CIES 2022 — ACTING NOW TO CHANGE THE FUTURE: POWER, IDEALISM AND EDUCATION

About the author: Sara Vitral Rezende an M.A. student in International Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University and a recipient of an FSI Conference Grant.

This year’s (2022) Comparative International Education Society Conference was in Minneapolis, with the theme “Illuminating the power of idea/lism”. As a Masters’ student, my research is about the effects the COVID-19 pandemic had on education in Brazil. I was eager to know what other researchers have found in Brazil and in other countries around the world. The Conference enabled me to deepen my understanding on the topic, especially with two panels. The first one, called “PREPARing to Meet Long Term Challenges: Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Education in Africa”, presented studies from Ghana, Senegal and Kenya. The second, “COVID-19 School Closures: Global Perspectives and Local Responses”, brought different actors’ perspectives on the education disruption caused by the pandemic (governments and international agencies, parents, and teachers). Furthermore, I was also able to hear from peers about their ongoing MA Paper and to present and discuss my own paper as a work in progress, getting valuable feedback to improve my work.

And that was not all. The many different sessions enabled attendees to move around and learn about different themes, meet new people, and be up to date with what is being produced in different branches of research in international comparative education. For instance, between other themes, I also could deepen my understanding on the adoption of a national education system in Brazil, and the use of systemic perspectives to design and manage educational policies. These sessions were extremely valuable for me as a policymaker in Brazil, and I hope to be able to apply the knowledge and keep in touch with the presenters when I return to my country.

Moreover, this year’s Conference program connected research with the “artistic life” of the city, which was very interesting. One very special night was the CIES reception at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), with a remarkable singing performance and the incredible experience of seeing Mia galleries at night. Finally, I found the choice of Minneapolis very symbolic for the Conference theme, regarding the power of idealism. The city in itself, with its Skyway and its Sculpture Garden integrates art, streets and bridges, and awakes our senses, making us think of unimagined possibilities. In addition, remarkably, Geroge Floyd’s square and memorial calls us to act urgently, now, if we want to change the future.

With all that, the most valuable lesson I took from the Conference was the reminder that we need to take responsibility and act, as scholars, governments, and civil society. Especially with the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in education, we need to put those who need the most at the center of our actions. There is no time to waste.

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The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies is Stanford’s premier research institute for global affairs.

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