerable learners to the internet;
  • Ensure all learners have a personal, internet-enabled device (smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc.);
  • Allow learners to store credentials in a safe, secure portfolio with total access control (i.e. self-sovereign identities and digital wallets);
  • Provide all learners with equal access to quality education and opportunity.

Previous national-level efforts to these ends have been a game of misguided investments at best, and vapid political pandering at worst. The American elite have always done a good job of signaling focus on equity and inclusion, but as indicated above, the stats tell a different story with regards to how this is truly playing out for many, if not most, students. They deserve better. We deserve better.

Pandemic-proof Equity Networks need not be fictions.

Amidst the pandemic-imposed chaos, we have an opportunity to work together and bridge our shared efforts into one open Internet of Education that can and will benefit everyone. Shared learnings from anonymous learner data will fuel innovation and industry. Skills and achievement data, secured with new techniques to ensure privacy, will allow us to measurably solve skills gaps and enter a new era where we can finally quantify the impact of human capital for human flourishing

In the end, COVID-19 will pass, but seeding a global Internet of Education to bridge the skills and equity gaps widened by this crisis can endure for the benefit of all learners. Every crisis is part opportunity and part threat, and for education, COVID-19 represents a foil showing our generation where we have failed and where we can rise to the challenge to do better.

About
Chris Purifoy
:
Chris Purifoy is the Co-Founder and Chief Architect of the Learning Economy. He is also a senior contributing editor with Diplomatic Courier.
About
Taylor Kendal
:
Taylor is a Diplomatic Courier contributor focused on Web3, privacy/digital ethics, bridging cultures of entrepreneurship and education, infusing agility and intellectual honesty into bureaucracy, and exploring the future of education on the blockchain.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

a global affairs media network

www.diplomaticourier.com

Education Inequities: Moving from Rhetoric to Action

May 29, 2020

S

hould access to quality education be a human right? Not an American right, not a right for those who happen to have resources or the right zip code, but a global human right?

Most students in America suffer needlessly at the mercy of an inadequate and inequitable system, one which has always unfairly distributed. Implicit bias, leaves black students twice as likely to be unprepared for college, and once/if they graduate, African Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts at almost every education level. Beyond bias and opportunity, access to basic education resources is a significant barrier to minority students. Low-income, rural, and minority students are far less likely to have internet access at home than other students, with 14% of these households lacking access to the internet altogether. Global crisis aside, the status quo as we know it today is something we should all be unwilling to accept, much less endorse.

The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a harsh and revealing light on the inability of our already strained learning infrastructures to address these equity gaps. 25% of students in LA Unified schools are lacking computer access, leaving nearly 150,000 students unable to receive communications and assignments during these times of social isolation. A third of Michigan’s K-12 public school students have no access to the technology they need -- that’s 500,000 students without internet access or a computer at home. Societally, we should be ashamed for having ignored this digital divide for so long. With global economies collapsing, we can no longer afford to sit idle and watch the gaps grow wider.

In a special COVID-19 Crisis Report released by Inside HigherEd, it was reported that 76% of university heads surveyed are concerned about access to online learning and platforms, while 57% expressed concern about technological readiness to conduct online learning. Despite these concerns, 98% of institutions surveyed moved the majority of in-person classes online. With 48% of institutions needing additional support for instructional technology, it’s unequivocal: universities are unable to bridge these divides on their own, let alone be expected to do so equitably.

This crisis demands we do more than make yet another aspirational proclamation. It demands that we unite to address the issues that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to plain sight. Turning blind eye (or returning to the familiar status quo) would hand down an unacceptable, and likely unmanageable, cost to future generations. These circumstances call for rapid, accelerated change, rather than the tired rhetoric and slow, incremental progress of times past. With every crisis comes both opportunity and threat. In this time of fear and uncertainty, an opportunity has emerged to leap-frog systemic inequities and collaboratively build a more resilient and durable future, one which finally favors human potential and public goods over profits.

To meet education equity challenges we face, we must rapidly:

  • Connect the most vulnerable learners to the internet;
  • Ensure all learners have a personal, internet-enabled device (smartphone, laptop, tablet, etc.);
  • Allow learners to store credentials in a safe, secure portfolio with total access control (i.e. self-sovereign identities and digital wallets);
  • Provide all learners with equal access to quality education and opportunity.

Previous national-level efforts to these ends have been a game of misguided investments at best, and vapid political pandering at worst. The American elite have always done a good job of signaling focus on equity and inclusion, but as indicated above, the stats tell a different story with regards to how this is truly playing out for many, if not most, students. They deserve better. We deserve better.

Pandemic-proof Equity Networks need not be fictions.

Amidst the pandemic-imposed chaos, we have an opportunity to work together and bridge our shared efforts into one open Internet of Education that can and will benefit everyone. Shared learnings from anonymous learner data will fuel innovation and industry. Skills and achievement data, secured with new techniques to ensure privacy, will allow us to measurably solve skills gaps and enter a new era where we can finally quantify the impact of human capital for human flourishing

In the end, COVID-19 will pass, but seeding a global Internet of Education to bridge the skills and equity gaps widened by this crisis can endure for the benefit of all learners. Every crisis is part opportunity and part threat, and for education, COVID-19 represents a foil showing our generation where we have failed and where we can rise to the challenge to do better.

About
Chris Purifoy
:
Chris Purifoy is the Co-Founder and Chief Architect of the Learning Economy. He is also a senior contributing editor with Diplomatic Courier.
About
Taylor Kendal
:
Taylor is a Diplomatic Courier contributor focused on Web3, privacy/digital ethics, bridging cultures of entrepreneurship and education, infusing agility and intellectual honesty into bureaucracy, and exploring the future of education on the blockchain.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.