- Sri Lanka’s voice heard globally at Educators’ Summit 2020
By Naveed Rozais
Addressing the ever-evolving needs of education in a world that is dealing with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, international forum platform PI Apparel, together with the Institute of Future Creations, KEA, and Circular Economy, organised Educators’ Summit 2020 focusing on sustainability in education, particularly in the context of Covid-19 and its effects globally.
The 2020 edition of the Educators’ Summit took place entirely virtually, with academics, students, and industry stakeholders from around the world gathering to discuss the role fashion design education plays in creating the change needed for a sustainable future. Educators’ Summit Co-Founder and Organiser Robert Meeder, who resides between Hong Kong and Sri Lanka, explained that the Educators’ Summit is about leading education as a catalyst for change, and educating the industry, particularly the garment and apparel industry that this is a key point in time, to make a shift and change from what was.
The 2020 edition of the Educator’s Summit also looks at bringing the platform to Asia. “I saw a huge disconnect from the discourse between the East and the West. Some of the issues being talked about in western universities are very different from what we face here in Asia. The environment and opportunities are also very different. There was a need for a global platform,” Meeder said.
Working across the world with different time zones, the Educator’s Summit 2020 created this much-needed global platform, comparing eastern and western perspectives with stakeholders operating in each of these markets. Meeder shared that the response to the 2020 summit has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Globally, we’ve had a huge response with over 220 participants representing something like 150 institutes over various industries, and then student involvement as well. The physical summit would never attract that many students and academics. The additional reach of connecting with the East and the West with a minimal carbon footprint has also made the response to this year’s summit extremely positive,” Meeder added.
The Educators’ Summit 2020 covered four major themes: Bridging gaps between industry and education, equipping and empowering students to be agents of change in their industries, the role of physical vs. virtual in educating students, and forging alliances for circular education.
The summit also featured the voice of youth, with University of Moratuwa fashion design student Sanjani Wijekoon representing Sri Lanka on the summit’s global youth panel discussion with five other youth from design schools in the Netherlands, the UK, and the US. Wijekoon shared that being a part of the global panel was an exciting opportunity “for our voice to be heard on an international platform to discuss issues, listen to eastern and western perspectives, and connect with industry leaders.”
Wijekoon also said that the summit was an opportunity for Sri Lanka’s own design industry to garner recognition and create more opportunities for design to students to integrate with different fields and subjects. “Design is like problem-solving and is important in every industry; every industry can find a role for designers, and this role should be more highlighted,” Wijekoon said.
Meeder shared that Educators’ Summit 2020 highlighted the need for a united change across all stakeholders of fashion and fashion education to drive sustainability. “It truly is a united change because there are a lot of stakeholders. We can talk simply about capitalistic models, but there is also the curriculum and consumer perspective.
“All of us – as an industry, as educators, as brands, as consumers – have to go on that same journey of change. We can’t, for example, expect brands to change to sustainable fashion and fabrication, and then still consume as we used to and create the same amount of waste. There is one no one solution, it’s a definitive collective action that is required.”
A lot of theories need to come into play for a lasting change, Meeder explained, also sharing that systems need to be designed where products come back to brands and brands take responsibility for their products.
In a local context, Meeder shared that collaborative spirit is key, especially in the field of education. “The idea of competition needs to change. All local universities need to work together and move beyond the idea of student numbers and PR and think about what actual work the school is doing to make an impact on a social and state level to develop communities and change lives.”
Meeder shared that one industry leader commented during the summit that the world doesn’t need any more Coco Chanels or celebrity designers, but they need doers, big thinkers, and collaborators.
“Working together is number one. All universities need to come together. I haven’t seen or heard or seen if there’s been anything like this before, and yes, there will be politics involved, but coming from the outside, I can only see the opportunity. If we can put aside our agendas and egos and work towards the greater good, we have a good position to lead for SAARC and the rest of the world to follow.”