Skip to main content
  • 29.07.2021

A priority in the recovery: Supporting teachers for success

Authors: Adelle Pushparatnam, Ezequiel Molina, & Ana Teresa del Toro Mijares from the World Bank’s Teachers Thematic Group.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused drastic disruption to education systems around the world: more than 1.6 billion children have lost months of instructional time, more than 150 million have not had any kind of in-person learning in over a year, and many children are still not back in school today. The pandemic has challenged education systems to ensure learning continuity, and reopening efforts must focus on getting students back to school as quickly as possible, and urgently reversing significant learning losses.

There will be no education recovery without teachers. Even in ordinary times, the quality of teaching that students receive is the most important driver of learning within an educational system, and the importance of teachers goes far beyond students’ cognitive achievement: research also shows that successful teachers contribute to students’ non-cognitive learning and outcomes well beyond their schooling years. The current pandemic has only reinforced the importance of teachers. In the post-pandemic period, teachers will play the most critical role in the front lines in delivering the appropriate support so that students and schools can recover as quickly and effectively as possible.

The challenges brought on by COVID-19, in addition to the global learning crisis already underway before the disruptions, necessitate strengthening teachers’ capacities to teach well and meet the new and evolving challenges our classrooms, schools and systems face today. Teachers’ jobs, already complex pre-pandemic, will only grow more challenging. As students return to school, teachers will need to employ rapid-action learning assessments and tools to track learning losses. Teachers will need to develop targeted and sequenced remedial learning plans, and strategize how to deliver these alongside the current year’s curriculum and learning. Teachers will also need to provide important social and emotional support to students. And many teachers will need to deliver this support in innovative ways, blending in-person, remote, and hybrid approaches, as the health situation continues to evolve on the ground.

Providing teachers with high-quality professional development (PD) opportunities cannot be an afterthought or an add-on: it needs to be considered as an essential funding priority for the recovery period and beyond.

Even before the pandemic, many education systems were not providing teachers with PD opportunities to strengthen their teaching practice, and what was offered was often not aligned with best practice, ultimately not effectively supporting teachers in improving their classroom teaching, and not leading to improvements in student learning. 

It is more important than ever in the recovery context that teachers not only receive PD opportunities, but that these be aligned with evidence-based principles of effective teacher PD so that they can strengthen their teaching skills, and build new skills to meet the evolving challenges on the ground. Effective in-service PD must be tailored to teachers’ needs, providing targeted support in the areas in which teachers need the most support. PD must also be practical, with active learning strategies that provide teachers with opportunities to practice new skills and receive feedback on them. It must be focused, selective and strategic in scope, with sufficient time and resources to adequately cover the content. Finally, PD must be ongoing, providing continuous support over a sustained period to ensure that new skills and knowledge are consolidated and internalized. The complexity of the new tasks that teachers will take on, the multiple demands placed on them, and the rapidly evolving context on the ground, only reinforce the importance of these principles as guidance posts in the design and development of high-quality PD to support teachers.

Ultimately, as countries around the world shift to re-opening and prepare for the difficult task of education recovery, it is teachers who will be in the front lines of this challenging effort. Ensuring adequate funding for high-quality and effective PD experiences for all teachers that support their development and success, must be a priority that goes hand-in-hand as we work on getting students and teachers back in classrooms. Ultimately, supporting teachers’ learning and capacity-building means supporting students and schools.

At the World Bank, this is the context that has motivated the development of our new program Coach. Coach aims to help countries improve and develop highly effective teacher PD systems and programs that leverage insights from the fields of adult learning and behavioral science. The Coach tools & resources have been designed to support countries along every stage of their journey in designing, implementing and evaluating high-quality and effective teacher professional development programs and systems, aligned with what we know works from research and the experience of the most successful programs in the field. Programs such as Coach that seek to build and strengthen teachers’ skills are more essential than ever to helping education systems meet today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.

To learn more about the World Bank’s work supporting teachers, please sign up for our monthly newsletter, check out our webpage, or write to us at 


The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this article do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The ideas and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors; they are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit the Organization.

Photo credit: Dominic Chavez/World Bank


Learning and Teaching in the Digital Era

Education is one of the cornerstones for countries’ socio-economic development, and technology and innovation are ways to take it everywhere. Accordingly, at ProFuturo we believe that digital...
  • 22.01.2021

This is how we're supporting teachers around the world in 2021

This International Day of Education, celebrated on Sunday 24 January, will recognise the inspiring collaborations around the world that have safeguarded education in times of crisis. To mark the occasion we are highlighting initiatives, partnerships and best practices to support teachers and learners.

We asked Teacher Task Force members to share their plans for 2021, a year in which it will be critical to join forces and combine resources to recover from the pandemic and move forward together in support of teachers.

At least a third of the world’s students have not been able to access remote learning during Covid-19 school closures. Students in low and lower-middle income countries lost an average of about four months of schooling, compared to six weeks in high-income countries. Recovering from this situation will present an unprecedented challenge.

However, school closures have also made people appreciate the importance of schools and the key role of teachers – not only for academic and economic reasons, but also for learners’ socio-emotional development. Covid has been a wake-up call to ensure education systems become more resilient, inclusive, flexible and sustainable. It has also shown the capacity of systems and teachers to innovate to ensure teaching and learning can continue despite challenging circumstances.


Out-of-the-box thinking

Teacher Task Force members have been sharing how initiatives demonstrated by teachers during 2020 school closures have inspired plans for 2021.

VVOB – education for development will focus in 2021 on managing further disruptions to education, remediating learning losses due to these disruptions, and building the socio-emotional wellbeing of youth. It will promote blended capacity development trajectories for teachers and school leaders that can help include those left behind, building on experiences in countries including Rwanda.

GPE’s response to the pandemic included support to distribute portable radio sets in Sierra Leone and launch of a regular educational broadcast within one week of school closures. In 2021, GPE will continue to fund training and management information systems, working with partner countries to identify challenges and find solutions.

Using radio to reach rural schools in Chile, TV in Nigeria and an enhanced online platform in Malaysia are among 50 stories in reports published by Teach For All’s global network on how teacher leadership, distance learning and the efforts of communities have helped keep children learning through the pandemic. In 2021, the network will continue its Learning Through the Crisis initiative to support the reopening of schools and creation of more resilient, sustainable education systems.

The Education Commission and the Education Development Trust, in partnership with WISE, are working with governments to fully understand the roles of school leaders and their support for teachers during school closures and reopenings of the past year. The research will be translated into a policy playbook highlighting important lessons learned and insights from several countries.


Technology for professional development

The pandemic not only shifted learning online for many students, it opened up new possibilities in using technology for teachers’ professional development. STiR Education used virtual meetings and radio to reach teachers in India and Uganda, and in 2021, they aim to embed technology more deeply into their work while ensuring that their activities are equitable for all teachers.

The Commonwealth of Learning will in 2021 develop tailored professional development courses in partnership with the UK’s Open University. It will offer courses on mobile learning and cybersecurity for teachers, as well as help teachers in various Commonwealth countries improve their skills in developing subject-specific digital resources.

The Inter-American Teacher Education Network, an initiative of the Organization of American States, creates teams of educational leaders who have worked on projects such as virtual professional development in Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay. Applications for 2021 project teams are open until February 1.

Global School Leaders created Upya, a curriculum to enable school leaders in marginalized communities to lead effectively through this pandemic.

OEI will continue its work to strengthen the capacities of teachers in the Ibero-American region, with a broad focus in 2021 on digital skills. There will be projects aimed at improving STEAM methodology, offer digital resources, and new scholarships in order to contribute to increase the doctoral formation in the region.

ProFuturo will keep offering online free training courses for teachers worldwide, while Enabel will continue teacher training in Burundi including use of information and communication technologies and rolling out online and hybrid courses in Uganda.

Meanwhile, the Center for Learning in Practice at the Carey Institute for Global Good is working virtually with stakeholders, including teachers, to co-develop teacher professional learning materials. As a result, they will provide quality holistic on-line learning in displacement contexts across the Middle East, East Africa, and Central/West Africa.

Whilst digital will be central to future education systems, hands-on face-to-face learning will still be important. The LEGO Foundation will continue to support partners in Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Vietnam who are providing play-based teacher professional development that will reach up to 65,000 teachers in 2021.


Supporting education systems in every setting

Many Teacher Task Force members work with governments to support strengthening and managing system efficiencies and the overall performance of the sector.

