Forging a New Frontier in Peacebuilding and Education
International education professionals discussed problems and explored opportunities arising from the shift into a new learning landscape driven by the global pandemic at a March 24-25, 2021 forum, “Forging a New Frontier in Peacebuilding and Education,” hosted virtually by the Global Peace Foundation and Cooperation Ireland.
Panelists from the United States, Iraq, Finland, Kenya, and international education bodies headquartered in Geneva and Berlin addressed the session “Transforming Education for the Future” during Day 1 of the forum.
Noting that the pandemic has caused the whole globe to rewrite its education systems, one panelist urged the adoption of an “experimental culture in our teaching practices,” which can be the leading driver in breeding innovations that will shape the future of how education is being delivered.
Stressing the need to redesign preexisting systems to better fit a technology-centered approach to learning, forum participants said that it is imperative that educators be proactive at putting students at the forefront when integrating remote education platforms into traditional learning environments.
Education equity and the digital divide
Panelists pointed out that many families and communities in developing countries are lacking technology and infrastructure, and educators and policymakers must strive to ensure all are receiving the same educational opportunities no matter their circumstances.
Geneva-based ITU (a UN agency) Program Officer Samantha O’Riordan noted that more than half the global population does not have access to the internet despite 3G coverage of some 97 percent of the world. In many cases schools are not connected with other partners or governments that can assist with their technology needs, O’Riordan said. She added that her organization was actively working in these developing countries to map out schools and resources to open the doors for easier connection moving forward.
The challenges presented to students and educators are nowhere more formidable than in war-ravaged Iraq. Bashdar Mawlud, representing the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, provided valuable insights on the actions taken by his country to continue teaching the 1.7 million students negatively affected during the pandemic. With ongoing conflict and security threats, the government was challenged to focus on the needs of students. Yet Kurdistan was able to make do with its available resources and create an electronic learning platform in less than a month.
Mawlud said many students had access to smart devices but no internet connection, so apps and education programming on television enabled students to stay connected to their education, although such innovations must take into consideration those students without access to these remote learning tools.
Each panelist shed light on the needs, challenges, and goals involved in the difficult process of transitioning the educational ecosystem into a digital landscape that will answer to future needs. Through cooperation, equitable deployment of resources, and an ethos of innovation, teachers, administrators, education experts, students, and parents will be able to move into this new frontier and create a fostering environment to ensure that students have the skills and competencies to be successful in all aspects of their lives.
Panelists participating in the forum included Lynn Paine, a professor, and Associate Dean at the College of Education at Michigan State University; Lasse Leponiemi, Executive Director and Co-founder of HundrED based in Finland; Alfred Indimuli Kahi, National Chairman of Kenya Secondary School Heads Association; Samantha O’Riordan, UN Program Officer at the International Telecommunication Union; Kerstin Wilmans, Co-Founder of the Global Goals Curriculum; and Bashdar Sarbaz Mawlud, director of Educational Planning for the Ministry of Education of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
For more information on global efforts to build education networks and infrastructure to address twenty-first century needs, visit:
OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030
Global Goals Curriculum