The only constant thing in every society is change. Henry Pratt Fairchild, an American sociologist defined social change as “variations and modifications in any aspects of social process, pattern and form”. Throughout history, civilizations have been subjected to numerous social changes be it on a small scale or a larger one, short and long term, peaceful or violent, from within and from external factors. Habits have changed, the communication system has changed, the culture and the way people interact with each other. These social changes have triggered drastic changes on the education system and education policies around the world.
Education and social changes are closely interrelated. According to Prof. Vidya Ratna Taneja M.A (London), “Education and social change is a two way traffic. While education preserves, transmits and disseminates the whole culture, social change is the instrument and precondition of educational thought” (Educational thought and practice 1990, p306)
In this paper, we shall address, the impact of two major social changes which by themselves have had a significative impact on education notably technology and gender equality.
At the core, the educational system has remained undisturbed. In spite of the fact that technology dominates mostly every aspects of life and students can now tap into a vast universe of sources, still, we can hardly imagine the class without a teacher or students without their books. But technology is bringing up revolutionary changes in the domain of education. In an article published on the Cambridge assessment site, cited by one Mr.Simon Lebus, an ex-Cambridge assessment Chief Executive titled: “Learning without teachers: it couldn’t happen, couldn’t it?”, where he made the following observation “it is clear to us that technology provides a space for different approaches to learning. There is scope to use it, to take on some of the more routine elements of education, so teachers can concentrate on going beyond the curriculum or focus on areas where students are having difficulty. The technology brings with it too some exciting pedagogical possibilities; the capacity to monitor and analyze how people learn, what they find easy and difficult and tailor lesson accordingly”.
Technology has changed learning to such an extent that with the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic crisis, thanks to the internet, students were not left on the sideline but teachers have been able to support students through online classes. “Cyberschooling” has enabled children as well as teachers to work comfortably from their home. This kind of technology has pulled down geographical barriers and has paved the way to a greater accessibility. In an article published by the Unicef titled: “Thank you teacher” children around the world expressed their gratitudes to teachers for helping them to keep learning before, during and after Covid 19 school closures.
Governments throughout the world are ensuring continuity in learning during the time of school closures. They are requiring teachers to use ICT to deliver lessons. In Mauritius , the government has amended the Educational act: The Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, Mrs Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun, referring to the amendments being brought to the Education Act in the COVID-19 Act, in which it is stipulated that “they will provide for distance education during temporary closure of educational institutions as well as make provisions for staffs of educational institutions to produce and conduct, distance education and online learning programmes, including broadcast lessons”, as reported by News, May 2020.
The Sankoré Project was an initiative to digitise Standard IV classrooms where “the teacher and pupils worked on an interactive lesson”, Mauritius Business, May 31, 2011. Thanks to the French government who donated the various equipment (interactive digital projectors, laptops) and who contributed a lot in order that the project could stand. Now present in every Mauritian primary institutions, “Mauritius has laid the foundation for a digital culture with the support of the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE) which is responsible for the elaboration and digitisation of educational contents. The MIE also offers training to teachers on the use the ICT tools to enhance teaching and learning.”(News, September 2013)
In year 2018 there has been a real breakthrough with the launching of smart classes for lower grades in primary schools. Pupils in lower primary are now equipped with tablets, smart board and projectors. According to the government, as mentioned in News on Sunday, January 2018, with this project, they are aiming at creating a “nation of innovators” and “technology creators”. “In Mauritius, teaching and learning restricted to classroom sessions prominent with white chalk, dusters and blackboards will belong to the past. Now, we are entering an era of smart classrooms for young learners, which will make learning fun through the use of digital equipment like the tablets and a projector”.
There was a time when girls, be it because poverty, by fear or culture, could not have access to education and were coerced into quitting at a very young age and forced into taking responsibilities at home or getting married. But as time passed, there have been protest voices and an all out war against such a practice by powerful lobbies seeking justice and gender equality in education.
“Gender equality in education is a basic human right – it is also essential to achieving sustainable development. In our increasingly globalized world, the societies that succeed best will be those which guarantee women and girls equal access to education, thereby giving them the skills and the opportunities to develop their talents and interests, so they can contribute to building stronger and more resilient communities.” Irina Bokova, Director-General of Unesco.
In most countries perceptions have changed about women and lots are being done to achieve gender equality in classrooms though many countries are still lagging behind in bridging the gender gap. Recent studies have shown that women are far more literate today than at any point in history and that they are performing just as well as their male counterpart and are more likely to go to university.
Most societies today have acknowledged that promoting girl’s education benefits the community as a whole because educated girls turns out to become the empowered, educated, skilled and self confident women of tomorrow who will take leadership roles within the community and contribute to a healthy society.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves”- Gloria Steinem, writer, lecturer, political activist and feminist organizer. Practically, in the classroom everything is done to avoid gender stereotyping, for example children are not grouped according to their gender. Every school now are very well equipped with books, toys and other pedagogical instruments to cater for everyone in the class. Children are allowed to pick whatever toys they want without putting restrictions in relation to what they can play with.
On Malala’s Day (12 July 2013), the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education urged governments worldwide to do their part: “Malala’s example inspires untold numbers of mothers and daughters to face down intimidation and fear, and to demand from their local governments what is their most basic right – an education”. Changes brought to education by social changes are very important for every society to grow because social change brings awareness in children hence, gearing them up to face the future and new challenges ahead.