By Selim Algar and Carl Campanile
May 5, 2020 | | Updated
Remote learning could replace the practice of a teacher standing in front of a classroom instructing students in the post-coronavirus area, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested Tuesday.
Cuomo dropped the bombshell while announcing a partnership with the Gates Foundation to “reimagine” education in the post-COVID era.
“One of the areas we can really learn from is education because the old model of our education system where everyone sits in a classroom is not going to work in the new normal,” the governor said at a press briefing Tuesday at his Manhattan office.
“And you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms,” he said. “Why? With all the technology you have?”
“When we do reopen our schools, let’s reimagine them for the future, and to do that, we are collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and exploring smart, innovative education alternatives using all the new technology we have at our disposal.”
Cuomo in March issued an executive order closing school buildings during the pandemic and forcing educators to experiment with online or distance learning with students at home. He has since ordered that schools remain closed statewide for the remainder of the academic year to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The pandemic should trigger a willingness to adapt and modernize — albeit along with providing the proper tech training and equipment for teachers and students, the governor said.
“It’s hard to change the status quo,” Cuomo said. “But you get moments in history where people say, ‘OK, I’m ready. I’m ready for change. I get it.’ I think this is one of those moments.”
The teachers union and some education advocates reacted as if Cuomo had dropped a nuclear bomb on their traditional, school building-based education system — and swiftly denounced his push for tech-based alternatives.
The New York State United Teachers union said in a statement: “NYSUT believes in the education of the whole child.”
Teachers across NYC have stopped giving live instruction amid lockdown
The statement continued: “Remote learning, in any form, will never replace the important personal connection between teachers and their students.”
A coalition of education advocates immediately slammed the partnership with the Gates Foundation in a letter to the governor.
“Since the schools were shut down in mid-March, our understanding of the profound deficiencies of screen-based instruction has only grown. The use of education tech has its place, but only as an ancillary to in-person learning, not as its replacement,” the letter submitted by NYS Allies for Public Education, Class Size Matters and the Parents Coalition for Student Privacy said.
“Along with many other parents and educators, we strongly oppose the Gates Foundation to influence the direction of education in the state by expanding the use of ed tech.”
Remote learning has been problematic in New York City public schools.
The Post reported recently that live instruction had been abandoned in many virtual classrooms across the Big Apple — and the teachers union is backing members who choose to pull the plug.
Cuomo has been open to alternatives to traditional public education, particularly supporting the expansion of charter schools.
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