Teaching international relations post-COVID-19 pandemic period: Will there be any significant changes?

Teaching international relations post-COVID-19 pandemic period: Will there be any significant changes?

Zeba Rayee and Shantesh Kumar Singh raise two questions as how the pandemic has and will be affecting the teaching methods and approaches post-COVID-19 pandemic period and what kind of new debates will take place in teaching international relations.

With the end of this decade, the world has witnessed an unprecedented crisis and is trying to adapt to the changing norms. This decade was being predicted by many experts and scholars as a burgeoning, which would lead to stability in countries. However, due to the COVID-19 crisis, the world is observing a very different picture of fear and instability. Thus, it is imperative to assess the developments to analyse the effect of COVID-19 on any sector (s) for the next few years.

The pandemic has stricken the world in a way that has led to paradigmatic shifts making the institutions and academia change their approach to understand that particular event. These changes are liable to changes in the angles of approach which are holistically intertwined with the ongoing crisis. Such significant changes within international relations, too, as a discipline are no exception. It has given an opportunity to the discipline to revamp itself and make the pedagogy and curriculum more relevant, pertinent and more focused towards a problem-solving approach.

Effects of the pandemic over teaching methods and approaches

It could be witnessed when the pandemic started an immediate lockdown was adopted as a measure to handle the situation. All the academic institutions across several countries closed and the method of teaching and academic works shifted to online mode. The current situation of COVID-19 has posed a serious challenge to the traditional method of face-to-face learning since the educational institutions are closed for a long time worldwide and emphasis has been put on online learning.

Online learning has its own limitations as long lectures through online mode do not provide any effective results. Additionally, the issue of connectivity and accessibility remains a huge challenge. In such a scenario, the importance of blended learning, which includes both face-to-face and online learning, has been increasing manifold as it could help overcome such circumstances. While planning the pedagogy of teaching, ensuring students participation in the process is another important measure. Thus, post COVID-19 institutions could adopt the blended learning approach to cope up with the ‘new normal’.

Debating issues

  • There will be a massive shift and transformation of curriculum and discussions going around in international relations. Also, the pedagogy of teaching will go through various changes. Among various debates associated with the current pandemic, one of the major debates is about the origin of the virus.
  • Few reports have been published recently, which claim that the virus had been artificially created in the Wuhan Lab. Dr Francis Boyle, who drafted the Biological Weapons Act, stated that this virus is a biological warfare weapon. However, there is no solid evidence available to support such a claim. These claims have ignited debates about the relevance of biological weapons and warfare in global politics.
  • Debates going around the COVID-19 could be understood at political, social and economic levels. The virus has sharpened various contradictions in the socio-political dynamics of countries. It has been evident how initially some powerful countries failed to tackle the pandemic which showcased the crisis of strong leadership and at the same time the outstanding example of various countries coming together to help each other overcome the crisis has also been seen.
  • Countries throughout the world, with different political systems, either democratic or non-democratic, are trying to tackle the pandemic with their own approaches. Relevance of non-traditional security issues and international organizations like WHO, EU has become more significant now. Apart from that, international forums like ASEAN, SAARC, EU, AU, G7, G20, etc. too need a transformation to cope up with the current scenario and give a collective response to a pandemic.
  • The pandemic has struck the very core of society and fueled the already existing discussions highlighting the most vulnerable groups, for example, people facing poverty, aged people, persons with disabilities, homeless people, etc.
  • Debates on the role of local governance, NGOs, civil societies etc. have made headway. With this, the debates on how a more sustainable and resilient society could be developed are ever-increasing among academia and society. Consequently, the role of public policy has been redefined as a coping mechanism.
  • The pandemic has caused the fear of economic crisis and recession since the governments around the world decided to impose lockdown, travel restrictions and quarantine; it had a ripple effect on every aspect of human life including the economy. It affected all the three sectors i.e. primary, secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy. In the primary sector, the fall in commodity prices due to less demand from the hospitality sector and panic buying by people resulted in a shortage of various commodities. In the secondary sector, the manufacturing industry dipped in both production and turnover. In the tertiary sector, education got affected by the pandemic which has been discussed in this article.

These are few issues around which the teaching of international relations would transform itself. It would be too soon to predict any well-founded conclusion about the post-pandemic as it will take a long course of time to see the after-effects.

Academia can play a vital role in analyzing the effects, especially in higher education through research work. To understand the various impacts of a pandemic, especially in education, the intuitions need to transform and adopt some innovative curriculum and approaches. Scholars assumed that during this time various debates and discussions would take place around the globe about the issues such as the emerging role of China, changing dynamics among various nations, escalating China-US antagonism, lack of opportunities for third-world countries at the multilateral forums, emerging trends and changes in trade and technology in the world, etc. Although experts were expecting to have these discussions theoretically, the pandemic has made it ground reality and posed challenges for countries with which nations are struggling to overcome.

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The views/opinion expressed in this article are of the authors. This article is licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY. Courtesy: Editorial assistance: Vibha Dalal; Article image: unplash.com (Free to use under the Unsplash License)

Zeba Rayee is pursuing PhD from Centre for European Studies, School of International Studies, JNU. She holds masters degree from University of Delhi and MPhil from JNU. She writes commentaries on international affairs and political affairs for journals and blogs.


Shantesh Kumar Singh, PhD is an Associate Professor at Department of Political Science, Central University of Haryana, India. He is also an Adjunct Fellow and Associate Editor of International Association for Counter-terrorism and Security Professionals-South East Asia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (IACSP-SEA). Recently, he completed his post-doctorate from United Nations University-International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As a visiting fellow, he has been at the School of Advanced International Affairs, Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, USA. Dr. Singh is an alumna of Brown University’s International Advanced Research Institutes (BIARI) programme.

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