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IBE-UNESCO Webinar: COVID-19 challenges and curriculum related actions in African Portuguese speaking countries (PALOP)

COVID-19 challenges and curriculum related actions in African Portuguese speaking countries (PALOP), IBE-UNESCO Webinar, Zoom, 2 December 2020

Context and justification 

The COVID-19 crisis presents unprecedented challenges to education systems across countries and regions. It not only tested the resilience of education systems, but also led to massive school closures, directly affecting over 1.6 billion students from pre-primary to higher education. Today, around 1 billion of them are either facing the physical impossibility of going to school or are uncertain whether their school will be open the next day. 

Faced with the global outbreak of COVID-19, UNESCO immediately made efforts to support Member States, in the light of its mission as the global coordinator of Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Education 2030 Agenda, the implementation of which is crucial for the achievement of the other SDGs. UNESCO has supported the continuity of learning by organizing ministerial meetings as well as a series of webinars (on reopening of schools, teachers, curricula, assessment) dedicated to policy makers and practitioners. UNESCO also launched the Global Coalition for Education in March 2020. This is an unprecedented partnership involving United Nations organizations, civil society, the private sector as well as academia and media which aims to help countries in need, to offer inclusive and equitable distance education. In the meantime, UNESCO conduct the Global Meeting on Education (GEM) to examine education responses related to the crisis as well as advocate for the protection of education and the safeguarding of the future of all learners. 
The five African countries of Portuguese official language (PALOP) are no exception in this scenario of destabilization. Subversion of social and economic life and deep disruption of education systems also occurred. The prevailing health conditions and uncertainties pose a threat to relevant, quality and inclusive learning. The pandemic has emphasised the limits of face-to-face teaching but also revealed the limits of creativity of actors in the implementation of viable alternatives to classroom teaching. In doing so, it has revalorized the role of parents, and rehabilitated / reinforced the importance of empowering learners’ autonomy within their learning process. 
Thus, and despite multiple constraints, the PALOPs have tried to take advantage of communication technologies (radio, television, internet, etc.) to preserve learning, without excluding face-to-face teaching with the partial and gradual reopening of schools. The alternative modalities (distance education via radio, television, online or in hybrid form) have shown situations of socioeconomic precariousness in families that education systems could not resolve with traditional strategies and solutions of action. To make distance and / or hybrid education strategies viable, it was/is necessary to strengthen the fight against digital gaps, in its technical and socioeconomic aspect. 
This change requires educational and technical resources and skills that were not necessarily available. In this sense, it must be recognized that the pandemic has offered the opportunity for governments, educational leaders and other actors in education systems to implement innovative and more effective strategies in terms of social inclusion. 
The place of the curriculum in COVID-19 response strategies. 
The decisions and measures implemented by countries to reconcile maintenance of education and health security illustrate the central importance of the curriculum. In most cases, these measures have resulted in a reduction in teaching time, either face-to-face or in distance. This implies the definition of teaching priorities, the adaptation of pedagogical approaches including evaluation of learning, the formulation of guidelines for stakeholders (school directors, teachers, students, families ...), as well as the production of new tools adapted to new teaching / learning methods. To process this, in a reasoned, efficient and relevant way, mastery of the curriculum and the process of its development is crucial. All of these concerns relate to the what (content), how (pedagogy) and when (agenda) of education, which are matters relating to the curriculum. 
Remember that the curriculum defines what students must learn, for a given citizen profile and a given social project, and for this purpose it explains the knowledge, skills and values ​​that the school must teach. The curriculum is available in various instruments that guide the work of the diverse actors in the education system, whose, combined action should lead to the best possible learning conditions for learners. These instruments are as follows: (i) the curriculum framework which condenses the vision, mission, goals, objectives, principles, pedagogical models and approaches, guidelines for teachers, etc. fields or disciplines (iii) textbooks, (iv) teacher's guides and (v) other support materials or teaching aids. 
COVID-19 has highlighted the need to renew and intensify dialogue and consultation with institutional (health, civil protection, etc.) and social (teachers' unions, parents of students, media, etc.) otherwise the laudable efforts of the education systems risk stumbling against the resistance of the actors, with loss of time for all. 
The engagement of PALOPs to achieve Agenda 2030 and, specifically, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 and the African Union's continental education strategy (CESA) require the strengthening of understanding, mastery and the management of the curriculum as an instrument of political, civic, cultural, technical and educational consensus. Undoubtedly, the curriculum is the basic foundation and the pillar of educational action, which, together with the training of teachers, are the guarantors of educational quality and academic success, if we want to give ourselves the means to meet the requirements. expectations of societies at all levels - local, national and global. That said, it should be remembered that the disruptions undergone by the educational systems of the PALOPs due to COVID-19 aggravated the weaknesses and challenges they were facing long before the outbreak of the pandemic. The PALOP strategies for achieving the SDG 4, and particularly interventions at the curriculum level, must be reassessed, readjusted or even redefined. 
It is in this perspective that the International Bureau of Education (BIE-UNESCO) has decided to support the PALOPs by creating the opportunity to deepen the reflection on the challenges of teaching and learning created by the crisis, to formulate adaptation and / or curriculum related actions strategies to project education into the future. The first webinar being this one scheduled on 2 December 2020. 
Main objectives  
The main objectives of the first webinar are as follows: 
  1. Create a joint PALOP space for the discussion of the challenges posed by COVID-19 to their education systems.
  2. Share the experiences and lessons of the strategies and actions implemented by the different countries to guarantee the continuation of the teaching and learning process in the context of a pandemic. 
  3. Discuss the priorities and support needs to be considered for all future actions relating to the curriculum in light of COVID-19  

