COVID-19: Building a sustainable and just future for all

While the long-term impact of COVID-19 on education will be dramatic, the future will be much more precarious if we do not focus on building systems for lifelong learning that safeguard quality and inclusiveness, writes Per Magnusson

© Anton Ivanov/Shutterstock.com

The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed an unprecedented global crisis affecting societies and communities in a multitude of ways for which few of us were prepared.

Closing schools has been part of the strategy to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus in almost all countries around the world. With a peak of 1.5 billion children out of school in April, the number is still estimated to be around 1.2 billion, or 70 per cent of total enrolled learners (13 May). Even if many countries have simultaneously introduced programmes to allow for continuity of learning and distance learning, in varying levels of digitalisation, we can be certain this will not compensate for the learning lost when schools and education institutions are up and running in ‘normal’ times.

The school closures will undoubtedly have long-term effects for both individuals and societies. We also know that school closures will have an even more intense impact for girls, especially from the poorest and most vulnerable groups because they are the ones most exposed to domestic violence and sexual harassment, including pregnancies and early marriages. Continue reading

COVID-19: The future of open online learning

The COVID-19 crisis has made online distance learning the new norm for many. It has also prompted stakeholders to be more creative and agile, in ways that could make open and online learning better and more inclusive, writes Jonghwi Park

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COVID-19 has been with us for a little over four months now. Its impact on the world in that time has been remarkable and unprecedented – a third of the world’s population have been living under lockdown, as many as 91 per cent of school students have faced schools closures in April, and 195 million people are projected to lose their jobs.   

Few areas of human life are untouched by the crisis. From techniques to prevent back pain when working from home to the challenges of home schooling, the demand for new knowledge has created an urgent need for learning, unlearning and relearning to deal with new normalcies. For those at risk of losing their jobs, reskilling or upskilling is not a choice but a necessity. Many of us face a steep learning curve in adapting to these new circumstances. This new learning, while undoubtedly challenging, is, however, critical if we are to emerge from this crisis into a better future. Continue reading

COVID-19: Finding solutions that work for all

Educational interventions to address the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic need to acknowledge the realities of life in the most disadvantaged communities if they are not to exacerbate existing inequalities, argues Rakhat Zholdoshalieva

©UNESCO/Iason Athanasiadis

The magnitude of the global health crisis, and the long-term impact it is likely to have on the economy, society and education, was unimaginable just a few weeks ago. Such crises spark understandable fear and anxiety, as we come to terms with the impact both on our physical and psychological health and on our economic, financial, environmental and social life in the months and years to come.

As someone who works in adult learning, with a focus on youth and adult literacy and people who experience multiple forms of discrimination and disadvantage, I observe that many of our evolving solutions, advice, lessons and reflections ignore the reality of life for many children, youth, adults, families, communities and regions around the world. In times of massive disruption, disorientation and anxiety at global level, it is more important than ever that we do not lose sight of those who historically have been out of sight and out of mind when it comes to policies and actions. Continue reading

Multilingualism: The language of sustainable development

In a world increasingly globalized, multilingualism is becoming the norm rather than the exception. Supported by mother tongue-based multilingual education, linguistic diversity brings a number of benefits to learners but also to society as a whole. Growing evidence suggests that multilingualism can effectively contribute to sustainable development and to peace, argues David Atchoarena

© UNESCO/Monkatan Suvarnatap

Since the year 2000, the world has been celebrating International Mother Language Day on 21 February. Linguistic diversity is an invaluable part of the heritage of humanity. About 7,000 languages are spoken around the world. Yet, 2,680 of them are in danger of disappearing, and many more are already gone.

In that context, offering education and learning opportunities in the mother tongue is essential to transmitting and preserving traditional knowledge and culture in a sustainable way. Children, youth and adults require learning opportunities that are relevant to their lives and needs. This also includes having access to an education in their own language. Evidence shows that such provision contributes to improving learning and developing confidence and self-esteem. Continue reading

A family affair: Recognizing the potential of intergenerational learning

Adult participants in a family and intergenerational literacy and learning course in the Gambia @UIL

Qiongzhuoma Heimbel explains how family and intergenerational literacy and learning programmes can improve literacy rates around the world

Despite a rise in literacy rates in the last quarter of a century, more than 781 million adults around the world still lack basic reading and writing skills. Low levels of literacy prevent people from securing decent work and improving their lives. The 2014 United Nations General Assembly resolution, Literacy for life: Shaping future agendas, reaffirmed literacy as ‘a foundation for lifelong learning, a building block for achieving human rights and fundamental freedoms, and a driver of sustainable development’. In response, Member States began promoting more basic adult literacy programmes, especially for disadvantaged groups.

Quite often, the motivation for the adult learners who take part in these programmes is to improve their literacy skills in order to support their children’s learning. These adults, many of whom have never been to school or dropped out, understand that literacy can lead to a better life for their children. However, despite a desire to see their children progress at school, many parents who see themselves as ‘uneducated’ or ‘illiterate’ are reluctant to take part in learning programmes. Continue reading

Resources of hope: Why community libraries matter

Former UIL scholar Karma Lhazom, Country Director of READ Bhutan, reading with a group of school children at a community library in eastern Bhutan. © READ Bhutan

Lisa Krolak on the critical role community libraries play in promoting literacy development and lifelong learning

All over the world, libraries serve as proactive community and learning spaces that directly address the needs of children, youth and adults. They are constantly evolving and responding to social, cultural, economic and political changes in their environment. Community libraries, in particular, have demonstrated great potential in supporting literacy development and lifelong learning through diverse services and successful outreach activities. But what is it that make community libraries so effective?

Community libraries are established, owned and managed by and for a specific community, clearly based on community needs. They represent one of many alternative library models that have emerged since the 1970s. In comparison to public libraries, community libraries are often small and usually not supported by government funds. They do not primarily target the mostly literate, urban populations, but rather develop diverse ways to provide various learning opportunities to marginalized populations. This is done not only by providing access to reading materials, but also by offering literacy training and linking literacy activities to practical livelihood concerns. Continue reading