School-system leaders expect learning loss to be limited, but vulnerable learners will fall further behind during the pandemic as home schooling amplifies social disadvantages. We are in the throes of an irreversible humanitarian crisis that has permanently changed the world. Over 154 million children, about 95 per cent of those enrolled in Latin America and the Caribbean, are affected by COVID-19 related school closures and interruptions. The education of seventy million primary and secondary school children has been disrupted across Europe. Caribbean philanthropic foundations have the chance to save the children by addressing the needs arising from or exacerbated by COVID-19.
It is not unknown that some marvellous learners write neatly between the lines. Others never cross the line. And then there are those amazing children who colour outside the line every time. Schools cannot be places of consistency. Schools must accommodate the irregularity and uniqueness of each child. It is the job of the teacher to find the talent of each child and to let that gift flourish. One size fits all is what is not required.
Cramped minds romanticize the ‘consistency’ of government programs, and contrast it favourably to the ‘patchwork’ variations of charitable aid. But consistency is not actually how humans work. The more personalized attention a problem requires, the less well-suited government is to dealing with it—and the more likely that independent, charitable foundations can help. Enlightened, pragmatic, democratic leaders don’t just tolerate the independent actions of donors, they embrace and embolden them. So to help schools deliver individualized services that recognize and work with intimate differences, we need to release the inventiveness of private philanthropy.
Considering how individuals and institutional constraints interact with one another provides a useful entry point to initiate such an intervention. Initial funding was rightly directed to emergency provisions during the pandemic. Now the focus needs to shift to secondary effects of the pandemic and the programmatic agendas of foundations and charities. What COVID-19 has uncovered is the brittleness of continuing teacher education. Across Europe, educators appear to be the biggest bottleneck to using digital learning. They have not nurtured a design practice nor do they have the necessary technical and pedagogical skills to integrate digital devices in instruction.
Every lesson is a design task. The basic problem for designers like Minshall is to determine how to approach such a single unique task. The tacit knowledge of judges and surgeons comes from ‘knowing in action’. Knowing is in action. Teaching is a reflective conversation with the situation—a way of looking at an epistemology of practice. Reflection-in-action is the core of ‘professional artistry’ that takes on the form of strategies, personal theories, and frames. Artistry in any field comes from building up a repertoire of moves through a deep reflective practice. Since every design task is unique, the tackling of unique tasks is at the centre of a design practice.
Invariably, foundations are causes around which philanthropists can tie the members of a family together around something they collectively consider meaningful. Wealth has grown at an astounding rate during the pandemic for a few, and as their fortunes surge, the assets in family foundations have similarly grown. Novel pandemic ultra-rich have also become interested in establishing their own foundations, as foundations are powerful ways to direct care into worthy charitable causes. Everyone is not in the same boat- and we never were.
The colour of wealth unmasked that racial minorities are much more threatened by COVID-19 and structural inequality has harmed some people more than others during the pandemic. Many of the most successful mechanisms in the charitable world rely on one-to-one human linkages to change situations. At the frontline of capitalism is a working class that is highly racialized. Angels can therefore embrace the task of making every school on the periphery into a charter school. This will allow students at these schools to catch up with the performance of students in the rest of the education district.
Foundations can fund numeracy and literacy diagnostic testing or they can offer financial incentives for teachers who produce specific results. Others may link learners to MOOCs—massive open online courses for a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere via thousands of free online seminars. Other donor-driven innovations can embrace plans that allow districts to measure how far students advance from their starting point during a school year. Foundation campaigns can merge to experiment with building MOOCs that deliver courses that narrow industry skills-gaps that can be taken for free—thanks to philanthropic sponsorship.
Corporate social responsibility managers can explore producing top-quality, low-cost textbooks with publishers using the open-source method commonly applied to software development, along with an expert-review panel. The books produced this way can be offered to students at no cost to parents or the state. Other benefactors can shift funding to the production of resources for a YouTube Channel focusing on CAPE and CSEC learning outcomes. Generous givers can explore radically new ways of creating fresh ‘teaching-talent’ using charitable funds to support new programmes of continuing teacher education that build capability to move the connected child from the page to the screen.