Pluralism and the Pandemic: Education


The Atlantis Group, a body of former education ministers and heads of government, recently described the COVID-19 global pandemic as the most significant challenge facing education systems since World War II. With over 90 percent of children and youth currently out of school globally, countries are racing to come up with distance learning solutions, ranging from educational radio and TV to virtual classrooms and phone support to parents stepping into the role of instructors.

With at least 1.5 billion young people impacted by school closures, learners already vulnerable due to armed conflicts, forced displacement, and natural disasters, are falling further behind. As food programs are disbanded, teachers go unpaid, and families fall further into poverty, a rapid assessment by Education Cannot Wait paints an unsettling picture of the impact of COVID-19 on already strained educational systems. A joint statement signed by an extensive list of civil society organisations has called upon international donors to make education a central component of global COVID-19 response efforts.

The impact on vulnerable children and young people is indisputable and requires an immediate response, such as UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition. Given that education systems are notoriously slow to change, however, the World Bank suggests that we look at recovery as an opportunity to “build back better” such that our approaches and strategies provide the footing for long-term improvements around the world, particularly as they relate to access, equity and inclusion.  This section will both emphasize voices on the ground and explore the role of pluralism in informing the path forward.