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COVID international school planning - were you an early bird or ostrich, and are you now a phoenix ?

A very interesting report came out this week from ISC Research entitled 'The Impact Of Covid 19 On Education Technology In International Schools'. It showed clearly how different schools responded to the global shut down, and what lessons have been learnt for future proofing international schools, and indeed, all schools, in all countries.


The importance of technology, as an integrated part of learning, has been understood by some schools for many years, and "Early Bird" schools were ready and fully prepared to respond to the impact of COVID 19 school closure.

The "Ostrich' schools had not yet, at the onset of COVID, woken up to the full value of digital technology in schools, and had lagged behind the times. They were reluctant, prior to Covid, to investigate the true value of investing in digital teaching and learning and, as a result, many of these schools suffered financially and emotionally during the pandemic. They experienced additional levels of stress amongst staff, students and families, when trying to launch online. Stakeholders were dealing with technology and processes they were unfamiliar with, often in a vacuum of clear policies and understanding. This caused confusion, distress and anger and in many cases demands for discounts and refunds

So what are the features of these two types of schools? We look at their characteristics and examine in the last part of our blog, a key pointers from the research to enable you to become a "Phoenix" School, successfully rising out of the ashes of COVID 19, soaring to new heights in a new exciting educational landscape.

"Early Bird" Schools - were catching the worms...

This flock had already seen years before that students needed skills as well as knowledge in the 21st Century world, and most importantly they needed digital skills. The "Early Birds" introduced digital teaching and learning, and blended it with traditional methods. They upskilled teachers, perhaps as Google Educators or Digital Ambassadors and empowered the students to do the same.

They invested in Digital Teaching and learning Directors and integrators, and invested time and money into platforms such as Google Classroom, Managebac, Class Dojo, Seesaw, and/or their own VLEs. Students were used to submitting work online, receiving feedback online and flipping classrooms, and they were empowered to sometimes submit work that could be assessed via videos or podcasts, or other digital means.

When COVID 19 struck and closed these "Early Bird" schools, they could easily deliver synchronous lessons, deal with assessments and feedback, as well as communicate online with parents and students. The "Early Bird" schools were familiar with the technology, and knew instantly the response required. Teacher familiarity and skills meant less stress for all, and a smoother transition to online learning. Happier families and teachers means a happier business, and greater client satisfaction - the key to growing any school business year on year.

"Ostrich" Schools - were burying their heads in the sand....

These guys were not so fortunate. Years of paying lip service to technology with separate "IT" lessons in a separate "Computer Suite", allowing teachers to not even turn on interactive whiteboards as they personally didn't believe the technology could support their students' learning, had left these schools ill prepared for what was needed and expected from parents who were paying a lot of money to attend their schools. Instead of upskilling teacher and developing a digital plan, and reading all the research on the impact of technology on learning, they ignored it.

The ISC Research report also shows that in some schools the leadership seems to have been less knowledgeable than they should have been about available technologies and their benefits, in which case this was management burying their heads in the sand, and not seeking out information they needed to plan a sustainable future for their schools. Leaders read, and clearly these leaders were not reading.

"Phoenix" Schools - post Covid are agile and future proofed

So where now for the success of international schools, and indeed all schools across the world, in a time of such uncertainty? The ISC Research brings to light key pointers for how to ensure you rise successfully out of the COVID crisis, and are agile enough to offer a high quality service to your clients, families and students and teachers, should any other causes of school force your school to close:

  • Develop and commit to a digital learning and communications culture.

  • Invest in the technology and expertise.

  • Invest in training teachers and leaders to understand and embrace the technology.

  • Develop a strategic digital plan to encompass teaching and learning, marketing and admissions and ensure it is shared with all stakeholders.

Out of the ashes comes new growth and new life, and the adversity of Covid 19 has left us with the most exciting opportunities in the history of education. It's an amazing time to be in our business, and this pandemic is the catalyst for all schools to develop and grow. If lessons are learned, schools will more effectively meet the needs of stakeholders and at the same time, will successfully prepare students for the fourth industrial revolution - the digital revolution!

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