OAS, J-WEL Hold Symposium to Envision Education Post-COVID-19 | MIT J-WEL

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OAS, J-WEL Hold Symposium to Envision Education Post-COVID-19


Event is the first in J-WEL’s Education Futures Forum series


On August 12, 2020, representatives of 18 member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) joined education experts from MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) to plan for education in a world after COVID-19.

In online panels and breakout groups, attendees collaborated to envision educational systems that are more effective, equitable, and sustainable than those that existed prior to the pandemic. The event was the outcome of a series of interactions between OAS and J-WEL this year.

“Now is the time to plan for how education will look after this disruption,” remarked M.S. Vijay Kumar, MIT Associate Dean for Open Learning and J-WEL Executive Director, in describing the event. “We don’t want to go back to the old way of doing things, we want to address the longstanding issues of access, quality, and cost that this pandemic has exposed and exacerbated. Our Education Futures Forums provide the space and opportunity for planning a better future for education amidst the emergency responses to the current crisis.”


The session was highlighted by remarks from Honorable Minister Michael Browne, Minister of Education of Antigua and Barbuda and Chair of the OAS Inter-American Committee on Education (CIE); and was opened by Jesús Schucry Giacoman Zapata (left), Director, Department of Human Development, Education and Employment, Organization of American States; and J-WEL Executive Director Vijay Kumar, who framed the discussions for the day.

A panel of MIT education experts including Peter Senge, MIT Sloan School of Management Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Sustainability; Anjali Sastry, MIT Sloan School of Management Senior Lecturer; George Westerman, J-WEL Principal Research Scientist for Workforce Learning; and Claudia Urrea (top photo), J-WEL Senior Associate Director for pK-12, shared their perspectives on opportunities for transformation to set the stage for the ensuing deliberations.

Officials and participants joined breakout discussion groups led by the Vice Ministers of Education from Argentina (Adriana Puiggrós), Colombia (Constanza Alarcon) and Costa Rica (Melania Brenes Monge) to develop visions for preferred futures for education. Discussions also focused on identifying opportunities, barriers, and key next steps to bring these desired changes to fruition. Among other topics, members discussed the need to address systemic inequality; the opportunities generated by a generation of teachers newly empowered by more advanced technology skills; and the necessity of attending to student and teacher mental health and social-emotional well-being.

This symposium is the first of a series of such events planned by J-WEL to engage global leaders in the critical work of building better educational systems for the post-pandemic era. This series will help define the policies, research, capabilities, practices, and infrastructure needed to create those systems. The Education Futures Forums will also provide a roadmap for action for the J-WEL community, connecting these high-level exercises to on-the-ground actions by member organizations in their own systems to generate sustainable transformation in education around the world.