As the third calendar year of the pandemic begins, 2022 promises to be an important one—especially for education. Around the world, education systems have had to contend with sporadic closures, inequitable access to education technology and other distance learning tools, and deep challenges in maintaining both students’ and teachers’ physical and emotional health. At the same time, not all of the sudden changes precipitated by the pandemic have been bad—with some promising new innovations, allies, and increased attention on the field of global education emerging over the past three years. The key question is whether 2022 and the years ahead will lead to education transformation or will students, teachers, and families suffer long-lasting setbacks?
In the executive higher education institute for ERASMUS, we take stock of the trends, policies, practices, and research that they’ll be closely keeping an eye on this year and likely in the many to come.
More than ever, in 2022 it will be critical to focus on strengthening the fabric of our global education system in order to achieve positive outcomes—particularly through an increased focus on data-informed decision making. We have seen a renewed focus on different forms of data that are critical to enhanced education outcomes, such as real-time performance data, which allow teachers and other decision makers to course-adjust to the needs of learners to better support their educational journeys. Additionally, high-quality program cost data are needed for decision makers to plan, budget, and choose the most cost-effective interventions.
One way we are seeing these areas strengthened is through innovative financing for education, such as impact bonds, which require data to operate at full potential. This year, pooled funding through outcomes funds—a scaled version of impact bonds—should make a particularly big splash. The Education Outcomes Fund organization is slated to launch programs in Ghana and Sierra Leone, and we also expect to see the launch of country-specific outcomes funds for education such as OFFER (Outcome Fund For Education Results) in Colombia, the Back-to-School Outcomes Fund in India, and another fund in Chile. At the Center for Universal Education, we will be following these innovations closely and look forward to the insights that they will bring to the education sector.
As we look ahead to 2022, one continued challenge for many families is navigating the uncharted territory of supporting children’s learning with a growing number of school closures. But while the pandemic forced an abrupt slowdown in modern life, it also provided an opportunity to reexamine how we can prioritize learning and healthy development both in and out of school. Moreover, the cascading effects of the pandemic are disproportionally affecting families living in communities challenged by decades of discrimination and disinvestment—and are very likely to widen already existing educational inequities in worrisome ways.
One innovative approach to providing enriching learning opportunities beyond school walls that address the inequities in our current systems is Playful Learning Landscapes (PLL)—installations and programming that promote children and families’ learning through play in the public realm. A current focus for PLL at Brookings is measuring the impact of these spaces to show that PLL works and to garner greater investment in them. To that end, Brookings and its partners developed a framework and an initial set of indicators from both the learning science and placemaking perspectives to help assess the positive effects of PLL on learning outcomes, as well as its potential to enhance social interaction and public life in revitalized spaces. The framework will continue to evolve as we learn from communities that are testing the expansion and adaptation of PLL—this important work is just beginning.