This webinar will bring together leaders from the education ministries of PALOPs with expertise in curriculum, including: 
  • National or General Directors, DNE / DGE; 
  • General Inspectors of Education; 
  • Managers / heads and experts of departments or teams of curriculum in ministries of education; 
  • Coordinators and trainers of teacher training institutions and universities; 
  • National, regional and international partners. 

In collaboration with UNESCO Headquarters, field offices, institutes and National Commissions, IBE-UNESCO will distribute the invitation to ministries of education and related institutions, universities and teacher training institutions, networks / communities of specialists / program designers, researchers and practitioners as well as intergovernmental organizations, NGOs and civil society organizations working in the field of education and curriculum-related issues. 
Wednesday 2 December 2020  
14:00 - 16:00 GMT+1, Geneva Time 
14:00 – 14:10  Opening remarks  

Ms. Stefania Giannini, Assitant Director-General for Education, Education Sector, UNESCO  
H.E. Carmelita Rita Namashulua, Minister of Education and Human Development, Mozambique  
Mr. Yao Ydo, Acting Director, IBE- UNESCO 
14:10 - 14 :40 
Session 1: Education systems in PALOP countries

Les systèmes éducatifs des pays PALOPs face à
 la COVID-19 : expériences et leçons 
General considerations on Curriculum by Ms. Amapola Alama, Education Specialist, IBE-UENSCO 
Intervention (7 minutes each) 
Lessons learned in the face of COVID-19 pandemic. These interventions will focus on curriculum and learning processes.  
1. Experiences and lessons by M. André Diasala Jacinto, Director of the National Institute for Educational Research and Development, NIERD, Angola 
2. Experiences and lessons by Ms. Rosa Silva, Director of Educational and Curriculum Developmen, Minister of Education, Cape-Verde  
3. Experiences and lessons by M. Allende Samroy Fernandes Quadé, Director of Curricular Services and Environmental Education of the National Institute for the Development of Education, Guinea Bissau
Ms. Zulmira  Rodrigues, Chief of Section Cooperation with Regional Entities at the Priority Africa and External Relations (UNESCO)
14:40 – 15:00 
Session 2:  Priorities and challenges to consider for upcoming curriculum related actions  
1. Priorities by Ms. Bleizy Costa, Directo of Planning and Educational Innovation, São Tomé et Príncipe 
2. Challenges by M. Ismael Nheze,  Director of the National Institute for Educational Development,  Mozambique
Mr. Paul Gomis Head UNESCO Office at Maputo 
15:00-15:40  Q&A 40 minutes  
Contributions and questions for participants; Reactions and answers from panelists 
Ms. Zulmira  Rodrigues, Chief of Section Cooperation with Regional Entities at the Priority Africa and External Relations (UNESCO)
Closing remarks  
Reminder of the main points previously mentioned in the webinar 
 Vote of thanks
Mr. Yao Ydo, Acting Director, IBE-UNESCO
Mr. Victor Borges 

Contact Persons

For further information on the webinar, please contact Mr. Victor Borges and Ms. Perrine Arsendeau (

Videos of the Webinar:

Webinar report: