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.
What we learned from the first phase of the Survey of teachers in pre-primary education (STEPP) project
Research shows that teachers and educators are the cornerstone of quality early childhood care and education (ECCE). Good teacher training and support, recognition and working conditions are proven to have positive impact on their capacity, motivation and practice with young children, and therefore constitute a critical policy issue.
The recently released UNESCO report Survey of teachers in pre-primary education (STEPP): lessons from the implementation of the pilot study and field trial of international survey instruments documents the achievements and lessons learned from the first phase of the STEPP project.
STEPP is a first international survey for low- and middle-income countries, aligned with the OECD Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) targeting higher income countries. Launched in 2016, STEPP is an OECD-UNESCO joint initiative that supports the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 4.2 on early childhood care and education (ECCE). The project has benefited from funding support from the Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation for Distinguished Academic Performance.
The survey collects data and information from teachers, educators and directors working in ECCE centres regarding the training, learning environment, pedagogical and professional practices and working conditions. It seeks to generate a better understanding of the situations and needs of pre-primary education personnel and to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement, which will inform policy discussions and measures to strengthen the quality of pre-primary teachers’ work.
This publication presents the achievements and lessons learned from the first phase of the STEPP project during which the STEPP instruments were developed and tested through the Pilot Study and Field Trial. It highlights the experiences of the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Indonesia, Namibia, the Philippines, Togo and Viet Nam in participating in every step of the instrument development, made possible through an effective mobilization of country expertise and resources. The knowledge and experience gained through this phase of the project acts as a building block, generating positive outcomes and constructive commentary that will feed into the design and methodology for the main survey, to be implemented in the second phase of the project.
Quality ECCE personnel is key to building strong foundations for lifelong learning in young children. UNESCO invites all partners to join efforts in increasing investments in strengthening the training and support for these critical professionals.
This blog draws substantially from the recent open-access article School Testing Culture and Teacher Satisfaction by William C. Smith & Jessica Holloway, published in Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Accountability.
In many parts of the world, teachers are held responsible for their students’ test scores. Why does this practice harm teacher morale to such an extent? New research suggests that the answer lies partly in the way test scores are used in teacher appraisals – and points to the dangers of this pervasive practice.
Teachers are subject to increased scrutiny and often the first to be blamed for educational shortcomings. Testing for accountability, where educators are held accountable for student test scores, has spread from the United States and the United Kingdom around the globe. In Portugal and Chile, for example, teachers’ salaries are linked to test scores.
Past research highlights that such practices are harmful to teacher satisfaction. High-stakes, test-based accountability has decreased teacher morale, as well as increased work-related pressure and personal stress. In the United Kingdom, for example, teachers in high-stakes environments have described their disappointment when they realize “the reality of teaching being worse than expected, and the nature (rather than the quantity) of the workload”.
How do such systems lead to teacher dissatisfaction? The way teacher appraisals are used and communicated can help explain the relationship. Teacher appraisals, and the feedback teachers receive from such evaluations, are an important part of that environment and can influence how teachers feel about themselves and their work. Nearly all teachers across 33 countries reported teaching in systems where student tests scores were used in their appraisals as part of a high stakes decision.
The increased use of high-stakes testing to hold teachers accountable reflects what some have called a global testing culture. In a testing culture, student test scores are understood to accurately represent student learning and teachers are expected to do everything in their power to improve test scores for their students and school. Those that fail to fall in line with such a culture can be stigmatized for not being a team player or blamed for not sufficiently preparing students for tests.
Data from 33 countries that participated in the OECD’s 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) sheds light on the direct and indirect influence of school testing culture on teacher satisfaction.
There is strong evidence that school testing cultures directly damage teacher satisfaction. They can also cause damage indirectly through the appraisals that teachers receive from principals. How test scores are emphasized in appraisals and the perceived utility of appraisal feedback can shape teachers’ responses to such feedback.
Working within a school testing culture appears to be the norm for most teachers: 97% work under a teacher appraisal system that is based, at least in part, on student test scores. The majority work for a principal who reports taking clear action so that teachers know they are responsible for their students’ outcomes.
More intense school testing cultures weaken potential benefits of teacher appraisals by increasing the emphasis on test scores in appraisal feedback. This not only leads teachers to see the feedback as less useful but also causes such feedback to lower teacher satisfaction.
