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Greater Accessibility To Education Creates Options Despite Covid Challenges

  • 5 min read

Covid and lockdowns have negatively impacted on the school, study and career options for countless people, but despite the fact that the world has changed, there are many accessible and affordable options available to those who need to finish their schooling, get a first qualification to get a foot in the door of their dream career, upskill, or re-skill into a new field, an education expert says.

“The world of work has changed irrevocably in the wake of the Covid pandemic, with research conducted by the World Economic Forum showing that about 40% of all workers will require re-skilling, and 95% of business leaders indicating they expect employees to pick up new skills on the job,” says Khanyisa Tlala, Senior Student Relations Officer at Oxbridge Academy, a brand of Africa’s leading private education provider ADvTECH. Oxbridge Academy serves more than 20 000 distance learning students across South Africa, Kenya and Ghana every year.

Tlala says that while lifelong learning was always a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition in the market, it has now become an imperative for ambitious and driven people to ensure they complement their existing skills in order to remain competitive and relevant in our constantly evolving jobs market.

Additionally, given the great competition for limited positions, it is crucial to continue on the educational journey, whether that means finishing Matric, or getting training in your existing or a new field.

“The good news is that regardless of your current situation, increasing educational options means that learning is within the reach of many more people than before, in terms of affordability, accessibility, and the ability to learn while working,” Tlala says.

Data from the WEF Future of Jobs Survey, which took into account developments flowing from the pandemic and lockdowns last year, shows that companies are expecting to re-structure their workforce in response to new technologies and, in particular, the companies surveyed indicated that they were also looking to transform the composition of their value chain (55%), introduce further automation, reduce the current workforce (43%) or expand their workforce as a result of deeper technological integration (34%), and expand their use of contractors.

“This means that you need to consider your current situation and match it against future demand in the workplace – in terms of those skills which are likely to become in demand in years to come – and ensure you re-skill or up-skill as necessary,” Tlala says.

He says while Covid and the lockdowns derailed the dreams of so many, the good news is that it is possible to make a fresh start with a view to the future, and doing so is within the reach of most.

Technology & Affordibility

“Technology has made education more affordable. While distance learning has always been an affordable study option, the internet has made it even more so. You can access any course from practically anywhere in the country or indeed the world, without having to move to a new place to attend in person. This saves time and money, and allows for more flexibility and accessibility,” Tlala says.

Communication is digital

In years gone by, distance learning students had to pay for printing and postage when submitting assignments. Now, however, digital communication from Skype to email, WhatsApp and other social media channels allow connection with student advisors and submission of assignments to happen faster, more easily, and at lower cost.

Better (and free) Wi-Fi coverage

As Wi-Fi hotspots increase across the country and the rest of the world, many more people are able to access the internet, do research, submit assignments, and download study material for free in public places, including, for instance, public libraries.

Options across the board

In the past, no Matric pretty much meant no further study for most people. However, there are now excellent options available regardless of a person’s age or background, to allow them to finish school without actually returning to school. Even if you never completed Grade 9, it’s not the end of the road for you.

Additionally, for those who did not receive Matric exemption for study at a higher education institution, there are options to complete qualifications at various NQF-levels across countless different fields. Each qualification is a building block to the next, and either a foot in the door or a foot on the next rung of the career ladder.

“During the past year and a half, most people in the world were forced to reckon with where they find themselves, and where they are going. If you have been feeling like you are stuck in a rut, and that your options were extremely limited to the point of being non-existent, the message is that you should understand that there really are options out there for you,” Tlala says.

“The new world is going to require new skills, and regardless of where you are now, you can take action immediately; action which will ensure you find yourself in a better space a few months down the line. If you are not sure where you want to be going, speaking to a student advisor at a respected institution can help you refine your options and define your path. By taking action now, you can start working toward making a positive contribution to the workforce of the future, and empower yourself in the process.”