Our world has undergone tremendous and rapid change in recent times. Our planet is being destroyed, and we are dealing with the effects of climate change; we are in the midst of a global health crisis that has brought so much disruption; and the fabric of society is beginning to wear thin as people become more divisive and polarised.
How do we respond to the times we are in?
The theme of this year’s International Day of Education is ‘Changing Course, Transforming Education’. The world has come to a point where it needs to steer its course – if we carry on, we are bound to end in ruin. The theme uses the word ‘transforming’ for education – with the changed landscape of the world, there is a pressing need to remodel or reconstruct in order to adequately address the current situation and its issues.
It is pointless to continue as we used to. It will be like trying to fit a circle into a square-shaped hole. The sooner we acknowledge the need for real, effective change, the better. And as education is fundamental to life, it also needs to reflect the changing times.
And this has been revealed in this global pandemic, in how it has brought such urgent and significant changes to the world and our lives. But these chasms were not created by the pandemic – they have existed prior, the pandemic merely exacerbated it.
In terms of education, students worldwide have lost so much, when schools were closed, and classes went online. Many in underdeveloped areas fell behind due to lack of computers, laptops, and an Internet connection. Children have had to share devices, follow online classes in home environments that were cramped or noisy, or had dropped out completely.
As students in urban and wealthier segments were more equipped to transition to online learning, this has widened the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. The disparity grows wider. Lack of education leads to less favourable outcomes in life and has various negative knock-on effects – unemployment, continual poverty, gender inequality, poor health, and shorter lifespan due to lesser quality of life.
In November 2021, UNESCO released a new report, titled ‘Reimagining Our Futures Together: A New Social Contract for Education’. The report puts forth three fundamental questions:
What should we continue doing?
What should we abandon?
What needs to be creatively reimagined?
These are crucial questions to consider as we navigate the path ahead. And we need boldness to approach the task of reimagining and redefining.
How can we weave digital technology into the classroom in a way that enhances learning? How can we close the widening inequality gap? How can we renew teaching, and equip and empower teachers for what lies ahead? How can we rethink our syllabus and pedagogy, to prepare young ones for the future workplace?
We need education that is not just equitable, but also sustainable and inclusive.
I see the need for resourcefulness and resilience in the days to come, along with creativity, and sensitivity. There should be a sense of doing it together, supporting one another and making sure no one gets left behind. We all have a role to play.
Education should be a priority in our response and recovery from the pandemic.
If we believe education is fundamental to equity and equality; for breaking out of poverty and accessing opportunities for a better life; then the task at hand is weighty, worthwhile, and pressing, and it moves us to action.
This is an inspiration and challenge to us at SOLS edu – to seek constantly for improved ways and approaches to bring education and change. We need to assess and evolve to meet changing needs.
May the year ahead bring greater strides as we shoulder the task ahead of us. And I would like to invite you to work together with us.
How can YOU participate on this International Day of Education?
I encourage you to get involved and buy a book for someone. Be it for your child, spouse, sibling, friend, colleague or even a random stranger. It would be a thoughtful and thought-provoking gift. Giving someone a good book is pretty much sending them on mental vacation for free!