In combination, the direct and indirect influences of the school testing culture considerably reduce teachers’ satisfaction. Statistically, the effect can be seen with teachers who work in a school that uses student test scores as part of teacher appraisals and whose principals very often take action to ensure teachers know they are responsible for student outcomes. These teachers report satisfaction levels 0.35 standard deviations lower than those of teachers where student test scores are not incorporated in appraisals and principals never or rarely take action.
Teacher appraisals do not in themselves harm teacher satisfaction. Instead, it is the “pervasiveness of the testing culture, and the overemphasis on student test scores in teacher appraisals that have a profoundly negative effect on teachers and their practice”. School leaders and policymakers must carefully consider how the use of student test scores as an accountability practice shapes the wellbeing of teachers – the people most essential in delivering education.
William C. Smith is a Senior Lecturer in Education and International Development and Academic Lead for the Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF at the University of Edinburgh. Prior to his position at the University of Edinburgh, he worked as a Senior Policy Analyst at UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report. William’s research focuses on barriers to education for the most marginalized, including how student test scores have shaped educational policy, perspectives, and practice.
The value of teachers was thrown into the spotlight this year. From the United Kingdom to Mexico, teachers have responded to 2020’s COVID-19 crisis by (often quite literally) going the extra mile. However, though the pandemic has shown us teachers’ strengths, it has also exposed weaknesses in the education systems that support them. This is why we’re taking stock of all the lessons of 2020 and using them as the foundation of the 6 key points in the "Call for Action" that will help us better support teachers in 2021.
1. Preserve employment and wages
COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions have led to real economic hardship. In education, this has particularly wounded teachers on temporary contracts, who can’t rely on a guaranteed income. The temptation for governments is to save by cutting teachers’ salaries. This is the last thing they should do. As we investigated earlier this year, good salaries help attract the very best recruits, keep experienced teachers in the profession, and encourage societies to see the true worth of teaching. Some countries recognise this and have already taken action: in October, Nigeria’s President Buhari acted to ‘revitalise and reposition’ the teaching profession with a surprise salary increase.
It’s time to pay teachers what they deserve. Here’s how a salary increase can improve education for everyone involved.#LearningNeverStops #SupportTeachers @IIEP_UNESCO @OECDEduSkills https://t.co/Bd96L7WoKf pic.twitter.com/bCmZnN5X5N— Teacher Task Force (@TeachersFor2030) November 6, 2020
2. Prioritise teachers’ and learners’ health, safety and well-being
The move to remote learning hasn’t shielded all teachers from harm. Many are still travelling to meet students without internet access and those who find it difficult to learn without close support. These changes can come at a cost to their mental and physical health. Some countries are providing teachers with psycho-social support during this crisis, for instance in Côte d’Ivoire, where the Education Ministry is helping to prepare teachers for their return to classrooms.
There are several simple things education authorities can do to lessen the pressure on teachers: streamline the admin they have to complete; allow more flexibility in student assessment; create peer support groups. But above all, they must simply begin by recognising the extreme stress their teachers are under. Watch this video to learn more:
Tragically, COVID-19 isn’t the only threat teachers have faced this year. TFF has covered the violence faced by many teachers, schools and pupils; from Paris to Kabul, many teachers live and work under the constant threat of attack.The recent kidnapping of 300 Nigerian schoolboys by Boko Haram demonstrates the persistence of this threat, and it shows no signs of abating.
So although the prospect of a COVID-19 vaccine promises to protect teachers from the enemy we can’t see, more must be done to protect them from the enemy we can.
3. Include teachers in developing COVID-19 education responses
As they’ve shown repeatedly this year, teachers know their schools and students better than anyone. They have shown leadership and deserve to have their voices heard. That’s why we joined with partners to support social dialogue between governments and teacher unions in a selection of African Countries – one of many discussions we held around the world to mark World Teachers’ Day. Together, we committed to a set of principles that would ensure that future education planning is collaborative, consensual, and geared towards the equitable provision of quality education.
4. Provide adequate professional support and training
Barbados has been training teachers in the ICT skills they need to create engaging online lessons. To inspire other countries to support their teachers in adapting to the new COVID-19 reality, we created this back-to-school toolkit for school leaders and this guide for policy-makers to ensure that teachers are supported as schools reopen safely.
These documents, and other useful materials, can now be found in our Knowledge Hub.
It’s not just the challenges of COVID-19 that teachers need support and training to overcome. There is also a need for general training on issues like inclusivity. Take a look at this video for more information:
Every child has the right to quality education and every teacher has the right to quality training 🎓 That's why we’ve joined with @GEMReport to call for inclusion to be at the heart of teacher development.#SupportTeachers #AllmeansAll https://t.co/1ZjvlqX76A pic.twitter.com/8hmFe60Nvs— Teacher Task Force (@TeachersFor2030) December 9, 2020
5. Put equity at the heart of education responses
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the worst inequalities in our social systems, injustices that were here before COVID-19. On top of the various aforementioned investments, there are two ways in which we can move towards equity in education right now: focusing on reducing the digital divide and providing more support and encouragement to female teachers.
The efforts of countries like China are encouraging. The nation has worked to ensure that children in rural areas have adequate internet access while studying remotely, so that they don’t fall behind peers from urban areas. We look forward to other countries leading similar initiatives in 2021.
6. Include teachers in aid responses
In many of the world’s poorer countries, funding is urgently needed to ensure that there are enough resources available (digital or otherwise) for teachers to keep themselves and their students learning. Over the next few years, the students who will ultimately benefit from this aid will be the backbone of their nations’ economic and social recoveries. Put simply, this would be money well spent.
Next year, the Teacher Task Force will be calling on all partners to invest in teachers.
Private, NGO, religious and community schools: How do ‘non-state actors’ affect teaching and teachers?
Around the world, education is provided not only by governments but also by local associations, non-government organizations, religious bodies, private enterprise and other “non-state actors”. How do these groups affect access to education, quality of provision and teaching and learning conditions? Moreover, how well do governments regulate non-state actors?
These questions will be at the heart of the next edition of the international community’s major annual education report, the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report. Teachers and teaching are central to the report’s theme, so the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 hosted an online consultation meeting on 30 November 2020 to discuss the theme, in collaboration with the GEM Report team and Education International.
Eighty-six people joined the meeting, including teachers, school leaders and representatives of teacher unions and international and regional organisations, working to support teacher policy development. The meeting was chaired by Borhene Chakroun, Director, Division for Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems, UNESCO, and Dennis Sinyolo, Senior Coordinator, Education International.
Borhene Chakroun highlighted the influence of non-state actors in the teaching profession and the way COVID-19 had demonstrated the importance of involving teachers in the policy process. Dennis Sinyolo welcomed the 2021/22 GEM Report on non-state actors as an opportunity to reaffirm the critical role of teachers and their representatives. He also underlined that education is a fundamental right and that non-state actors should contribute to strengthening and complementing public education systems, but not to replace them.
Every year the GEM Report assesses the world’s progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 (“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”) as well as its related targets and the Education 2030 Agenda more broadly.
The Teacher Task Force consultation meeting broke into four in-depth group discussions that reflected the types of non-state education activity that the 2021 GEM Report will be examining: working conditions in non-state schools; governance and regulations; influence (social dialogue and education technology); and teacher professional development.
Working conditions in non-state schools: Mind the gap
The session on working conditions in non-state schools looked at questions such as: What working conditions and salary levels are offered to teachers in private and community schools run by non-state actors? How are private sector innovations such as mobile payments improving or worsening working conditions?
Participants highlighted the gaps between state and non-state schools in terms of salaries and other contractual benefits. In Uganda, for example, private school teachers are paid 40% less than public school teachers. Differences in workload (class size, additional support), working environment (school infrastructure, materials, autonomy, support, access to technology) and working conditions were also mentioned.
There was agreement that COVID-19 had exacerbated existing challenges – in Italy, for example, some teachers lost 40% of their income due to the pandemic – and that there is a need to provide abundant support to all teachers, to ensure they are qualified and motivated in their work. The session recommended that teachers and head teachers receive better support; that regulations exist to ensure health and safety at school that the fundamental right to education is protected.
Governance, regulations and private tutoring: A need for monitoring
The discussion on governance, regulations and private supplementary tutoring weighed questions such as: How do governments regulate the qualification and certification of teachers to ensure the quality of education in non-state schools? How does this affect teacher recruitment? What are the implications for the growth of private tutoring conducted by teachers and other actors?
