The third edition of the Education Disrupted, Education Reimagined series explored the implications of COVID-19 on the future of education leadership and school systems
Experts from around the world have outlined how COVID-19 has left indelible marks on the global education landscape but could also lead to it being reformed in a way the world has never see before, at the latest edition of the World Innovation Summit for Education’s virtual conference series.
The third and final instalment of Education Disrupted, Education Reimagined – organized by Qatar Foundation’s global education initiative – welcome thought-leaders and practitioners from different parts of the globe under the theme School Leadership During & Beyond COVID-19.
Sharing his insights at the opening of the online conference on what lies ahead for education during and after COVID-19, Anthony Mackay, CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy in Australia, said: “If we are to tackle the educational leadership challenges and the way to move forward, we need to focus on three main aspects.
“Firstly, it is a leadership task, a collective responsibility that we all share. Secondly, it is a self-authorizing job, which requires each of us within the education sector or related sectors to lead at a community level, to have a fully engaged educated citizenry. We need to all work together, because the learning business is everybody's business.
We need to lead in order to promote trust, generate hope, and embrace collaboration, the results of which have been evident during the last couple of months
“And thirdly, we need to lead in order to promote trust, generate hope, and embrace collaboration, the results of which have been evident during the last couple of months.”
Professor John Hattie, Director of Melbourne Education Research Institute, commented on the paradigm shift in education caused by the pandemic, saying: “While leaders and politicians have always wanted to change schooling, teaching has hardly changed.
Educators have engineered an educational revolution, and have worked out how to best suit their students online and blended learning
“We could say that COVID-19 has offered us a golden ticket, a chance to disrupt the traditional grammar of schooling, to engage many more students during classes. It has given educators and not policymakers the opportunity to drastically improve learning in our schools, a chance to truly hear how students think, how they problem-solve, how they engage in learning, and how they could be efficient learners.
“Overnight, it has made us make major changes in the way we work and I struggle to see a single education policy that has been agile enough to deal with these circumstances, other than arguing about whether the physical place called school should be open for some, for all or for none. In the meantime, educators have engineered an educational revolution, and have worked out how to best suit their students online and blended learning.
We need to question the old structures we have held onto – not the value they bring, but what they may block, and whether their value is worth what they lead to us losing out on
“They have efficiently confronted many inequities and modified their teaching. To me this has been a true educator-led change.”
The conference also saw Staneala Beckley, of the Ministry of Education in Sierra Leone, speak spoke about how emergencies such as COVID-19 and Ebola had been the catalyst for the country’s government paying more attention to connectivity and infrastructure “which are key during times of disruption”. She also emphasized the growth of collaboration and dynamism that flourished between public and private sector schools in Sierra Leone, which helped even schools in the most marginalized communities thrive during the coronavirus crisis and create a holistic approach to national development.
This is an opportunity for us to rediscover how we can heal education systems, and recognize the importance of agency and encouraging teachers to facilitate a better learning experience
In a session focusing on Innovative Leadership Practices and the Future of Schooling, Jennifer Groff, a Research Fellow at Qatar Foundation and former teacher, told the online audience: “We need to question the old structures we have held onto – not the value they bring, but what they may block, and whether their value is worth what they lead to us losing out on.
“We have framed standardization in a way that has proved to be detrimental. I’m all for it if it prioritizes access and wellbeing. But we tried to standardize education curricula, applied it to tests, and anchored it to outcomes that are nowhere near where we want them to be. We built ideas about standardization around old approaches and structures that, largely, have not served us, and we need to engineer the infrastructure for a new type of education to thrive and scale.”
And Hessa Al-Thani, Assistant Professor in Educational Sciences at Qatar University, explained: “My fear is that after COVID-19, when things get more comfortable, we will retreat back to what we see as more secure places.
“This is an opportunity for us to rediscover how we can heal education systems, and recognize the importance of agency and encouraging teachers to facilitate a better learning experience where students can own their learning journey. This won’t happen in a vacuum, without the leadership that emphasizes the importance of empowering people. We have to look deeply into what the meaning of education is for future generations.”