Educators see opportunities amid pandemic’s effects on global education

William Gavin, Staff Writer

Educators from across the world spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic has given them opportunities to improve on global education at a panel on Oct. 30.

The speakers, sponsored by Quinnipiac University’s International Human Rights Law Society, Latinx Law Student Association and the Health Law Society focused on how the virus has challenged education across the globe.

The panel featured guests from organizations that have partnered with the university to develop study-abroad opportunities in countries such as Barbados, Guatemala, and Ireland. Representatives from the study-abroad partnerships in Italy, Nicaragua and Spain were also in attendance to speak about how their countries and students have been impacted by the virus.

Michael Clement

While all six of these countries, as well as the United States, have had different experiences with the pandemic’s challenges, the panelists all agreed that it has made  giving students a quality education tougher than ever.

“Normally in a semester, we could have up to 300 students from the U.S. on our semester programs. Right now we have four,” said Marita Foster, deputy director international for University College Corkland in Ireland.

Even in countries like Nicaragua, which has only seen about 5,500 COVID-19 cases, its impact has been immense.

“We’ve developed this alligator skin,” said Oscar Aragón, co-founder of Alianza Americana. “I’m thinking at some point as an organization. Definitely it has been a challenge. All of our educational programs are now online. And for us being a language institute, it was a total challenge to adapt to the new circumstances. We’re not operating 100%, even with our former students.”

Despite the challenges of the pandemic some of the panelists spoke about how they could use its effects as a tool to enhance students’ education.

“For some courses, for instance: communication, social media and psychology,” said Stefano Baldassarri, director of the International Studies Institute. “Obviously our courses would be different. I mean, this crisis is providing us with so much material, on so many topics And I think we have to take advantage of that.”

Baldassarri went on to explain how his organization was able to take the pandemic as a wake-up call to the value of intensive online classes, especially for students that cannot study abroad. He also talked about how they had to come to the realization that not all students have the financial means to travel.

“This is also an opportunity to reach out to a wider audience of students — students who don’t have the financial means to spend a whole semester (abroad),” Baldassarri said.

Aragón also spoke about how the pandemic has changed how Alianza Americana operates.

“We invite our students to go out, to stay healthy, to promote health as best as we can,” Aragón said. “So basically it’s (about) being appreciative and being respectful of others.”

What could have been a discussion of troubles and missed opportunities instead became a reflection on how people can learn from tragedy.

“I’m so thankful for COVID because it’s made us witness to what we think, how we do things — it’s made us become more innovative,” said Nicole Alleyne-Phillips-Ayikpa, president of Barbados Professional Women’s Club. “I think it brought out a little bit more of the humanness of humanity, and I’m hoping that as we continue, that it really puts in perspective how we view people, how we treat people, how we treat ourselves.”