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HGSE Students Tackle Pandemic-Related Issues in Education

New book details students' findings and offers possible solutions to school systems around the globe
Reimers book

Across the education landscape, immediate and unique challenges changed the way students learned, too. It’s a shifting landscape educators continue to tread, as the pandemic’s impacts reverberate in both expected and unique ways alike.

Professor Fernando Reimers puts these challenges front and center in his course Education Policy Analysis and Research in Comparative Perspective. Students studied in detail the number of different ways COVID-19 has impacted educational opportunity in systems around the world and are offered the opportunity to engage directly with clients in a number of countries to help mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic.

“What could be more challenging than the catastrophe that this pandemic has created for education, and to take that on in a semester and say, ‘We want to think together with our clients and say what could be done to solve that,’” said Reimers, at a recent event celebrating the release of Rebuilding Resilient Education Systems After the Covid-19 Pandemic, a book in which the students’ findings have been published.

HGSE students worked on issues in states like New Mexico and Minnesota, as well as with clients in a number of countries across several continents as the world continues to grapple with effects of pandemic lockdowns and engage in mitigation efforts. They worked on issues like class-based learning gaps in Indonesia, high school dropout rates in Mexico, and low-income schools in South Africa. Some even traveled to countries like Finland, to work on inclusivity, and India, to work on issues of wellness and literacy — each project an opportunity to engage with real problems on a practical level.

Though each case was different, and the impact of their work may not be fully known as ramifications of the pandemic continue to unfold, students said each effort was an opportunity to make an impact. And not for the last time.

“Throughout the process we learned so much that it motivates me to try again,” said master’s student Agustina Ollivier, who studied professional development policies in Uruguay. “The great thing is that we all got to share those learnings with other people. There are no easy solutions. None of us is going to solve education. But we can continue to try.”

Yoly Yue Liu, Ed.M.’22, a member of the teaching team who works as a full-time policy researcher at the United Nations, said the project and the resulting book aim to help foster discussion of important issues in education that some parts of the world lack the resources to support.

“A lot of stakeholders, even the policymakers, don't have these kinds of resources,” said Liu, who edited the book with Reimers; Ph.D. student Ashutosh Bhuradia; Charley Kenyon, Ed.M.’21; Nam Nguyen, Ed.M.’22; and Margaret Wang, Ed.M.’20.

Throughout the unique process, students found Reimers' guidance and expertise in the field invaluable, noting his work with UNESCOs Commission on the Futures of Education and the contacts he introduced to them throughout the semester. Some students noted they’ve already touted their published work in job interviews as they look ahead to post-graduation life. Reimers said offering students the opportunity to actively solve problems that currently exist in education is an important part of his teaching.

“My business in life is not to teach people to be overwhelmed by problems and to see that they’re intractable. My business is to help people figure out that they can be part of the solution,” said Reimers. “Why think of education as something that prepares you to be in a contrived environment, to gain skills and hope that one day you will apply them? When you could be engaged in solving problems right then and there as you gain the skills.”


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