This spring, classrooms around the world moved to online and distance learning as the COVID-19 pandemic spread. This type of learning can be challenging in the best circumstances and the additional difficulties posed by the pandemic leave many students at risk of falling behind in their education. World Learning’s global development programs are working to support students and minimize the disruption to their learning throughout this global crisis.

In April, World Learning launched a free Global STEM Toolkit, sponsored by Cisco, to support teachers as they develop and carry out education programs on topics related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The team followed up with a June webinar exploring how teachers can use online resources and tools to teach STEM topics virtually and still provide the hands-on activities often used in STEM education. The event featured a panel discussion with experts at World Learning STEM centers and partner organizations focused on ways to keep students engaged.

In Myanmar, World Learning’s English Language Program also continued offering education opportunities through online coursework after the American Center in Yangon and the Jefferson Center in Mandalay shut down due to COVID-19 in mid-March.

"These tracks will equip both teachers and students in public schools with relevant online and physical educational resources that will help students continue their learning beyond the physical environment of the school classrooms."

As these centers normally host in-person courses, program staff were initially concerned that limited internet connectivity and a lack of familiarity with virtual learning platforms might deter many students from continuing with their English courses online. However, the staff were blown away when nearly 520 people pre-registered for the online summer English Language Program, 450 of whom had never signed up to participate in one of their programs.

English Language Program Jefferson Center student presents at Mandalay City Poster Presentation in November 2019

Alyssa Moy, director of the English Language Program, says taking part in these virtual courses will not only help students improve their language skills, but also become more “tech savvy,” potentially opening the door to future digital education opportunities.

“We can serve not only a wider swath of Myanmar’s population, but these courses could also be offered in other countries around the world,” Moy says.

World Learning’s largest education intervention during the pandemic has been in Lebanon, where it implements the USAID-funded Quality Instruction Towards Access and Basic Education Improvement 2 (QITABI 2) project in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) and the Center for Educational Research and Development (CERD). In fall 2019, Lebanon faced a series of political and economic crises, which spurred the QITABI 2 team to formalize an adaptive management plan in coordination with the projects implementing partners. This enabled World Learning’s staff to quickly mobilize a response when Lebanese schools began to close in February 2020.

A primary school student in Lebanon shows off the box of educational supplies she received from QITABI 2

“Due to QITABI 2’s focus on adaptive management and scenario planning, we had a framework and a process to respond to such crises with alacrity,” says Rajani Shrestha, QITABI 2's project director. “As a result, we were able pivot activities based on this new reality.”

QITABI 2 has focused on three main tracks of support for Lebanon’s education system during the pandemic, training teachers, teacher trainers, and coaches on distance learning principles; supporting production of e-learning materials; and directly supporting public schools in delivering educational resources.

“These tracks will equip both teachers and students in public schools with relevant online and physical educational resources that will help students continue their learning beyond the physical environment of the school classrooms,” says Dr. Wafa Kotob, chief of party for QITABI 2.

Through these efforts, the team has already created more than 300 YouTube video lessons on subjects including reading, writing, and mathematics, in Arabic, English, and French, as well as social emotional learning, and helped distribute more than 150,000 boxes of educational materials for students to use at home.

Unfortunately, the QITABI 2 team is now utilizing its adaptive framework to contend with the aftermath of another crisis—the devastating August explosion in Beirut. World Learning is working to assist its staff in Lebanon as they recover from this disaster and continue their important efforts to improve education for students across the country.

Through our global development programs, World Learning is committed to supporting students, whether they are learning in the classroom or online, to ensure that everyone has access to the high-quality education they deserve.

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