Teachers are the backbone of education systems and the key to reaching learning goals, regardless of context and situation. Within the COVID-19 crisis, they are on the front line in ensuring that...
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.
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.
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.
In the lead up to International Day for Education, the Teacher Task Force spoke to Michelle Codrington-Rogers, who is a secondary school citizenship teacher in Oxford, and the President of the United Kingdom NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers).
In a few days’ time it will be International Day for Education, and the United Nations will be calling to strengthen and revitalize education systems, and recognize teachers as frontline workers. How do you think governments can support teachers in 2021?
Teachers and educators have held together education systems for decades. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, the glue and sticky tape that teachers have been using to hold together education systems has become very evident. Which means that, after the pandemic, we need to be talking about giving teachers back the professional respect they deserve and recognising that we aren't glorified babysitters. Teachers are highly trained, highly qualified professionals. Governments need to help rebuild that trust with the profession. They need to empower us with the ability to make the decisions that impact on the students and young people that we have in front of us, and trust us to use our own professional judgement to provide the best education and life choices that we can for the next generation.
The kind of teacher leadership that you are talking about really became apparent during the pandemic. Can you give us some examples of teacher and school leadership that you saw thriving in 2020?
What was amazing during the pandemic was to see groups of teachers coming together, to pool resources and help each other through creating professional spaces to work together. There are many teachers out there who are thinking of new and innovative ways to engage young people and students. In the UK, the Oak Academy was a great example of this – it was made by teachers, for teachers, who came together and said, let’s share our resources. Another example is a group that formed on social media, allowed teachers from literally all over the world to come together and share ideas - for example how to use Bitmojis in your online learning spaces. What is interesting is that, on a daily basis, we don’t usually have the opportunity to share ideas even with our own colleagues within our school. The pandemic has given us that space again, where we can collaborate and inspire each other.
It also means that we can learn from each other – I honestly believe that the best schools and the best learning environments are where we are all learning from each other. The best teachers, the most inspirational ones, are those who are willing to acknowledge that we’ve always got more to learn.
One of the areas in which you and your colleagues have been showing leadership is your work in decolonising the curricula. Can you tell us about this work and the challenges you have faced?
I am first generation British and my family is originally from the Caribbean. So I grew up knowing my identity and my family’s background and history, but also conscious that my parents and my grandparents were taught British history. This is true for millions of people around the world – that they are being taught a version of history which doesn’t reflect them nor the experiences of peoples who were colonised at some stage of their past.
We've been campaigning in many different guises, with students, in schools, universities and in communities, to decolonise the curricula. The events of 2020 and the Black Lives Matter movement have helped show the importance of re-educating people, especially about how important it is to understand systemic discrimination and prejudice. And it’s not only about history, it’s about teaching how this history has led to where we are today, in the relationships and societies we have today, in a multicultural world and as global citizens. It also means that many teachers have also had to learn about this, as they themselves had been taught a much narrower version of history.
I'm so proud that Education international, during their last global world congress, passed a motion in support of this. Which means that we have teachers and educators from across the world, speaking about what that ‘decolonising’ means in their countries. It means that people from across the world, from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Africa are becoming visible in their own curricula and in the history being taught in their own countries.
This change has to happen at all levels – among educators and students and communities. In our case, it is very much the fruit of leadership taken by teachers and schools. But we also hope that eventually this will lead to systemic change at the national level, adopted by governments.
Recently you participated in a discussion on the Future of Teachers, organised by UNESCO’s Futures of Education initiative. What do you think will be the main challenges for the teaching profession in the next five years?
The challenges faced by teachers are going to be political, economic and social. From the political point of view, teachers are going to need to be at the heart of conversations – and even struggles – to define what is education about and what it is for. Teachers and teaching are at the centre of those discussions, as there is a tension between traditional and new digital ways of learning. As teachers, we are going to need to be part of helping re-define what this means. We can’t lose sight that teaching is a human interaction built on relationships, and that AI and digital learning can’t replace that.
