204 teachers from 70 cities around the world analyzed the current situation of education and its consequences for the future.
After a first virtual meeting called by Scholas on April 8, in which teachers and university professors from all over the world shared how they were carrying out this new educational reality, this second virtual meeting gave way to a deeper debate, in which the controversies that arose around education during the time of COVID-19 were analyzed.
Among the participants from Vatican City, Monsignor Angelo Vincenzo Zani, Secretary General of the Dicastery of Catholic Education of the Holy See, expressed in Italian: “I want to thank Scholas for everything they do, because they are involving all the agents, parents, young people, teachers, it is really a global educational pact. It is an experience that responds to the needs and problems that the coronavirus pandemic has revealed.” Then he added: «This pandemic has caused other pandemics: the social pandemic and the economic pandemic […] but above all a pandemic of which there is little talk: that is the educational pandemic, which is very serious.» He explained that, as Pope Francis says, education requires mind, heart, and hands, and through distance education we place the emphasis on the mind, but the heart and hands are missing. Lastly, he added: «the work we are doing together with
Scholas is genuinely nice, precisely to rebuild the educational pact … We must work on quality education, committed to citizenship, peace, solidarity and the environment».
In this sense, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the academic Lazare Rukundwa Sebitereko added that today we must look at other alternative forms of learning: “Our educational systems have trusted technology and Internet connection as a privilege for some. However, could we see the traditional forms of learning by experience that have worked in the past in a more inclusive way?”
To which the National Secretary for University Policies of the Ministry of Education of Argentina, Dr. Jaime Perczyk, reflected on the importance of capitalizing on what has been learned: “Our challenge from education is to transform knowledge into a new education, all of what we have been doing these past few months. It is not that we go back to school, to the old model that already had problems, in which the poorest were left out … We are building the idea that we all have to be in it, that it is possible to connect in another way, […] putting boys and girls at the center […] When we return to school we have to put this in our accumulated capital, in what we learned […] at the center of all scientific, philosophical, academic, political and pedagogical discussions. I appreciate the work performed by Scholas and all this debate.”
Then the participants worked in small groups around the great dilemmas and debates that have recently arisen and how to build from them a new educational pact between teachers, students, and family.
The first group delved into the problem of learning evaluation and accreditation. In this sense, they discussed the importance of «rethinking the meaning of education, asking ourselves what kind of citizens we want to train, modify work processes and diversify evaluation.» «In the short term, we can relax by prioritizing those who have been left behind, and in the medium term, build an educational system that focuses on the sense of education and the person,» they explained.
Group two analyzed the controversy of financing education in times of pandemic, the dilemma regarding payments in the absence of face-to- face lessons. Faced with this, teachers agreed that everyone has been prepared «for hours, days and years, with responsibility, with judgment and different knowledge», to accompany learning, whether face-to-face or online. They also explained the importance of feeling supported and endorsed to continue with their task.Another group elaborated on educational inequality and inequity in times of pandemic. Faced with this, the participants postulated that the crisis already existed before the arrival of the pandemic and expressed their desire: «We want to embrace an option for an education from the excluded that articulates popular and academic knowledge, centered on the person and the strengthened family, thinking at a global level”.
While another group of participants discussed the care of interpersonal ties between teachers and students, and between students among themselves. In this sense, teachers explained that this situation has evidenced the role of the teacher as a guide and manager of emotions in the classroom. In the same way, they explained that it is necessary that the educational process teaches again about emotionality and the construction of meaning around life, experiences and the being itself.
On the closing, Dr. Gonzalo Sánchez Terán, who directs the Courses on Education in Emergencies and Strategic Issues in Humanitarian Assistance, of the Master in International Humanitarian Action of Fordham University in the United States, explained that this is not a crisis of today, it is a crisis of yesterday, in which some suffer more than others. He stressed that even before the pandemic began, there were 260 million children (migrants, refugees, or displaced children) without being able to go to school and thus, to return to normality is to return to drama. He also added: «This that we are experiencing today is an extraordinary seed, I have never experienced this before: People interested in education from all over the world together talking about these issues.»
Lastly, the co-founders of Scholas together with Jorge Bergoglio, José María del Corral and Enrique Palmeyro, thanked the participants of all the universities present for their interest and enthusiasm and the work that the Scholas Chairs have been doing during this time of pandemic; remembering that Jorge Bergoglio had already said twenty years before that the educational pact was broken and that if we wanted to change the world we should start by changing education.