Global problems require global solutions, and Saudi Arabia has taken the lead in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on education systems and encouraging international collaboration to advance education worldwide
In the aspirational theme “Realising Opportunities of the 21st Century for All,” the Saudi G20 presidency has affirmed its objective to advance human capabilities and prepare future generations for today and long into the future. The G20 education ministers have built on this theme, highlighting the G20’s commitment to education by furthering discussions first held in Argentina in 2018, which place human capital development at the core.
For this year’s agenda, the education workstream focused on three priorities:
Early childhood education.
G20 education officials recognised the fundamental role of early childhood education in developing global competence and 21st-century skills. Access to early childhood education promotes equity and inclusion among students and encourages lifelong learning. The education workstream agreed on a study on the Use of Digital Technologies for the Education and Development of Young Children: Distance Learning during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Internationalisation in education.
G20 education officials acknowledged the importance of developing a flexible mechanism for bringing international and intercultural knowledge, skills and attitudes into K–12 and higher education classrooms in ways that respect local, regional and national standards. The officials also indicated that internationalisation cultivates global citizens and prepares them for an interconnected world. The education workstream agreed on the Report on Internationalization in Education.
Education continuity in times of crisis.
G20 education officials responded swiftly to the disruption in education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The education ministers held the Extraordinary Ministerial Virtual Meeting on 27 June 2020. At that meeting, they expressed their commitment to sharing “best practices, experiences, and lessons learned to support education and learning continuity, along with resilience, in times of crisis” and to working “towards stronger and more innovative approaches to build resilience into our education systems and improve teaching and learning”.
Since the Extraordinary Meeting, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education has emphasised the kind of collaborative, forward-looking work called for by the G20 education ministers. The MOE was required to meet the educational needs of six million Saudi students returning to what can only be described as an exceptional school year via remote learning. It invested in teacher training, student and parent support systems, and innovative distance learning tools. The Madrasati – “my school” – platform was developed to ensure the continuity of education under the motto “My school is my home”. Saudi Arabia also successfully navigated the pandemic disruptions by swiftly charting an innovative approach for the Education Working Group to address its priorities.
It is often said that global problems require global solutions. Saudi Arabia took the lead in responding to and mitigating the global COVID-19 pandemic’s unprecedented impact on education systems by recognising the fundamental role that education plays in protecting lives and livelihoods, restoring growth, and enabling substantial recoveries. Saudi Arabia’s MOE will now build on the education workstream’s success, encouraging international collaboration and monitoring research on the use of digital technologies with young learners in the pandemic context. Furthermore, the G20 workstream will continue to cooperate, fully living into the commitment made in the ministers’ communiqué by “encouraging international collaboration and the sharing of best practices to advance education systems across the globe”.