UNESCO explores “Online Teaching and Learning” during the Lebanese Internet Governance Forum

On 23 July 2020, the Lebanese Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group organized the Lebanese Internet Governance Forum under the theme “Rethinking Internet Governance in times of crisis”. In this context, UNESCO Beirut hosted a panel on “Online Teaching and Learning”, in partnership with the American University of Beirut (AUB), the University of Saint Joseph (USJ), Notre Dame University (NDU), and UK Leb TechHub.

The COVID-19 outbreak in Lebanon has translated into a major education crisis due to schools and universities closure. As part of its response to the crisis, Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education has developed three tracks to ensure the continuity of learning: learning through the TV, online learning, and traditional learning. Online teaching and learning met several challenges, mainly internet access and internet infrastructure in the country, the availability of online/digital teaching material, and teachers’ preparedness to switch to this kind of teaching.

Against this backdrop, the session on “Online Teaching and Learning” aimed at exploring the impact of COVID-19 on the education sector in Lebanon, and discussing the challenges associated with remote/online learning and how to move forward towards adopting a new way of teaching and learning post-COVID 19.

In his welcome speech, UNESCO Beirut’s Programme Specialist for Communication and Information, Mr George Awad, said that: “The Covid-19 pandemic reminded the world of the importance of the Internet as a means to access information and education. Yet the digital divide between those who are “connected” and those who are not may become the new face of inequality. Lack of internet access in some regions in the country has deprived students from the opportunity to benefit from remote/online learning”. Awad added: “This situation adds to the relevance of the universal right to access the internet, which was unanimously recognized by the 195 Member States of UNESCO in 2015. UNESCO’s framework for universalizing Internet access has endorsed four principles (ROAM principles): that the Internet be based on human rights, openness, accessibility to all, and be managed through the participation of multiple stakeholders”. Awad added: “The Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity to rethink education, educational philosophy and means of delivering education to learners. We must think about what remote education is and find solutions to the challenges that stand in the way of everyone’s access to inclusive and quality education before and after the COVID-19 crisis”.

High-level speakers participated in the session: Member of Parliament Mr Edgar Traboulsi; Educational Technology Expert at the Center of Educational Research and Development (CERD), Mr Milad Sibaaly; the Head of New Educational Technologies section at USJ, Mrs Wadad Wazen; School Academic Director, Mrs Hiba Hamadeh; co-founder of TABSHOURA and Lebanese Alternative Learning, Mrs Nayla Fahed.

The highly-interactive session allowed participants to reflect on the challenges of online teaching and learning in Lebanon and means to improve infrastructure to provide quality teaching.

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