On October 27th, 2021, The Center for International Development (CID) held a virtual panel discussion titled ‘How to Build Resilient Education Systems.’ This was the inaugural event on CID’s moving Beyond COVID initiative.

The discussion was moderated by CID Director, Asim Khwaja. The panelists included Michela Carlana, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at HKS; Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO; and Fernando M. Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of the Practice in International Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE).

Professor Khwaja invited panelists to talk about biggest losses to education caused by the pandemic, but also share signs of hope in our response and lessons to take forth. Professor Carlana highlighted the ‘long shadow’ COVID has cast on children’s futures in the labor force. She spoke of digital pedagogy as an innovative response and underlined how the pandemic has taught us the importance of data measurement and evidence-based policy. She later mentioned that technology advances not only learning but also well-being, and that immigrant children are the ones who’re most left behind in the education system. She concluded by cautioning that while hybrid education is an important step forward, it is not the only answer to the issues she highlighted.  

Ms. Giannini shared how the pandemic has made education and achieving Sustainable development Goal 4 (SDG 4) an international priority—a designation it has always deserved. COVID put 1.6 billion children out of school and there are 700 million kids in 60 countries still affected. In her eyes, the biggest education-based loss from COVID has been the inter-personal connection that classroom schooling fosters. The pandemic has shown the need of educational inclusion and prioritizing data collection on those most at risk of dropping out, and the importance of leveraging technology to serve learners. During discussion, Ms. Giannini spoke of UNESCO’s upcoming global initiative focusing on connectivity: working towards providing every child internet access, an important component to combat educational inequities exposed during the pandemic. She concluded by highlighting how education systems are laboratories of innovation and urged us to think beyond sustainability post- COVID.

Professor Reimers called on the world’s 28,000 universities to consider how to respond to the pandemic’s challenges. He emphasized the school’s role as a levelling field, which cannot be replaced by laptops at home. He additionally stressed the unfortunate realities of the education system, realities heightened during the pandemic—that an individual’s nationality, sub-nationality, social class, and other factors determine access to quality education. While Professor Reimers discussed institutional, pedagogic, and programmatic innovations, he closed by saying that going back to where we were is a poor narrative—we need to excel far past. This understanding a major component to CID’s Beyond COVID initiative.

Learn more about CID's Beyond COVID initiative on the Beyond COVID homepage, and gain further insights from experts by listening to CID’s Beyond COVID podcast and catching up on the Beyond COVID panel discussions.


CID Student Ambassador Author:

Harsh Vardhan Sahni, Mid-Career Master in Public Administration Candidate and Mason Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School