COVID-19: Rethinking education as the world moves forward

Immediately after the onset of the global COVID-19 crisis, many education stakeholders around the world reacted quickly to the pandemic. Now, some ten months later, is a good time to take stock of the characteristics of that response. Understanding and learning from this is essential to planning for subsequent crises, and will help decision-makers put in place effective measures that ensure safe learning for all. The articles in this NewsBrief, published with support from the Education Above All Foundation’s Protecting Education in Insecurity and Conflict programme (EAA–PEIC), aim to analyse different aspects of the education sector’s response to the crisis, in order to provide policy guidance for national education authorities around the world. 
The first article presents an overview of the current state of the reopening of education facilities. It analyses the various ways that countries are going through this process, pointing towards the different criteria used when deciding to continue face-to-face learning. Subsequent articles examine an equally sticky point: how to engage different actors, including city officials and gender focal points, in defining and implementing education policies during the health crisis. These articles highlight the multiplicity of voices and perspectives that need to be included in responses and the importance of coordination and communication in crisis responses. 
Taking stock of the impact of the pandemic on specific population groups is also key to programming an effective response for all learners. This NewsBrief includes an analysis of the impact of the crisis on refugees in Ethiopia, bringing to light significant gaps in access to distance learning for Ethiopia’s refugee population, largely due to the digital divide in access to technology and infrastructure. An article on flexible pathways to higher education suggests that, for tertiary learners, recognition of prior learning (RPL) policies and national qualification frameworks (NQFs) are alternative routes of admission that, if built into higher education systems, can contribute to the resilience of these systems.
Finally, because understanding the content of contingency plans can also contribute to shaping an effective response to the ongoing crisis that the global community is learning to live with, the last article of this NewsBrief contains an analysis of 40 education sector contingency plans that were developed in immediate aftermath of COVID-19. The article points towards the importance of reflecting on implementation in plans, and the need for ongoing analysis of what has worked and what has not in providing quality education for all in the context of COVID-19. 
These articles together demonstrate that a crisis, however severe, also offers the opportunity to rethink those aspects of the present education offer that can impede progress and innovation. Deeper engagement of stakeholders, diversifying pathways to entrance in higher education, and designing crisis-sensitive policies and plans are illustrations of such rethinking that can contribute to making education systems resilient in moving forward.
This project is made possible through a partnership with the Education Above All Foundation’s Protecting Education in Insecurity and Conflict programme (EAA–PEIC).

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