From an economic point of view, we know that every country’s public purses have been hit by the pandemic. For example, in the UK teachers will not be receiving any pay increase, even after 10 years of austerity. In many countries, teachers are financially way behind where they should be as a profession – and they need to be able to at least pay their bills. So we are faced with a situation where teacher salaries are stagnant, but the stress and workload are increasing. There is a point where teaching as a profession is going to become less and less attractive and there will be less and less people willing to become teachers.
Lastly, teachers are going to be expected to help repair the connections and bonds which have been broken by lockdowns and school closures. Schools aren’t just an academic space; they are also a space in which children and young people are nurtured, and citizens are forged. But to do this teachers and educators are going to need professional respect and trust. What is positive, is seeing how many young people today are politically and socially aware, and conscious of their power and ability to change the world. We have the next generation of social activists who are going to make our world better if not for themselves, then definitely for their children and the next generations. So, I am hopeful - hopeful that education will be a space for us to move the world in that positive direction.
From 16 November to 20 December 2020, teachers, teacher educators and school leaders can upload a two-minute video to share their insights on three important questions:
- What innovations in your teaching are you most proud of?
- What new forms of collaboration with your peers have been most helpful?
- What have you learnt and what will your teaching look like in the future?
Many organisations are working hard to support teachers in this space. If your organisation has already done a similar exercise to identify innovations, please invite those teachers or schools leaders from the most promising innovations you have identified to share their video. In this case, the contributions will appear under the logo of your organisation.
This interactive report and resource document presents innovations and initiatives brought forward by the National Teachers' Colleges in Uganda (Kabale, Kaliro, Mubende, Muni, Unyama) when embracing...
Efficient teaching strategies for distance learning: Supporting teachers’ continuous professional development in the digital age
The COVID-19 pandemic has paralyzed education systems around the world, which caused 172 country-wide closures with more than 1.5 million learners affected at the peak time, including the Arab States where the education of nearly 86 million Arab learners has been suspended. More than 90 percent of ministries of education worldwide have been adopting the policy to provide different forms of distance learning, including internet/PC, TV and radio. In the Middle East and North Africa Region, there are 52 percent of students potentially reached by TV, 26 percent of students by internet/PC, and 2 percent students by radio. However, the educational personnel have not received the necessary training to provide quality distance education, and they lack the skills and competencies to plan and provide distance education and evaluate learning outcomes and students’ progress. The result of a complementary survey conducted by UNESCO Beirut Office underscored that teachers need to be better trained to teach online classes with around 45% responses, especially to be more interactive, to ensure students’ understandings, and to have better instructional designs. Consequently, teachers need support, training and professional development opportunities to quickly adapt to pedagogical shifts, enhance their performance, build their capacities to be able to provide quality distance education and identify and respond to learners' needs more efficiently during the COVID-19 pandemic and thereafter.
In light of the above, UNESCO Beirut and the Arab Bureau of Education for the Gulf States (ABEGS) have joined efforts to organize a webinar on efficient teaching strategies for distance learning targeting teachers to support them in continuing professional development and provide them with the scaffolding they need to better deliver distance education and meet their students’ needs.
The main goal of this webinar will be to build the capacities of teachers in the Arab region to deliver quality distance education more efficiently. The webinar will thus serve as a platform to share knowledge and good practices for the efficient delivery of distance education starting from lesson plan to delivery and learning outcome assessment.
- Strengthened teachers’ capacities and their understanding of the key considerations and recommendations in effective distance education planning, delivery and learning outcome assessment.
- Enhanced preparedness and readiness of teachers for pedagogical shifts to overcome commonly heightened challenges such as adjustment of instructional design to promote learners motivation, high risk of students’ disengagement, sharing good practices and resources among teacher
The target audience will include academia, teachers and educators, as well as any other relevant educational practitioners involved in education and distance learning.
- Registration is free and required in advance. Password: 760258
- Once you register, a unique join URL will be sent to your email.
Live Transmission on YouTube
Live streaming will be provided for those who might not be able to register in advance or to join due to limited capacity of the platform.
The webinar will be conducted in Arabic and English. Interpretation services will be provided.