The UNESCO Doha Education Team contributes to ‘The COVID Project’ – an initiative by the Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS) at Georgetown University Qatar. The COVID Project enlists international and regional scholars and experts to provide a focused understanding of how a subset of Middle Eastern countries, Iraq and the six Gulf Cooperation Council monarchies, are being affected by and responding to the ongoing global crisis.
The article, “Covid-19 in the Gulf and the Education 2030 Agenda: Learning from Crisis,” provides an overview of the impacts of K-12 school closures both globally and in the Gulf, within the framework of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) on quality, equitable and inclusive education for all. While the number of learners affected by closures is now slowly decreasing from a peak of over 1.5 billion in early-April 2020, the scale of the challenge remains daunting – even in the high-income states of the Gulf. Some challenges have proven to be global, such as ensuring continuity of learning, administering exams and quality assuring them, addressing remote learning systems and teaching capacity gaps, finding effective ways of supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged learners and their families, and safeguarding health and well-being of all cohorts. In the Gulf, where migrants and expats often outnumber citizens, school closures have highlighted the additional challenges of parallel education systems and the scarcity of data on school dropouts and the unenrolled. With the announcement of sweeping budget cuts across Gulf public sectors as a result of the decrease in oil prices, and concurrent health and trade sector crises, it is not yet clear whether and how education spending will be affected. Many commentators have expressed optimism that the Covid-19 crisis is a golden opportunity to ‘build back better’; in the education sector, this will require a renewed commitment to achieving SDG 4 targets, combined with a holistic, agile, and imaginative rethinking of the future of education.