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Alumni share good practices on literacy and education during COVID-19

Posted: 27 October 2020

Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Alumni, COVID-19, Disability, Impact, Inclusion,

Since 1966, the 8th of September has marked International Literacy Day, an occasion to highlight the importance of literacy for individuals, communities and societies. This year’s global events focused on “Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond”, emphasising the role of educators and parents in the face of the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to education and literacy programs.

Throughout the month of September, Australia Awards – South and West Asia presented a series of online panel discussions on inclusive education, educational technology and remote learning. These panels aligned with the International Literacy Day theme and provided a platform for Australia Awards alumni, academics and educationists to discuss innovative practices and effective teaching methodologies that can be used to deliver literacy and education programs during the pandemic. A special feature of the series was the participation of alumni from Myanmar as presenters and the attendance of alumni from Mongolia.

Alumni from South and West Asia, Myanmar and Mongolia with Australia Awards staff and other stakeholders during one of the three International Literacy Day virtual events in September

Literacy and inclusion in Asia

The online panel series began with a session on Literacy and inclusion in Asia – Challenges, opportunities and COVID-19, with more than 70 people taking part.

Dr David Coleman, Senior Education Adviser at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, delivered the welcome message for this online panel discussion. In his remarks, he said, “COVID-19 has impacted about 1.6 billion students around the world. The pandemic has had a large impact on those living with a disability, who already face significant learning barriers. On behalf of DFAT, I would like to acknowledge the exemplary and truly inspiring work of Australia Awards alumni in designing, delivering and managing education and literacy programs to improve learning for all. We encourage you to share your good practices beyond the region to support human development, economic growth and recovery.”

Professor Suzanne Carrington, Associate Dean (Research) at Queensland University of Technology, delivered the keynote address. She discussed the different facets of inclusive education in South Asia, referring to published journal articles that she has collaborated on with Australia Awards alumni from the region. She also shared tools that can be used to deliver inclusive education programs and services during COVID-19.

Joining Professor Carrington as speakers were alumnae Limia Dewan (from Bangladesh), Yi Wai Lyn (Myanmar), Dr Sunita Maleku (Nepal) and Dr Asiri Hewamalage (Sri Lanka), who shared the challenges that they have faced during the pandemic and adjustments that they have made to deliver inclusive education services in their countries.

EdTech and COVID-19

The second session focused on the role of technology in minimising the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tom Kaye, Education Specialist at the EdTech Hub, shared lessons learnt from the review of EdTech practices in several countries. He shared that a one-size-fits-all approach to EdTech does not always work and that countries need to use several means (such as television, internet and radio) to reach as many learners as possible. He also shared that EdTech programs are more successful when they build on a country’s existing digital infrastructure.

Alumni Nurunnahar Nupur (from Bangladesh), Sagar Parsai (Nepal) and Saadia Adnan (Pakistan) shared initiatives that they have implemented in their respective countries to support digital learning programs, including in inclusive education.

Alumna and primary school teacher Mariyam Ashfa Hamdi from the Maldives demonstrated the use of puppets and visual props in the third session

Making home learning fun

In the third and final session, alumni speakers shared non-traditional and interactive techniques and activities that they use to make home learning an enjoyable experience for learners, parents and teachers.

Alumnus and university lecturer Saghay Dhorji from Bhutan shared the importance of a learner’s wellbeing (mental and physical) in delivering home learning. He was joined by alumna and primary school teacher Mariyam Ashfa Hamdi from the Maldives, who demonstrated the use of puppets and visual props to keep children engaged and interested in home learning. Alumnus Shoaib Iqbal from Pakistan shared the work of ‘The Little Art’, an organisation he founded that uses art and film to promote social values among children and young adults in Pakistan. Shoaib shared how his organisation ran online film and theatre related competitions and workshops during the COVID-19 pandemic to engage young adults across the country. Alumna Tin Ma Ma Tet from Myanmar, who provides training and coaching programs to schoolteachers in Myanmar, was the last speaker, sharing the importance of empowering learners and recognising their efforts as a key factor to keep them engaged in home learning.

The literacy and education series was an engagement activity for Australia Awards alumni in South and West Asia, plus some alumni from Myanmar and Mongolia. The sessions provided an opportunity to connect them to each other and to Australia, mobilise them in participating in professional development opportunities and in helping implement alumni activities, and celebrate their achievements.

If you are an Australia Awards alum and would like to share your ideas for future alumni activities, please log in to our Events Applications System and complete the contact form here.



Image at top of page thanks to freepik.com