Coronavirus: Generation Z has its say

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Tortoise Media presents… Coronavirus: Generation Z has its say

2nd April 2020


Last night, I (virtually) attended a ThinkIn run by Tortoise Media, titled ‘Coronavirus: Generation Z has its say’. Tortoise Media, a platform for ‘slow’ journalism, digitally hosted the event as an opportunity for a wide range of young people to comment on how Coronavirus has directly impacted them.


The main concern amongst all participating students was the uncertainty behind the situation, and it is important to note that this is not sector-specific. We are still unsure of how long this will go on for and what the long-term repercussions will be, and it will be a while until we have an answer. In the comments section for the ThinkIn, the dominant voice was that of Year 13 students, unsure about deferring their university offers out of an uncertainty of whether universities will resume ‘business as usual’ by September. For some, they felt that a normal September start was increasingly unlikely that that the main discussion between friends surrounded the possibility of gap years. We can imagine that the impact of these decisions could be catastrophic for the sector, with universities already predicting lower student numbers as a result of restrictions on international students.


However, each day more and more universities seem to be making progress towards a definitive set of decisions. With the increased popularity of ‘no detriment’ policies, the clear cancellation of events such as graduation and a streamlining of services universities are still able to operate, the short-term situation appears to be in hand. However, as we head into the end of the final term, it is understandable that more and more final year students will be concerned by their employment prospects. One contributor to the discussion spoke about his experiences of graduating into the 2009 job market, with the impact of the financial crash felt strongly within the graduate community. Beyond securing an outcome for assessments, exploring graduate employment will become imperative for universities, with other contributors commenting on the now absent possibility of gaining work experience or securing internships over the summer.


The key message from the discussion was that the outbreak has highlighted the very fragility of the education systems in place, indicating the need for an overall restructure in how we assess and value learning. A student at the University of Edinburgh explored the emerging need for a shift away from end of year assessments towards an ongoing, year-long assessment process. With the increasing popularity of a ‘no detriment’ policy, there is the possibility that this will show the underlying obsolescence of a small range of final exams as a secure measure of progress. This is something that will hopefully be discussed sector-wide, including schools, in light of the cancellation of all public exams. 


Whilst we are not certain of much, we can be certain that Coronavirus will irrevocably change the entire education system as we know it. We can only hope that this is used as an opportunity to secure an inclusive, stable system that works for all. 


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