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Education in times of crisis

(Insight from Webinar http://www.ort.mx organised by ORT University Mexico)

One of the things that Covid19 brought with (together with worldwide chaos and uncertainty) is the understanding, that this is a crisis, in its full definition; the virus targets human lives, is unexpected, it creates uncertainties and poses a threat to human existence.

Another interesting phenomena is happening, almost parallel to the spread of the virus; the break through of usage of virtual platforms such as Zoom, MS Teams, Google Hangouts and YouTube streaming. Many of the online webinars and forums are dealing with the crisis in various ways, from the psychological to professional and economic impacts.

One of the most interesting virtual webinar I attended, recently, was organised by the University of ORT Mexico and World ORT, discussing ‘education in times of crisis’. What I found enlightening in the discussion by top professors in the field of education, is the forward thinking and ‘out of the box’ ideas that were shared with almost 500 participants from all over the world.

Ms. Mariana Ludmila Cortés who is the former Vice-president for development of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), where she traveled to over 40 countries developing and implementing large scale education projects for disadvantaged children, claimed that there is a crisis in education worldwide, regardless of Covid19. According to World Bank (2018), globally, 6 out of 10 children and youth are not meeting proficiency levels in reading and mathematics despite of completing years of schooling in the developing world. The Learning crisis calls us to be specific with the terms we are using while trying to tackle the problem. Learning vs Teaching ; Education vs Schooling. She suggested that we need to change HOW we deliver education and urged people to take charge of their own learning.

Prof. Sidney Strauss Director of Research at Ammachilabs, professor at Amrita University and former Professor of Education has vast years of research in education. He shared the finding, that children are able to teach each other (from as early as one year old). Teaching is natural to human beings. He claims that evidence in caves of our ancestors shows that, already at the times when human were making stone tools, they had managed to transfer the knowledge.
If this is the case, what are the implications on education? we need to rethink of schools and the roles they play. We need to find ways to harness this natural ability of people to teach and for children to teach each other.

Prof. Moisés Salinas Fleitman Rector of the ORT University Mexico, examined the roles of education in times of crisis. In addition to the obvious roles of being a source of reassurance , reducing stress and ensuring delivery of practical and psychological tools to confront the crisis, he added that the crisis could be seen as an opportunity for innovation. Crisis has a disruptive manner and it could be a tool for us to switch from threat to opportunity for innovation in education.

I do believe that, we now have an opportunity to analyse the disruption in a creative and collaborative manner. We could learn from different industries and how they have been adjusting to the changes (such as communicating and expanding stakeholders networks through virtual platforms). We also have to be mindful about those communities that do not have the privilege of technology and accessibility to connectivity.

Screenshot of the ORT.MX Webcast April 2020

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