Learning and Teaching in a Pandemic – Disruption Around the World

Yesterday marked UNESCO’s 3rd International Day of Education, with a global virtual celebration being held today. Usually, this day is an opportunity to celebrate the role of education in peace and development - to think about who does, and who does not have access to education, and to promote education as a route out of poverty for people around the world.

Here at NMITE our focus on technology and engineering (our T and E), and a big motivator for many of us, is the positive impact engineering has on the ability of economies to grow, and its power in improving quality of life. Our academic team come from countries far and wide, have volunteered overseas, and previously taught international engineering students from dozens of different countries.

This Spring, under the auspices of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Lloyd’s Register Foundation, NMITE will be partnering with University College London to design and run a programme that mentors engineering educators in developing economies. We will draw on state-of -the-art teaching practices to consider how engineers can work more safely and build safer infrastructure. We also hope to learn a lot from our new colleagues about the projects happening in their own countries, and the challenges they face.

In our original plan, these new colleagues would have travelled to Hereford in March as part of the project. The ongoing pandemic has now made this unviable, and this brings us on to UNESCO’s focus for 2021’s International Day of Education: “Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation”. Many of you reading this will be home-schooling, working from home, and will have had your own studies or teaching interrupted. University students in the UK are having a very hard time, often isolating with people they don’t know well, and are less happy and more anxious than the general population

Our academic staff at NMITE understand the disruption the pandemic has presented to practical subjects such as engineering. History shows us that disruption is a powerful way of bringing about innovation. Since the first lockdown in March 2020, our Chief Academic Officer Beverley Gibbs has been at the centre of a UK-wide collaboration that brings engineering educators together to share the best of how we are teaching in difficult times. Whilst many changes are happening in difficult circumstances, we know that many of these changes are long overdue and are worth keeping in the long-term. We need to talk to each other, and listen to students, to work out how to best shape the future of engineering education.

So, on this 3rd International Day of Education, NMITE expresses its support for the 1.6 billion students in over 190 countries who have had their routine, friendships, lives and learning interrupted. It will be a defining moment in many learners’ and teachers’ lives, and one day we will be able to look back and start to make sense of these strange times. In the meantime, let’s continue moving forward, together.