One key question was if government regulations and accountability mechanisms for the teaching profession within the non-state education sector are achieving their aim. The group agreed that there are not enough monitoring mechanisms to verify how teachers are protected, and this should be a key responsibility of governments. Many teachers in private schools were greatly affected during the COVID-19 pandemic as private schools are not regulated by state actors and often stopped payment of salaries.
Weighing the influence of social dialogue and education technology
The discussion on the influence on education of unions and other non-state groups examined questions such as: How do education unions contribute to the achievement of SDG 4? What is the influence on education policy of non-state actors, the private sector, development agencies and education technology?
Non-state groups have brought many innovative approaches to schools, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. But there is a risk that these approaches may become long-term after the crisis without having been negotiated as part of formal curriculum reform. Teachers’ role in implementing innovations is critical, as they have important experience of what happens when policy is implemented.
Education technology has been essential during lockdowns. Education technology facilitates 1-to-1 interaction and there are many advantages of online collaboration spaces. If access to technology is limited, however, gaps in equality can widen. In addition, technology has upset the work-life balance for teachers, sometimes requiring them to be available 24/7 and doubling their workload, online and on paper. Teachers need support and training on how to be leaders online.
COVID-19 has shown the importance of involving teachers and unions in policy dialogue. Many consultations and collaborative work have been established through webinars. For example, Zambia has worked with the teachers’ union to help improve the conditions of service for teachers in private schools. Private school teachers which are not covered by main public sector unions have made attempts to reinforce their position by developing private sector teachers’ unions including in Togo (i.e. SYNEP-Togo).
The session recommended that policy be contextualized, not only on a country level but also more locally, even at school level; that public universities and public actors participate in the design of technology platforms; that governments create mechanisms to enhance dialogue between all stakeholders, promote online consultation with non-state actor and involve teachers’ unions in conversations with ministries.
Teachers’ professional development: sharing opportunities
The session on teachers’ professional development looked at the role of private non-state actors in pre-service teacher training and continuous professional development. Certification standards, effectiveness of training, monitoring and teachers’ qualifications all came under scrutiny, along with whether COVID-19 has changed the role of non-state actors in teacher training.
The group examined the roles of non-state actors in providing initial and in-service teacher training, including research, funding solutions, provision of experts, delivery of training methods and materials, and targeted teacher professional development based on specialized areas.
Participants called on the GEM Report to look at how fairly professional development opportunities were distributed among teachers in urban and rural areas, and rich and poor neighborhoods. It was emphasized that teacher education is the role of the state and that non-state actors can fill the gaps left by state actors cooperatively but not competitively.
It was noted that COVID-19 gave non-state actors an opportunity to respond to the needs of teachers and learners in different areas, including as teacher trainers. In many cases this transformation has empowered teachers with online teaching techniques and strategies, as the representative from the Ministry of Education of Jamaica highlighted. This impact was felt mainly in well-resourced urban areas, however, leaving rural and poor areas behind. Since equity concerns are universal, this remains an issue not just for the global south but also for high-income countries. Furthermore, beyond a profit orientation, private sector educational technology may also shape the type of learning that is valued and thus narrow pedagogy, ignoring the social aspects of teaching and learning.
The session recommended that the GEM report should examine the role of non-state actors in enhancing standards of quality for both pre-service teacher education and in-service training within a common framework, while also introducing flexible approaches. Moreover, the report should address how continuous professional development and training should be connected to the new skills required in remote and distance teaching; and that teachers with ICT skills be encouraged to mentor other teachers. Additionally, the growth of shadow tutoring system during COVID-19 was identified as a further area for examination.
All participants in the consultation meeting agreed that equity and inclusion – giving every child, from every background, a fair chance of a quality education – must remain at the heart of the discussion about the role of non-state actors in helping to achieve SDG 4. There was general agreement that the COVID-19 pandemic and measures to contain it had amplified existing challenges and inequalities. For teachers, especially, the greatest effects have been the strain that the pandemic has placed on working conditions and the balance between personal and work life.
Photo image: https://en.unesco.org/gem-report/non-state_actors with the photo by Hugo Infante.