Francophone webinar of the Futures of Education initiative discusses citizenship, values and the transformation of schools
The current global pandemic has changed anticipated futures around the world. With the COVID-19 crisis there is a widely shared feeling that humanity is at a decisive moment and can rethink the future. This 20 May 2020 Francophone webinar centered around the possible fundamental societal, political, economic and cultural transformations and their impact on education. Panelists were UNESCO Assistant-Director General for Education, Stefania Giannini and three members of the International Commission on the Futures of Education, former President of Latvia Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the president of the Arab Institute for Human Rights Abdelbasset Ben Hassen and António Nóvoa, current ambassador of Portugal to UNESCO.
In her opening remarks Stefania Giannini recalled that with school closures in 190 countries causing a disruption in education for 1,5 billion students worldwide, inequalities in access to educational opportunities have been brought to the spotlight. As over 465 million students do not have access to connectivity worldwide and unable to continue their education during this time, it has become imperative to revisit the organization of our schools and learning environments and take this exceptional opportunity to rebuild our institutions and learning communities. Giannini proposed that the objective of the Futures of Education initiative has become more relevant now than ever and that we must seize this opportunity to rethink our models, revisit our values and reimagine possible alternative futures.
Abdelbasset Ben Hassen expressed similar thoughts of seeing the current crisis as an opportunity for reform and change. The pandemic has brought a new urgency to develop common approaches, rethink individual existence and redefine citizenship based on participation in decision-making, in public policies and in the political space in general. He emphasized that education has a fundamental role in this transformation and must be at the heart of change and at the heart of our values.
The crisis has also put pressure on rethinking our current school models to enable change in education. António Nóvoa outlined a vision of the school of the future as including a diversity of different spaces and times, allowing for learning from anywhere and at any time. He proposed that the curriculum of the future should acknowledge different types and sources of knowledge; should emphasize scientific information and research; and should highlight human and planetary solidarity by teaching students to live together.
The panelist acknowledged the importance of the different functions of schools, including the role they play in social interaction with peers and teachers. President Vike-Freiberga also recognized the enormous potential for innovative solutions arising from the crisis, including the use of distance learning for students, parents and the broader community. She emphasized the importance of continuing blended learning practices and leveraging the potential of technology for learning as a building block of future school models.
The session was attended by over 200 participants and attendees had the opportunity to ask questions from the panelists in the chat function throughout the session. As Stefania Giannini recalled at the end of the webinar, UNESCO’s response to the crisis relies on 3 principles: solidarity, innovation and integration. The initiative of the Futures of Education aims to bring forward an inspiring discussion that goes well beyond the current crisis and takes united, innovative and integrated action towards reimagining the future.