Corona - Crisis or Opportunity?

In emergencies, decentralization of powers and transfer of control to the “field” is a necessity.

A paramedic wearing a protective suit stands near a special polling station set up by Israel's election committee so Israelis under home-quarantine, such as those who have recently travelled back to Israel from coronavirus hot spots, can vote in Israel's national election, in Ashkelon, Israel March  (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
A paramedic wearing a protective suit stands near a special polling station set up by Israel's election committee so Israelis under home-quarantine, such as those who have recently travelled back to Israel from coronavirus hot spots, can vote in Israel's national election, in Ashkelon, Israel March
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
The basis for national and civil resilience, among other things, is to foster local government's internal capacity to cope and be able to act independently in an emergency. 
  
In emergencies, decentralization of powers and transfer of control to the “field” is a necessity. Relying on local factors accustomed to work in routine situations will ensure better results and in fact allow to continue business as usual at times of crisis. Managers at the local level see what needs to be done first hand and when given the freedom to manage and maneuver are able to control the situation. 
  
The current coronavirus crisis is no different. Like other emergencies, we have previously faced, the danger of the virus spreading threatens daily lives, security and well-being of each and every one of us and even the welfare and security of the State of Israel. In resilience terms, it doesn’t matter if the crisis is caused by security, economic, social or natural disasters, the potential for injury is the same. 
  
The state and various systems are now dealing with crisis and prevention, but what if we change our thinking and pivot to seeing the crisis as an opportunity to leverage processes. An opportunity to place a mirror on our readiness for the future. If change is the norm then we are currently on the norm on steroids. The degree of agility of our systems and our citizens has been put to the test. And, though we have yet to see the results, it seems we are being tested with either a black-out or a frenzy. Overcoming crises of this sort require the ability to quickly adapt to a new reality, to decentralize authority, to think differently, and to implement creative tools and strategies. Facing a new and unexpected challenge requires operating different tools and developing a new implementable modus vivendi. 
  
The coronavirus provides an opportunity for the education System to examine itself and its readiness for emergencies on the one hand and readiness for learning in the 21st century, on the other. While writing these words, thousands of pupils and university students are already in home isolation with no organized regular program or alternative to learning. Is the Education System adapt to the responsibility of decentralizing to local education departments, administrators and schools and ready to adopt 21st century tools and methods, like distance learning. Is there a willingness to implement this in order to build trust and enable a certain routine for students and reduce the gap created by the vacuum? 
  
Despite the fact that the technology exists, Israel is not prepared to run a national system of online learning on a large scale over time. Despite being the start-up nation, the education system is characterized by over-conservatism and centralization. To make serious change and become an educational startup nation, we could take  advantage of the current crisis, and apply the principles of innovation and dare to implement them. By distributing authority and mandate to teachers and administrators and allowing them to develop online content adapted to student needs, we would better the system and democratize it. Better late than never. 
  
Online learning requires the development of different pedagogical conceptions. Different training of education leaders is necessary for progress. Learning needs to be adapted to the learner, their level of knowledge and skills. Blended learning that effectively combines frontal teaching with online learning will become the norm. Blended learning realises that learning processes are more complex today than in the past, and the emphasis is not on transferring knowledge that can be obtained anywhere and at the touch of a button, but on developing curiosity and ways of processing and using this knowledge. The emphasis is not on memorization but on asking the right questions. 
  
Hundreds of thousands of people are already studying online today, for example, university courses that qualify for credits, children with disabilities or patients who cannot be physically present in the classroom. In fact, the possibility of distance  or online learning enables access to knowledge and democratization of low-cost learning. It also solves the lack of quality teachers in the periphery or in core required subjects. 
  
Imagine if we could change the equation of 'address equals future', using online learning. After all, the IP address has no visible or geographical identity. The sky's the limit. Distance learning is accessible to all, bringing the Center to the periphery, Israel closer to the world and necessarily reducing gaps. Independent of physical space or time and reliant on technology to implement innovative learning methods and tailor made content for each learner. 
  
Instead of focusing on the failures that emerge, we have an historic opportunity to introduce new tools, decentralize administrators and schools, and implement online learning accessible to all. Then we will be able to say that we turned the Corona crisis into lemonade.  
 
The writers are founding partners and joint CEO’s at Think Creative Ltd. and strategic consultants to the National Public Board of Education