G20 Education Ministers’ Meeting 2021: Opportunities and Challenges in the Post-COVID-19 Era

Opportunities and challenges in the post-COVID-19 era

During a virtual meeting attended by G20 education ministers on 22nd June 2021, the G20 education ministers discussed the impact of the pandemic on education and training, ways to tackle education inequality, and school dropouts due to the pandemic as well as the continuity of quality, blended education during the pandemic.

China Minister of Education Chen Baosheng indicated G20 members should lead the revolutionary development in education concepts and promote education modernization globally. They also should build a high-quality and more efficient, equitable, and sustainable education system. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges to the world countries that need to recover from the global crisis quickly. G20 members should work together to tackle that, and lead the revolutionary development in education concepts and promote education modernization globally. Furthermore, they should build a high quality and more efficient, equitable, and sustainable education system. China is willing to accelerate and expand education opening-up and work with a group of 20 members, and push for high-quality education development, Chen said.

Poverty is a common challenge against human society and universal access to quality education is key to eradicating poverty, he said. The Chinese government has always attached great importance to poverty alleviation through education and has considered education as the fundamental way to prevent poverty from passing down to the next generation. Through targeted poverty alleviation efforts, China has accomplished all targets in poverty alleviation through education by the end of last year.

Access to good quality education for the impoverished students has improved remarkably and there are no dropouts in compulsory education due to financial difficulties. Nine-year compulsory education is now available to all children and 99.8 per cent of primary and middle schools in China have met the basic standards for operation.

The ministry has made sure that more than 200 million students and over 22 million faculty members in more than 500,000 schools never stopped learning or teaching during the pandemic, while their safety and students' rights to receive education remained uncompromised, he said, "we have conducted training for teachers in digital teaching skills, built telecom base stations and broadband connections, and offered mobile phones and tablets to rural students in remote areas so they can take online courses at home."

Yoo Eun-Hae, minister of education for South Korea, mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis, but also an opportunity to build a better future for education. The country is conducting a study on analyzing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning and the emotional development of students, she said. It wants to propose the launch of an international study on the mid to long-term impact of the pandemic on education. "We will not stop in returning the schools to the way they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and we will help students to overcome the losses they have suffered in education, psychologically, emotionally and socially," she said.

Generating ideas from Global MOOC Alliance

With the continued evolution of technology and technology-enabled learning, the internet and open-source learning created the context for scale. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) became popular in 2012 with the emergence of structured providers including Coursera, EdX, and Udacity. In the United States, 30 per cent of all graduate students today study online, and it is estimated that 33 per cent of all higher education students will take at least one online course.

Tsinghua University recently launched a Global Hybrid Classroom project, offering online courses for its students and others overseas. Tsinghua is hosting the courses, and several international universities are participating. Students from those universities can obtain credits, Tsinghua said.

The project aims to provide students with a more international, diverse and high-quality learning experience and help them have a hand in shaping the global perspective, said Chen Wenguang, a professor in Tsinghua's Department of Computer Science and Technology.

Seventeen of the classes are open to the founding members of the Global MOOC (massive open online courses) Alliance, which include St Petersburg State University in Russia, Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, and the Polytechnic University of Milan in Italy. A wide range of fields are covered including computer sciences, economics, humanities, architecture, civil and electronic engineering, and languages, Tsinghua said.

In the future, students will also be able to join classes run by overseas universities including RWTH Aachen University in Germany, Rice University in the United States, and the Canada's University of Toronto.

"Through creative education technology and curriculum design, we can provide our students with a more imaginative space, lead them on a broader journey and help shape a resilient educational system that faces the globalization era and the future."

Shen Yuan, an associate professor at the university's Department of Electronic Engineering, said the Global Hybrid Classroom provides an opportunity for universities around the world to pool high-quality educational resources. "It allows students from different regions and cultural backgrounds to exchange opinions and inspire each other in the same 'classroom', creating a more international and open education scenario," he said.