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Event
  • 24.06.2021

The best investment – Supporting teachers in COVID-19 recovery and beyond

Watch the replay here.

Ensuring qualified and motivated teachers in every classroom is the single-most important school-based determinant of quality education and learning outcomes. However, around the world, not only are there not enough teachers, but large numbers have not received sufficient training and lack minimum qualifications. The COVID-19 crisis also shone the light on the need for sustained and increased domestic and international financing and investment in teachers and teaching as the basis of education systems. Teachers must be better prepared to ensure that a generation of learners is not lost.

The side event will present new findings from research carried out by the Teacher Task Force addressing the following questions:

  • How can we identify and tackle the persistent and unresolved global teacher shortages which are jeopardising the future of millions of learners, in particular the most disadvantaged?
  • How much is needed to support teachers in the aftermath of the crisis, in particular in training in ICTs and blended learning, remedial learning as well as to support teachers’ safety and well-being?
  • How to create space in domestic budgets, as well as leverage international funds to support quality teaching, including addressing questions such as teacher motivation, career progression and retention?

Read the concept note.

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This event is organized on the sidelines of the Global Education Summit: Financing GPE 2021-2025 in the framework of the Teacher Task Force #InvestInTeachers campaign.

English, French and Spanish interpretation will be provided.

Register here: https://unesco-org.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0kcuitrD4vGNNKdYt3tvuShdYXBW8hib1K

Blog
  • 11.11.2021

The Futures of Teaching - Rethinking teachers’ role in the renewal of education

Author: Inés Dussel* was one of the contributors to the flagship UNESCO report, "Reimagining our futures together: a new social contract for education" launched yesterday and author of a TTF background paper on The Futures of Teaching”.

In 2021, humanity is at a critical inflection point. Facing enormous challenges – the climate crisis, radical technological change, democratic instability, the automation of work, and gigantic population shifts – we need, urgently, to create futures that are unlike our pasts. Teachers have a key role to play in this essential effort.

The Futures of Education initiative, launched by UNESCO in November 2019, proposes a new social contract in which education is viewed as a public and common good, which nurtures hope, imagination and action for a common future. The initiative seeks to mobilize ideas and action towards an educational change that can respond to the world’s enormous challenges.

Since the initiative’s launch, the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the need for change. School closures and the accompanying rush towards remote education have shown that inequality of resources, infrastructure and outcomes persists. They have also given rise to a reconsideration of teachers’ role in fostering student learning and well-being.

As the pandemic has illustrated, conversations about the futures of teaching tend to focus on technological change, but there is much more to teaching than digital transformation. Teaching demands knowledge, competence, care and sensibility. Teachers are central to the mission of education to promote intellectual and affective autonomy, and to make common knowledge public and available to all.

Therefore, the new social contract must centre on teachers. In doing so, it must account for the paradoxes and challenges that teachers face as specialized agents. Teaching is not simply an individualistic endeavour depending solely on personal strengths or weaknesses; it is a heavily contextualized practice, institutionally defined and regulated. These rules and definitions are not consistent: current educational contexts make conflicting demands of teachers, which could impact on teaching’s potential futures. So, conversations about the futures of teaching need to avoid idealized and voluntaristic ideals of teaching and should instead focus on concrete working conditions, institutional support networks, pedagogical demands, and necessary competences and knowledge.

The clash between conflicting requirements cannot be resolved by individual teachers, nor can it be bridged solely by improving teaching strategies or promoting digital inclusivity. It must be addressed institutionally and through public policies that set regulations to protect and care for a common future.

The think piece, The futures of teaching, discusses some of the paradoxes and conflicting demands teachers face:

  • Inclusive educational policies may be insufficiently supported and rely excessively on individual teachers’ actions and responsibility.
  • Openness to the involvement of communities and families in teaching can give rise to different and even incompatible priorities.
  • New educational ideals such as student-centred pedagogies cannot always be accommodated in current working conditions.
  • An increase in regulations, along with new pedagogical frameworks, may overburden teachers by placing too many demands on performance.
  • Digital transformation opens up new possibilities but also involves new risks, such as the massive delegation and reduction of knowledge into gigantic platforms that manage data.
  • The ecological crisis necessitates promoting a collective consciousness of the planet that actively cares for the diversity of life, but policies aim to maintain business as usual.
  • In all these tensions and demands, the gendered nature of teachers’ work needs to be taken into account, since it affects the organization of work time, tasks and burdens.

It is not a surprise that in many countries there is an increasing shortage of teachers and in others there is a growing sense of burnout and disenchantment with the teaching profession.  On the other hand, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the relevance of teachers’ work and the need for expert guidance to support students’ learnings and well-being.

What can be done, then, to foster the role of teachers as central educational agents in the renewal of education? Here are some recommendations for policy-makers and stakeholders that should be implemented urgently, in order to help teachers to become a leading force in the renewal of education:

  1. An open social dialogue must be promoted to develop cooperative solutions to the complex issues that are at stake in the futures of teaching.
  2. Working conditions for teachers must be improved, not only by paying teachers appropriately, but also by ensuring adequate class sizes, school safety, symbolic recognition and legitimacy, and institutional support. 
  3. Consistent policy and institutional responses must be developed to organize collective networks to tackle complex pedagogical issues.
  4. Better balance is needed between administrative and pedagogical requirements, including by accounting for unpaid work outside school settings such as engagement with communities.
  5. Teachers’ labour statutes and workloads should be thoroughly reviewed, in a gender-sensitive way, to align them with new educational goals and to expand the diversity of the teaching profession.
  6. Competence, training and engagement with school programmes, including mentoring novice teachers, leading subject areas or cycles, and organizing educational services, should all be taken into account in the design of teachers’ career paths.
  7. To enhance recruitment, policies should target novice teachers through establishing induction programmes with more experienced colleagues. Policies should also provide assistance for mid-career teachers who have become disenchanted with their work.
  8. Teacher education needs to be rethought to address the challenges and disruptions pointed out by UNESCO’s Futures of Education Initiative. Curricula should include new and increasingly salient topics and realities such as environmental change and activism, democratic and ethical education, gender equality and diversity, digital critical skills and epistemic and intergenerational dialogues about our common futures. Methods should include clinical approaches and seek to anticipate real contexts of practice.
  9. Teacher education can no longer underestimate the relevance of digital culture; without diminishing the role of the teacher, digital media needs to be included not only as a means for distance training but also as a topic for study.

Finally, the effort to imagine the futures of teaching should be used to open up public conversations about the expectations and realities of teaching – about the anxieties and fears that teachers experience, but also about the potential for teaching to act as a source of hope and transformation. The futures of teaching should become part of broad social dialogues that foster teachers’ force and engagement in the renewal of education, and in the construction of better futures for all.


*Inés Dussel is Professor and Researcher at the Department of Educational Research, Center for Advanced Research and Studies (DIE-CINVESTAV), Mexico City.

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: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock.com 

Blog
  • 08.09.2021

Building research collaboration with teachers to shape the futures of education

Authors: JC Couture, Sam Sellar and Roar Grøttvik*.

This article is based on a background paper prepared for the Futures of Education Initiative.


Teachers can and should be at the centre of discussions about the futures of education and shaping educational responses to environmental threats, technological disruption and the ongoing pandemic. The pandemic has reminded us that we cannot expect the future to be a linear extension of the present. It has also left educators, parents and students grappling for alternatives to the corporate vision of digitalised and personalised learning, which fails to advance a wholistic vision of education.

The education futures currently promoted by some international organisations, in conjunction with corporate and philanthropic actors, offers up visions of a post-pandemic landscape “revolutionized” by innovative technologies and the reconceptualization of schooling. These visions also represent the teaching profession as anachronistic and an obstacle to change. While the disruption triggered by the pandemic provides a catalyst for fundamental change, we need to move beyond questions of technological disruption to broaden conversations about educational futures, and to include not only teachers but also students, families and communities. The critical question is how to democratize the way we imagine and prepare for the future (Urry, 2016: 2-13).

Teachers re-shaping the conversations around their future

In our recent background paper for the UNESCO Futures of Education initiative, we ask whether new forms of collaboration between teacher organisations and academic researchers can help the teaching profession to shape the futures of education. We argue that futures studies need the teaching profession and teacher organizations need futures thinking.

Teacher organizations have to balance short-term tactics with long-term strategy. On the one hand, teachers are often directly or indirectly dealing with ‘big picture’ questions about how education can address societal and environmental problems. At the same time, these organizations have to find pragmatic solutions in an effort to improve the increasingly difficult working conditions that teachers face globally.

Teacher organisations need to sustain their tactical work of resistance and cooperation in response to the immediate horizon of what Sohail Inayatullah (2013) calls predicted futures. At the same time, these organisations must also develop critical and participatory futures thinking that produces new possibilities for renewal and professional leadership by supporting members to envision alternative futures (Inayatullah, 2013).

Teacher organizations can move towards “futures-making” research while continuing to protect members’ interests by drawing on support from “critical friends” in academia. Teachers already produce and shape knowledge in their professional lives, but both teacher organizations and academics can benefit from collaborations that focus on the futures of the profession. There are many successful examples of academics working with teacher organizations to produce research-driven visions of educational change.

Unions, academics and policymakers working together: the Norway-Canada Partnership

The Union of Education Norway (UEN) is one example of a teacher organisation that has become a co-creator of alternative futures of education. This involved developing a more strategic approach to research: a long-term commitment to rethinking and repositioning UEN’s capacity for knowledge production through publication of its research strategy paper and working with new partners.

Two of the prioritized areas of the UEN research strategy were Democracy and formation (Bildung) and Subjects, subject areas and learning processes. Based on these aims, and following a year-long set of negotiations, the Norway-Canada Partnership (NORCAN) project was launched in Banff, Alberta, in 2015. NORCAN was a joint research effort by the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the Ontario Teachers’ Federation and the UEN, with the Ministry of Education in Ontario. NORCAN brought together a network of nine schools and created opportunities for teachers, school leaders, students and academics to collaboratively undertake “futures-making” research “by rethinking the meaning of success in mathematics in our schools” (Stiles, 2019).

Concerns about mathematics performance in Norway and Canada had spurred the growth of a culture of accountability and testing. In this context, the senior union leaders participating in NORCAN felt they had to protect the professional autonomy of teachers. This involved countering the idea that the teachers themselves were unable to innovate and lead educational change. As NORCAN’s work unfolded, a concern for pragmatic educational development quickly shifted to critical and participatory futures thinking.

Towards new partnerships to define the futures of teaching

The global pandemic has amplified forces that could potentially weaken public education. The teaching profession must continue to ensure that its voice is heard in any reform process, while joining with the communities it serves to democratize education futures. We need new alliances such as the Education Futures Partnership, which is driven by the question of what kind of educational futures we want, and why.

Collaborative, participatory futures-making should be prioritized as both teacher organizations and the academic community respond to ongoing disruptions. We must work together to ensure that future visions of education remain strongly grounded in the idea of education as a public good. In partnership we can meet the challenge issued by Hannah Arendt, when she proclaimed that “education is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, not to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world” (1993: 180).

 

References

Arendt, H. (1993), Between Past and Future, New York, Penguin Books.

Inayatullah, S. (2013), Futures Studies: Theories and Methods, pp. 36-66.

Stiles, P.J. (2019), Disrupting School Leadership-A Leadership of Disruption, PhD Dissertation,     University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. 

Urry, J. (2016), What is the Future? Cambridge, Polity Press.


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.

Credit: Photo credit: Taichung ANL/Flickr.com


*Dr J-C Couture is currently adjunct instructor with the Faculty of Education, University of Alberta and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Dr Sam Sellar is Reader in Education Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University and lead editor of Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education.

Roar Grøttvik is a political adviser with the Union of Education Norway and Chair of the Education International Research Institute Board.

Event
  • 10.05.2021

The 4th Educational Forum: Future of Education, Innovation, and creativity

The forum aims to: 

  • Introducing recent trends in education and the future of education 
  • Introducing the great changes in teaching and learning processes of the future 
  • Discussing the impact of technology on the future education. 
  • Presenting international experiences about future education. 
  • Defining  role of principal as a leader and teacher's role in future education and what are the competencies that must be provided. 
  • Identify future education environments. 
  • Defining  the role of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship in education 

Consult the detailed programme.

Registration link.   

 

Event
  • 23.03.2021

Futures of Teaching – Conversation between teachers and experts from the Arab States and the International Commission on the Futures of Education

WATCH THE RECORDING IN ENGLISH, FRENCH AND ARABIC

Join this unique dialogue on the futures of teaching in the Arab States and beyond, organized by the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, in collaboration with Hamdan Foundation and the Futures of Education initiative.

The unprecedented disruption to schools caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting over 63 million teachers worldwide, has shone the spotlight on the challenges of educational systems preparedness to adapt rapidly to changing demands. With sudden switch to distance learning, teachers found themselves in unconventional settings that require more than digitized curricula and adaptive teaching methods and tools. The pandemic has further reinforced the need to ensure continuous teacher professional development, psychological support and socioemotional learning, a reinforcement of teacher's rights and working conditions, as well as ongoing research and assessment of rapidly changing teaching and learning.

The 90-minute consultation will provide a space for dialogue, between members of the International Commission on the Futures of Education and teachers and lead experts from the region and beyond. 

Panellists will include:

  • Antonio Novoa, Ambassador of Portugal to UNESCO and a member of the International Commission - Futures of Education initiative
  • Carlos Vargas Tamez, Head of the Secretariat for the International Task force on Teachers for Education 2030 and Teacher Development Section, UNESCO
  • Christine Safwat, Executive Director of Educate Me Foundation, Egypt
  • Elisa Guerra, Founder of Colegio Valle de Filadelfia, Mexico and a member of the International Commission - Futures of Education initiative      
  • Hilmi Hamdan, Educational expert and trainer at the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, Palestine
  • Malak Zaalouk, Director at the Middle East Institute for Higher Education at the American University in Cairo, Egypt

  • Najwa Al Hosani, Acting Dean, College of Education, United Arab Emirates University, United Arab Emirates
  • Sobhi Tawil, Director of the Futures of Education initiative, UNESCO

The outcomes will be summarized in a report to be submitted to the Futures of Education Initiative, feeding into the final report to be released in November 2021.

The event will offer simultaneous interpretation in English, French and Arabic and is open to all.

Consult the concept note and the detailed programme with the speakers' bios.

Register here.