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Learning to Build Back Better Futures for Education: Lessons from educational innovation during the covid-19 pandemic

Fernando M. Reimers HARVARD UNIVERSITY / Renato Opertti UNESCO-BIE (Editors)

Learning to Build Back Better Futures For Education: Lessons from educational innovation during the covid-19 pandemic

This book attempts to contribute to the development of operational strategies for change in education that will help prepare students for the future, while addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and making education systems more resilient to future disruption. Drawing on the goals and extensive work of the Global Education Innovation Initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in advancing knowledge on how to transform public education, the aspirations of the Hybrid Education, Learning and Assessment (HELA) initiative of the UNESCO International Bureau of Education (IBE) and the inspiring vision of UNESCO’s Futures of Education initiative, we set out to identify and study examples of educational innovation that emerged during the pandemic and that present pathways for transformation.

This approach is informed by an insight that emerged from research on innovation: unexpected jolts and accidents often lead to innovation (Austin, Devin and Sullivan, 2012). The pandemic was an unexpected event that compelled educators around the world to innovate in order to continue educating in a context in which it was not possible to meet in person in schools, and in a context in which students experienced a multitude of challenges. The shock created by the pandemic offered what University of Waterloo President Vivek Goel, referring to institutions of higher education, described as a ‘once-in-a-century chance to reset’:
A successful postpandemic university will be one that sees this moment for what it is: a time to seize technological advances to build on centuries of expertise; to use these technologies as a tool to break down barriers to access; and to understand how these challenges are connected (Goel, 2021).

By taking stock of some of these innovations we hope to draw valuable lessons from them, as well as to illustrate an approach to capturing the innovation dividend of the pandemic. Our hope is that this may help codify further innovation and, in so doing, animate the broad-scale innovation that, alongside societal commitment and collective leadership, is necessary to mitigate risk, build resilience and transform for the future.

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