Mariana Resende Fernandes, Educator, Brazil

Mariana has a Master degree in Applied Linguistics at UFPR and a graduate degree in Education at USP. She works
as a coordinator at Aubrick Escola Bilingue Multicultural in São Paulo, Brazil. Also, she is the Round Square representative at Aubrick, being responsible for the socioemotional development throughout the school curriculum.

This year, the world has faced an unprecedented challenge and schools had to step up and find solutions to provide distance learning that would guarantee quality education and students’ well-being. And although we live in a time of connectedness and increased circulation of information due to digital technologies, we have seen the great impact of school closure and wondered what would be the cost of it in the long run. In 2005, schools were closed in Pakistan for 14 weeks due to an Earthquake. Research has shown 1.5 years of learning difference four years later between affected students and those in neighbouring unaffected regions and a prediction of 15% loss in lifetime earnings. So, although we may not know the numbers of the Covid-19 impact, we are sure that we must improve remote and hybrid learning so students don’t end up significantly behind.

What does it take to guarantee the efficiency of remote or even hybrid learning? We may have all the digital tools and state of the art methodologies. But it takes a lot more to keep students engaged and active in their learning journey. Among all the things we’ve learned since schools were closed, one that all different realities agree is that students’ can’t learn without feeling safe and that they had to keep going, to persist on learning from home, finding new ways to do it, to connect to school, teachers and pairs in a totally new situation. Facing this huge challenge, they were forced to develop new
abilities, what demanded courage,  self awareness and sense of responsibility. It has not been easy and we can’t still measure the impact of the pandemic in education. There is an urge to respond and to come up with possible solutions.
If we can’t know for sure, as we’ve been griefing to process all the changes we’ve been through and feeling anxious about the “new normal”, the OECD Learning Compass 2030 might help us to find the way, as it points to students future well-being through co-agency with peers, teachers, parents and communities. It shows us that for students to thrive they need knowledge, skills, attitudes and values.

In 2019 a research was published in which Dr. Christina Hinton and a team of researchers from Research Schools  International (RSI) and Harvard Graduate School of Education collected data from 147 Round Square schools to find out which learning activities are likely to result in global competence outcomes. With the participation of 147 schools, more than 11,000 students and 1,903 teachers, they found out that volunteering services to help people in the wider community, participation in events celebrating cultural diversity, learning about different cultural perspectives, participating in classroom discussions about world events and learning how to solve conflicts were likely to promote the development of global
competences, the ones that are also related to the Future of Education and Skills 2030 project and the PISA global competencies. Since the pandemic began, Latin American Round Square schools decided to unite themselves. We
felt we could learn from each other, collaborate and support our students. We decided to get our teachers and students together in virtual meetings to promote discussions, to make them learn from different perspectives and also to engage them globally. At Aubrick Escola Bilíngue Multicultural in São Paulo (Brazil), a group of students from 11 to 14 years old participated in some students’ meetings and experienced the transforming power of taking action. They discussed
well-being, the concept of internationalism, leadership and equity in education; they could also learn from other students how each country decided to face the pandemic and the effects of the leaders’ choices in our daily lives. From that experience, this group decided they had to do more, to help others. The Service Club at Aubrick Escola Bilíngue Multicultural was created by a group of students who wanted to work in different fundraising projects to support NGOs and vulnerable people who were suffering from economical difficulties brought by the Covid-19.

Fundraising Festa Junina Bingo at Aubrick Escola Bilíngue Multicultural

From the fundraising events, the Service Club decided to reach for other students as well. And to do so they accepted the challenge of hosting a virtual conference to Latin America students from Round Square schools. For the conference, we decided to talk about our Festa Junina, a very traditional party in Brazil that expresses a lot of the diversity of Brazilian culture. Students were divided into the Baraza groups for different workshops. They were able to share a little bit of their own Brazilian culture, to promote collaboration among students and a sense of internationalism. By observing the students it was very easy to see how much they changed from the beginning of the pandemic to the moment when they were responsible for leading a variety of projects. They understood that they were all in this together and they could choose to take action, to face it with courage and tenacity to move forward, to keep learning and connected to their school community.

As teachers, to see the growth of this group and to know that through these activities they were able to find support in each other and reach out for those in need was rewarding. There was so much learning going on throughout the process.
Educators and researchers may not know the impacts of COVID-19 to education and we certainly do not know all the answers to this unprecedented challenge we face in Brazil. But we have learned, as part of the Round Square community, that if we aim at our student’s abilities to engage globally if we decide to learn from different perspectives and with the purpose of guarantee a better future, one that is full of compassion, courage, tenacity, diversity and respect, we might end up finding  the way to make sure that although schools are closed, learning has never stopped.

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