In Burkina Faso, UNESCO's International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) is supporting the government to improve its human resources management and related budgeting in education. IIEP, together with the Education Development Trust, is exploring the role of “instructional leaders”, who support teachers to develop their skills without a formal role in assessment and will publish research in 2021 including case studies from Wales, India, Shanghai, Jordan, Rwanda and Kenya.

The Institute’s first ever Hackathon in January 2021 will include addressing challenges to improve the deployment of teachers, reducing disparities between a country’s regions, and identifying ghost teachers – who can cost up to 20% of the education budget in some countries. Lastly, IIEP plans to publish research in 2021 on teacher management in refugee settings in Jordan and Kenya.

Priorities for Education International in 2021 include calling for teachers and education staff to be considered a priority group in global vaccination efforts, and promoting a Global Framework of Professional Teaching Standards developed with UNESCO.

Building on the fact that the best-performing countries in the pandemic were those that engaged in meaningful dialogue with education unions, Education International calls for the dialogue to continue on issues such as the use of technology in education, investment in the workforce, professional development, decent working conditions, and respect for teachers’ professional autonomy.


Working together for teachers

2020 was an unprecedented year across every sector. In education, it shone a light, not only on the systemic gaps and challenges witnessed across the world, but also on the mitigating responses developed organically by teachers. It also saw emergency measures developed and implemented by education stakeholders at different levels, governments and the international development community.

While 2020 accelerated innovation in education and the process to reimagine its future delivery, efforts in 2021 will build on this to reposition and strengthen teachers’ roles in building more resilient systems of education in a post-covid-19 context. The members of the Teacher Task Force aim to be a driving force in this work.


Photo caption: A math teacher in Cambodia. Credit: VVOB – education for development  

  • 05.10.2018

What makes a qualified teacher?

“The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher”. This can seem like a simple enough statement, until one looks closely at what being a “qualified teacher” means.

One of the ways to define a qualified teacher is as a teacher “who has at least the minimum academic qualifications required for teaching their subjects at the relevant level in a given country.”

The above definition is about the type of qualification required for someone to become a teacher. In some countries, the minimum requirement is a Master’s Degree; in other countries, a high school diploma is sufficient. This is one of the indicators behind SDG 4.c.

However, whether a teacher has a high school diploma or a Master’s Degree, neither is sufficient for ensuring good teaching. This is because the most important training for becoming a teacher is pedagogical training.

Another indicator for measuring progress on SDG 4.c calls for trained teachers. A trained teacher is one who “has completed the minimum organized teacher training requirements (whether during pre-service training or in-service).” Most teacher training programmes encompass some form of study in educational theory, teaching methods, child development, assessment, in addition to focused study in languages, maths, sciences, and so on.

But there is a lot of variability in how countries organize pedagogical training. Teacher training programmes can range from 12 months to 4 years. They can include a practical component (e.g., field experience) either concurrently during course work or after all course work is completed. Practical experiences can range from a few weeks to several months. Some student teachers may benefit from supervised practice during their field experiences, while others are only allowed to observe a classroom teacher. Often, these variations exist within the same country.

These variations in how teachers are trained greatly affect teacher quality in the classroom. To support countries to enhance the provision of teacher education, UNESCO and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 are collaborating with Education International and the ILO to develop an international guiding framework for professional teaching standards.

A common framework will support the key education stakeholders to assure the quality of teacher education through standards of practice that describe the required competencies, knowledge, and skills at different stages of a teacher’s career. A framework of teaching standards can help to safeguard joint regulation of the profession by spelling out the governance and accountability mechanisms for assuring the provision of quality teacher education and quality teaching. The framework is intended to be aspirational in nature. Its purpose is to support teachers, teacher educators, teachers’ organizations and governments to agree on and implement a common understanding of teaching and teacher quality.

So what does it really mean to be a qualified teacher? It means having both an academic qualification and the proper training in pedagogy. It means recognizing teaching as a full profession that requires specialized training. It means having sufficient opportunities to practice teaching under the supervision of a qualified mentor during pre-service training and having access to professional development opportunities that target specific skill needs during in-service employment.

It means urging governments to take teacher education seriously so that it is fully financed for the benefit of students’ learning outcomes.

  • pdf
  • 16.10.2020
  • FR  |  ES

UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers

The ICT CFT Version 3 is intended to inform teacher-training policies and programmes to strengthen the use of ICT in Education. Its target audience is teacher-training personnel, educational experts...