Global education in the context of a global pandemic

29.03.2020. - Velimir.M

When the Chinese authorities on December 31st 2019 informed the World Health Organisation about unordinary cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in the province of Hubei, nobody in the world community even blinked. This later turned out to be the deadly disease called COVID-19 caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, but in this fateful moment, we celebrated the new decade, unaware that the potentially greatest event of our lives would come in only three months. Could Global Education have influenced a better response by the world community?

In China, the discovery of this new virus caused concerns among those who remembered the SARS virus epidemic. The world in 2002-2003 luckily avoided a global pandemic which would’ve had devastating consequences. With the Ebola virus it was similar. Yet those aware of the risks were desperately trying to warn the world community to take this problem seriously. Global education of course teaches us that it’s necessary to look out for our collective interest, or the interest of an endangered few, so that we could save our individual countries.

Unfortunately, the warnings were ignored; nobody wanted to believe our modern way of living was that susceptible to change. And yet, 21st century’s key advantage proved to be also its weakness, and that’s that the world is more global and interconnected than ever before.

Together through good times and bad

The economy is inextricably connected at the global level. Products are manufactured in one country, assembled in another and sold in yet another. A specialized economy is indeed efficient but is also susceptible to shocks such as pandemics. This is already noticeable as certain medical equipment and medicine are manufactured in only specific countries, and now there’s a bottleneck in the supply chain. That’s why many hospitals around the world, even in Serbia, do not have enough face masks and gloves to deal with this virus.

Another aspect of our global world is the speed and the way information spreads. The internet has allowed us to see instantly what is happening across the world; social media has allowed us to see it from a thousand different perspectives. With progress inevitably come certain side effects. Misinformation spreads just as information does in the best of cases, and in crises such as the coronavirus pandemic, when panic and uncertainty have set in, it spreads even faster. This can become dangerous for a society. That’s why Global Education has been advocating for years to prioritize expert recommendations and legitimate sources over unproven rumours and conspiracy theories in the public opinion.

Vaccination by Global Education

This is why it’s crucially important to recognize in the first place that we are a global society, which represents a core pillar of Global Education. Only when we recognise our global reality can we achieve a harmonious world community based upon cooperation, peaceful conflict resolution and human rights. A harmonious world community would undoubtedly coordinate a quicker and more effective response to such a pandemic.

Also, it is more important than ever to innovate and invest in education, so that our youth are well-equipped to handle being bombarded with information. We must also “vaccinate” them against misinformation by teaching them critical thinking. Luckily, the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe and their concept of Global Education have already been solving these problems for three decades. We needn’t reinvent the wheel, but only apply what has been done and implement within our educational systems, both formal and nonformal, recommendations which have already been advocated for years.

It is understandable that we are currently preoccupied with the immediate response to this pandemic to even consider thinking about long-term systemic solutions to prevent such situations happening in the future. But now we have an opportunity to dream, to imagine a new and better world — Global education has a few tips on how we could achieve it.