Keeping the wheels of education turning during a pandemic has undoubtedly been one of the toughest challenges facing the industry in recent times.

 

The loss of a stable learning environment has – and will continue to have – a big impact on pupils and their future lives. Education and learning are key factors affecting the well-being and future prospects of learners all across the world.

Long before the pandemic, however, putting effective strategies in place for learning and to support students of all abilities, backgrounds and levels was something that teachers and educational bodies constantly strived to achieve. Every child is entitled to a good education and to leave school prepared for life outside the classroom. Technology has played a huge role over the past decade in making that a reality; technology-led resources have helped to improve engagement levels and interaction within the classroom, keeping students motivated and giving teachers additional resources to prepare future generations for life beyond school.

But, despite the obvious advantages of tech inside the classroom, many schools and teachers are still seeing high drop-out rates, with students leaving school early and not achieving the minimum educational expectations. The story is the same all over the world, with 11 countries in Europe alone not achieving national targets in 2019. The knock-on effects of this can be significant for the economy with Portugal, for example, spending 250 million Euros a year in costs related to early years drop-outs and underachieving students. It is also estimated that 258 million school-age children are not currently in education – 22% of them are of primary school age. The problem has the potential to have a devastating impact on society, with the United Nations and European Union both closely monitoring the situation and the latter putting a goal in place to reduce the amount of early school leavers to under 10%.

With the impact far-reaching, one thing is clear – understanding the factors which affect school drop-outs is the only way to tackle the problem and keep students in education.

This is where the right application of technology can unlock valuable insights about each student, to help build a clear profile and understand their propensity to underachieve. Whereas high-fliers and those with diagnosed learning conditions have circumstances which are fully recognised and understood, it is essential to build a profile of every student using the external and internal factors which affect their performance in school.

Removing the barriers to learning

Through various management systems and applications, schools already hold a vast amount of data about their students which provides the key to boosting achievement levels and retaining those who might otherwise fall through the cracks. But the majority of educational establishments simply don’t have the tools to know each of their students in detail – including their needs and motivations – so that the right learning path and outcomes can be put in place. The vital steps of extracting, analysing and taking action based on the data and insights available are not being taken.

This is where innovative artificial intelligence- (AI) powered technology can support teachers to better understand each student, by providing an additional layer of insights to enhance what they already know about an individual. By taking a three-step process based on identifying internal and external factors affecting learning, an AI-powered model can help to improve student success and reduce early school leaver rates and underachievement.

Step one is about knowing each student and identifying those who are at risk of underachieving, so that teachers and education leaders can put a personalised strategy in place and unlock their full potential. Step two covers knowing each school and what is impacting student success or making a real difference to the propensity to learn and achieve. Step three looks at the impact of the wider ecosystem on each student. It covers the measurement and evaluation of existing educational policies and how their effectiveness can be improved.

By understanding these factors and their impact on each individual, clear recommendations can be made, and personalised approaches developed, based on AI. As a result, learning outcomes can be vastly improved and school drop-out numbers drastically reduced.

Whether this strategy and three-step process is taken at a local or national level, the education sector has much to gain from better use and understanding of the data it holds. Only then can insights be turned into valuable action and enable schools to fully support students to succeed in education and contribute positively to society, no matter which path children chose beyond the classroom.

Joana Ceitil Business Unit Manager, Smart Education, Axians Portugal