As COVID-19 sweeps across the globe, schools are confronted with unprecedented educational challenges. The latest statistics from UNESCO show that, by March 26, a total of 138 countries have suspended classes at the primary and secondary level, affecting 1.37 billion students and 2 million teachers. UNESCO has called for helping countries in mobilizing resources and implementing innovative, context-appropriate solutions to provide education remotely by leveraging hi-, low- and no-tech approaches to education.
On April 2, the International Institute of Online Education (IIOE) was co-launched online by the International Centre for Higher Education Innovation under the auspices of UNESCO (UNESCO-ICHEI). The launch was joined by 11 higher education institutions (HEIs) partners in Africa and Asia-Pacific, and 4 HEIs and 8 high-tech enterprises in China. It was in response to UNESCO’s global call on supporting countries to mitigate the adverse impacts of school closures, The mission of IIOE is to harness the Belt and Road Initiative to enhance the access of developing countries to quality higher education.
Funded by the Tencent Charity Foundation, IIOE is an online learning platform integrating over 100 courses in English, French and Chinese. These courses include discipline-related courses, TVET courses, and professional development courses for educators. IIOE aims to apply UNESCO’s “Education 2030 Agenda” guidelines. In doing that, it will develop ICT-related competencies of partner HEI teachers, build their capacity for blended and online learning, and provide online courses to create professional development opportunities.
The online launch ceremony was hosted by UNESCO-ICHEI, the Secretariat of IIOE, and chaired by Chief Specialist of IIOE Prof. Cher Ping LIM. Heads of partner HEIs and enterprises were invited to witness the launch. The IIOE trilingual resource package, including the IIOE online learning platform, main document, monitoring and evaluation, training plan, and entry mechanism, was released online at the ceremony.
During the event, IIOE Secretary-General Prof. Ming LI pointed out in his keynote speech that “a thousand-mile journey starts with a single step. The successful launch of IIOE is only the first step. The road ahead will be long, and our climb will be challenging. We will pool more quality online courses to set up a user-friendly learning platform and organize training sessions and evaluations for teachers’ ICT capability, bringing more tangible benefits to teachers and learners in partner HEIs.” IIOE partner HEIs, enterprises, and institutes also sent videos to the Secretariat, expressing their congratulations on the official launch of IIOE.
On behalf of the first Rotating Presidency Unit of IIOE, Prof. Mahmoud El-Metini, President of Ain Shams University, pointed out that given the current critical situation, the whole world is facing, concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. Online education evolved as the only convenient solution offering quality distance education at all levels. A while ago, IIOE started using this blessed technology only as an option, and now it turned out to be a pressing necessity at all levels. He hopes that the globe passes the current situation safely, allowing us to meet soon to celebrate our achievements in developments of the first international platform for online education.
As one of the co-initiators of IIOE, SUSTech strongly supports the implementation of the project. SUSTech Vice President Prof. Chun LU congratulated them on the official online launch of IIOE. He emphasized that SUSTech is a young and dynamic newly-established research university. SUSTech attaches great importance to innovation in schooling philosophy and talent cultivation and applies ICT in daily teaching, learning, and management. It is in line with the mission and goal of the IIOE project proposed by UNESCO-ICHEI.
Once IIOE has entered its fully operational state, a series of training sessions will be introduced for partner HEIs across the Asia Pacific and Africa. These will include regular, advanced, and specialized training. A series of training programs have been designed to help combat the COVID-19. The training program provides courses to enhance teachers’ ICT capacities to facilitate online teaching and learning, which further helps to improve remote learning in their institution. Lectures on public health and pandemic prevention and control will be introduced, disseminating effective measures and best practices to contain the COVID-19.
As the world’s 12th educational category centre built by UNSECO and Shenzhen Municipal Government, UNESCO-ICHEI has been committed to harnessing the information and communication technology (ICT) to help the developing countries for improving the higher education quality.
Proofread ByXia Yingying