Image from Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
On Friday 10 December 2021, we honoured and celebrated Human Rights Day by holding the final part of our Building New Bridges Together International Conference. Equality was this year’s theme for Human Rights Day, and the concept of Leaving No One Behind was a driving force in our conference.
Throughout the BNBT events, which included a Hackathon in November and last week’s Webinar, we focused on challenges and solutions to inclusion, equity and diversity in higher education.
Our Building New Bridges Together conferences have gone from strength to strength, starting in 2020 and reaching a high point this year with over 140 participants.
As well as being inspired by keynote speakers, vibrant discussions and even poetry, we celebrated the Hackathon winners and learnt about their solutions for inclusion, equity and diversity in education. Finally, Globethics.net’s Academic Dean Amélé Ekue presented the outline for our Future Learning Toolkit and called for contributions to this important process that aims to help shape the future of education.
The importance of embracing the Other
Following Prof. Dr Obiora Ike’s opening words, the conference kicked off with a student’s perspective of diversity and inclusion in education, putting this critical discussion in context. Ray Andrew Macua, who attends the Catholic University of East Africa in Kenya and who took part in November’s Hackathon, shared his own and his classmate’s personal experiences of embracing the Other.
Ray explained the culture shock he experienced when he attended high school in a region mainly populated by people of a different ethnicity to him. He also revealed the discrimination and marginalisation his friend Aisha had been subject to as a Liberian studying in Kenya. However, his main takeaway was the lessons learned from the enriching experience of embracing the Other. For him, learning to stand up for, accept, and learn from other people and their culture highlighted the importance of diversity, inclusion and equity in education.
Later, we enjoyed another unique perspective on this conversation as Rob Bell shared a poem inspired by Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński’s “The Other”. Rob reflected on the choices we make - and have historically made - as human beings faced with the uncertainty of encounters with Others. He reminded us that through education and the exchanging of shared ideas, values and goals, we recognise a fragment of the Other in ourselves.
Solving the challenges facing education
During the conference, we heard several different perspectives on the challenges facing education in terms of diversity, inclusion and equity.
Torunn Gjelsvik, Secretary-General of the International Council for Open and Distance Education, shared the ICDE’s vision and actions for making education diverse, inclusive and equitable through online and distance learning.
This concept was highlighted in the keynote presentation given by Asha Singh Kanwar of the Commonwealth of Learning. While the pandemic has had a negative impact on education for many people, Asha brought to light how it triggered a transition to digital learning that would otherwise have taken years to achieve.
Online learning provides the opportunity for more equal access to education. With that said, the digital divide remains an issue for many people, particularly in lower-income regions of the world. One of the winning Hackathon solutions addressed this challenge: James Coder defined his idea for Digital Device Justice to make access to online education equitable around the world.
The other winning Hackathon solutions, each of which were judged on how developed the idea was, its feasibility, creativity, and how well it addressed the focus issue, were also presented. Mapopa Mphande shared his plan for the representation of marginalised peoples in educational leadership positions to promote greater diversity.
Meanwhile, Mary Roche highlighted the gap between diversity and inclusion, reminding us that all members of a diverse student body may not necessarily feel included. Her solution was a shift towards collaborative education with an asset-mapping process encouraging students to share their experiences to help them feel more welcome at the beginning of every course.
Finally, Chukwudi Johnpaul Okolo shared his vision for circular education, with ethics clubs and internships integrating ethical values in the entire education system from primary level to universities, creating traditions that would consequently be transmitted to society as a whole.
Following the Hackathon award ceremony, we heard from others contextualising the conference focus. Particularly enlightening was the discussion between Prof. Dr Christoph Stückelberger and Vissia Ita Yulianto on the current global challenges facing education. Christoph spoke of the future risks to equal information access in a world heading towards a new cold war, of censorship and of Globethics.net's role as an inclusive platform that gives equitable access to knowledge.
During the BNBT conferences, a need to compile the creative solutions that were emerging was realised. Further than simply presenting the results of the Hackathon, the decision was made to focus on the process of solving these challenges by developing an innovative, collaborative Future Learning Toolkit.
Shaping the future of education
The International Conference concluded with the presentation of this Future Learning Toolkit by Globethics.net Academic Dean Amélé Ekue. Amélé outlined the different parts of the project, which will be completely digital, user-friendly, and organised into separate, downloadable files, making the Toolkit itself inclusive and accessible to those with less access to digital technology.
After an introduction to the context, background and motivation for the Future Learning Toolkit based on the Building New Bridges Together conference process, the Toolkit will be broken down into four main chapters. These sections will focus on pedagogical concepts for diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education; bridging the digital divide; the societal impact of the project, and providing tools and resources for putting the Toolkit into practice.
With the goal to make the Toolkit as diverse and inclusive as the conference process has been, it will include a complete spectrum of material. Praxis outlines like curriculum designs and advocacy campaigns will be present alongside theoretical, conceptual and even literary and poetic contributions.
The Toolkit will also establish future projects and initiatives projected to allow us to build new bridges together, including the Globethics.net 2022 International Conference, our Summer School, and the ICDE Global Advocacy Campaign.
Building bridges together for the world we want
With much work to do and great hope for our plan to help shape an ethical, diverse, inclusive and equitable future of education, we concluded our #BNBT2021 International Conference.
To ensure it adheres to our mission for diversity, inclusion and equity, the Future Learning Toolkit is by design a collaborative project. Therefore, as our partners, friends, and network, you are all invited to contribute in whatever way you wish. We welcome diverse materials from case studies, research reports, praxis outlines and action plans to poetry and storytelling.
Please send your contributions to the Future Learning Toolkit to email@example.com by 22 January 2022 to join us in shaping the future of education.