Theme: Innovations for Quality Education and Lifelong Learning
Sustainable Development Goal 4: ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all, is key to achieving the SDGs. In addition, education has a multiplier effect on all other SDGs. The open, online and flexible learning community has always advocated for fostering an enabling environment for lifelong learning that empowers people, allowing them to make life choices and improve their livelihoods. Technology and innovations in teaching and learning have paved the way to improve access to quality learning opportunities, which were previously inaccessible for people in remote and far-flung areas, and for disadvantaged groups. As a result of the 4th industrial revolution in technological developments, education systems are undergoing massive structural as well as process transformations. Short open courses are now available to make just-in-time learning possible, and there is a need to recognise different forms of learning for increased mobility of learners across borders and to bridge the current divide between skills development and higher education sectors. We need innovative approaches that use technologies to meet the diverse challenges of lifelong learning in the 21st Century. So, the focus of PCF9 shall be on “innovations”, “quality” and “lifelong learning” under the theme – “Innovations for Quality Education and Lifelong Learning”. COL and the OU welcome stakeholders from across the globe and particularly in the Commonwealth to discuss, debate and showcase how innovations are improving the quality of education and creating new spaces for lifelong learning. Some of the questions that could be asked by participants of PCF9 will include:
PCF9 will be a platform for ministers of education, government officials, academics, administrators and civil societies to discuss and develop a roadmap to future-proof our education systems and meet the challenges of the 4th industrial revolution.
Increasing the employability skills of learners to prepare them for their working life in the 21st Century is a key concern for educators and policy-makers. Most countries are focusing on improving their national vocational skills framework and infrastructure to prepare the workforce for current and future needs. This sub-theme will focus on specific innovations, programmes and approaches to improve the employability of learners in open, online and flexible learning environments. How to ensure quality in programmes that demand a higher level of psychomotor training and advances practical skills? How can workplace learning lead to improved employability and success? Key skills required to be successful in the 21st Century, and how organisations are responding to the demands of the industry, preparing the learners, and supporting the learners for the world of work would be the focus of this sub-theme.
Equity and Inclusion
Ensuring equity and inclusion are key issues before all the governments and educational institutions. This sub-theme will focus on improving access to quality educational opportunities for the disadvantaged and the unreached. Suggested topics that could be considered in this sub-theme include, but are not limited to innovative programmes and structures for improving equity and inclusiveness in education, quality assurance frameworks, accreditations, certification, benchmarking, rankings etc. for equity and inclusion, and analyses how considering issues related to equity and inclusion help create lifelong learning spaces.
Opening up Education
Opening up education is a much broader concept that became popular with the establishment of The Open University (UK). This sub-theme will focus on improving access to quality educational opportunities at all levels with a focus on preparing a lifelong learner. Ways of improving access for example eLearning, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), public-private partnership, etc., including discussions around the use of open educational resources, flexible learning, and open educational practices to explore new models and analyse implementation of existing approaches to foster open education, are suggested topics ideas for this sub-theme. Recommended focus could cover the perspectives of student learning, designing open education, delivering learning opportunities, and managing learning organisations.
Technological advancements, particularly digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are opening new opportunities for educators to support high quality learning at scale. This sub-theme will focus on the use and integration of appropriate technologies and innovations in teaching and learning, including new approaches such as flipped classrooms, learning analytics, mobile learning, massive open and online courses (MOOCs), artificial intelligence, blockchain, augmented reality / virtual reality / mixed reality etc. Suggested topic of interests would be technological innovations for delivering and managing large as well as small flexible learning opportunities that are based on principles of quality to create new ways to promote lifelong learning.
Special Focus: Education for Girls
Considering the importance of educating women and girls in the SDGs, PCF9 will have a special focus on Women and Girls giving increased opportunity for their participation, and focus on research and presentation related to innovation in offering programmes leading to skills and employability of girls to improve their livelihoods, measuring the quality learning in programmes for women and girls, especially from the perspectives of programme effectiveness, and creating a specialised lifelong learning environment for women to support sustainable development.
Special Focus: Empowering Youth
Over 60 percent of the Commonwealth population are under the age of 30 years making them a strong group of people in the planet. Recognising the potential of young men and women to participate in education and training and providing skills training to help them contribute to political and economic development of their nation is key to sustainable development. PCF9 will have a special focus on youth to increase their participation as well as research and presentations that will have impact on the future of empowering youth.
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