Thoughts From the Transforming Education Summit’22

Amy Liang, 2022 graduate of the IEDP Program

I completed my internship with the Early Childhood Education team at UNICEF Headquarters during my final semester and had the opportunity to extend the internship for three months post-graduating. Through the internship, I had the chance to attend a UNICEF-hosted panel discussion in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Read all about it this blog post. This was preceded by the Transforming Education Summit (TES), a three-day event convened by the Secretary-General in response to the global crisis in education to prioritize the discussion of education at UNGA.

Amy at TES

I attended Day 2 of the Transforming Education Summit which focused on discussing solutions to the shortages in quality education around the world. The summit worked much like a standard conference where there were designated time slots throughout the day for several events to run simultaneously. Summit attendees could choose which events they wish to attend as they please and jump from one event to another within the same time slot. In addition to the panel featuring my UNICEF ECD colleagues, I was also able to attend several other events that day. As much as I wanted to attend all the sessions, my time was limited, so I had to choose my events according to my interests (ECD and Edtech), and areas I wished to learn more about (innovation, financing, and private partnerships). The panel events were diverse in topics and presenters, but there were a few underlying themes throughout TES that stood out to me.

  • Focus on EdTech – There was a heavy focus on EdTech and leveraging digital opportunities throughout the sessions. There were multiple panels that focused specifically on EdTech and digital solutions that discussed scaling existing EdTech projects, inequality and gaps in internet and device access, and the implication of human rights in usage of data and AI. Even panels that did not explicitly focus on EdTech in their title would spotlight leveraging digital opportunities as a solution. This focus on technology and digital solutions was a purposeful one; the logo for TES was the SDG 4 open book, but with a Wi-Fi icon added to its center.

While I may be biased due to my interest in EdTech, I think this observation is one of my most important takeaways from the summit. The field of global educational development is pivoting towards technology, which will open doors to exciting new solutions and innovations. But (as the AI panel warned us), this can also worsen existing inequalities.

  • Spotlight on Climate – Climate change, and its implications on education, was another hot topic of TES. While I did not get the opportunity to attend a panel specific to climate, I noticed multiple panel titles connecting education to environmental sustainability, including one on refugee students affected by climate-induced crises. Climate change was also suggested in meetings during my internship with UNICEF as a key topic to highlight in coming projects. While you would not normally think to connect climate change with education, TES urges the global community to consider climate change as a key factor in education inequalities and calls for the education development field to integrate climate change awareness and environmental education into its practices.
  • Redefining innovation – I noticed the word “innovation” was thrown around a lot. When we think of innovation we often think of technological innovation; something new and science fiction-y. However, in addition to tech innovation, TES saw discussions on financial innovation, pedagogical innovation, and grassroots innovation, among others. These discussions centered on changing ways of thinking about development and educational practices, centering front-line education providers, and adapting to a world that is constantly shifting. I think this focus on innovation indicates that we are to see many changes in ideas and practices in the educational development field in the coming years.

I was exhausted by the end of TES Day 2, having run from panel to panel the entire day. I also felt invigorated by the discussions I heard and grateful to have been able to reconnect with colleagues. I have attended two conferences for international education development thus far and have found that I learned just as much from what I observe as from what I hear. While I learned many details about the work being done in different organizations and country governments, the trends I noticed and listed above are what will likely shape my perspective and career choices. That being said, I would like to pose the following questions for you to consider:

  1. What new trends do you notice in the international educational development field? What trends do you foresee?
  2. What are your specific topics of interests within international educational development? How do you plan on exploring your interests during your coursework or in your career?

Please feel free to drop your ideas in the comments!

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