This interview was originally published by the UNESCO International Institute for Education Planning on 23 January 2023 prior to the International Day of Education.
17 goals and seven years left until the world reaches the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals for the people, planet, and prosperity. With the clock ticking, education must be prioritized to accelerate progress toward all the SDGs, especially amid growing inequalities and fast-evolving challenges.
On the International Day of Education, IIEP-UNESCO caught up with educational planners and decision-makers, to hear what is on their radar as the race to 2030 continues. Their testimonies also launch a year-long celebration of IIEP’s 60th anniversary and an opportunity to reflect on the future of planning education and learning for all.
Hailing from the Caribbean Island of Montserrat, Hyacinth Bramble-Browne is the Vice Principal of the nation’s sole Secondary School. She is also an educational planner and was the president of IIEP-UNESCO’s Trainees’ Association while she pursued a year-long training programme at the Institute in 2015-2016. She shares her vision of this important day for education.
International Day of Education matters to me because it serves as a scheduled time not only for me, locally – but all educators – to zoom in on the issues facing education while searching for solutions. This day ensures that we plan, and hold discussions aimed at finding solutions and at sharing good practices with our stakeholders while at the same time listening to what is taking place regionally and internationally. Hopefully, we will learn from the best practices shared and make positive in-roads in meeting the 2030 Education goals.
In my current role, I need to make sure that secondary education meets the needs of all students, and that we add value to each child. In Montserrat, our education system is inclusive and universal. All students come and there are no school fees for attending the public primary and the lone public secondary school. This means that as a leader, I must provide support for teachers to ensure that they feel confident and are equipped to deliver not only subject content but morale and social values to equip our students to fit readily into the world of work and to function effectively in higher education.
The world needs to invest in education because quality education pays value to each country. Research indicates that increasing the quality and standard of education in a nation increases its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Even without that, an increase in education will have spill-offs in health, and other social sectors resulting in a higher standard of living for all. If we do not choose to spend the required funds on providing a quality education system fit for purpose, then we will find that we will need to spend the money on other social sectors like health, social services, housing, prisons, and so on.
Read all the interviews conducted by IIEP-UNESCO on what “Invest in people, prioritize education” means for planners and decision-makers here.
Photo credit: Hyacinth Bramble-Browne
Caption: Hyacinth Bramble-Browne Vice Principal of the nation’s sole Secondary School in her office.
During the Transforming Education pre-Summit at UNESCO HQ, in Paris, join us for a panel discussion which will explore a new global initiative to support the transformation of teaching by means of participatory policymaking and teacher professional development. It will examine what works and what needs to happen to support comprehensive policy development and implementation, including financing.
The transformation of education requires an empowered education workforce which are professionalised, trained, motivated and supported. This entails having an adequate number of qualified teachers who are provided with quality initial training and continuous professional development throughout their careers; the improved status and working conditions of teaching personnel, including the recognition of their leadership and potential for innovation.
This ambition will not be realized without comprehensive teacher policies which are developed with teachers and their representative organizations, which are fully costed and part of education sector plans.
Speakers: representatives of Ministries of Education, representatives of Nigeria, Romania and South Africa, as well as the ILO, the World Bank, Education International, UNESCO and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030.
Consult the full pre-TES programme here: https://transformingeducationsummit.sdg4education2030.org/TESPreSummitProgramme
To mark the global celebrations for World Teachers’ Day, ActionAid, UNESCO, the Teacher Task Force and Education International are collaborating to organize a 90-minute webinar, Financing teachers and teaching in the post pandemic recovery on the 8th October 2021 at 9:00-10:30 GMT to highlight:
- The importance of safeguarding financing to education and investing in teachers and the education workforce
- Strategies and measures governments can take to ensure adequate financial allocations are made to ensure enough teachers are recruited, deployed, remunerated and supported
- Ways teachers themselves can play a more active role in the decision-making process at national/decentralized levels
The webinar will bring together civil society representatives teachers/teacher union members and government representatives, to discuss and debate issues based on existing and emerging research evidence.
Speakers include representatives from:
- Action Aid
- Nigerian Teachers Union
- Ministry officials from Burkina Faso, Malawi and Nepal
- TaxEd Alliance
- Education International
With closing remarks from UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, Stefania Giannini.
Please register here.
Photo credit: © European Union, 2021 (photographer: Olympia de Maismont).
Ensuring inclusion and equity in teacher policies and practices: A sustainable strategy for post-pandemic recovery
The Global Education Summit in July raised a record US$4 billion, which will help 175 million children learn. This stunning effort shows what is possible when governments work with the UN and other intergovernmental organizations, alongside development agencies and organizations from civil society and the private sector. Such cooperation will help us achieve the common objective envisaged in the fourth Sustainable Development Goal: ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Education that includes everyone and gives everyone a fair chance of learning is not possible without ensuring that everyone has access to quality teachers. It is crucial to implement policies and practices that promote inclusion and equity for teachers in every educational context, considering gender, socio-economic status, location, ability, and other factors that can lead to exclusion.
Ensuring that everyone has access to quality teachers requires significant levels of investment, especially in least developed countries and small island developing states. To ensure quality education for all by 2030, Sub-Saharan Africa – the region with the highest concentration of least developed countries – will need to recruit and prepare 15 million teachers.
Providing access to quality teachers for all requires:
- closing the gaps in teacher numbers, qualifications, gender, and connectivity in sub-Saharan Africa. The proportion of qualified teachers in the region has steadily declined since 2000 at both primary and secondary levels. Female teachers play a pivotal role in encouraging girls’ enrolment, but less than 50% of primary teachers and 30% of secondary teachers are female. Lack of infrastructure and Internet connectivity were exposed during COVID-19 school closures when they posed an immense barrier to distance and hybrid teaching.
- holistic and inclusive policy dialogue that genuinely involves teachers, during the development, implementation and assessment of teaching policies and practices that promote fair opportunities for all teachers.
- innovations in recruitment, as current approaches are failing to close teacher gaps. New approaches should focus on creating new pathways into teaching for people from groups underserved and underrepresented in teacher workforces. Establishing such pathways will help to close not only the numbers gap but also demographic gaps, for example by positioning local role models from local communities who use local dialects in hard-to-staff classrooms across the globe.
- quality professional development for all to increase levels of teacher retention. If we are to “retain the trained” we need to support countries along every stage of their journey in designing, implementing and evaluating high-quality and effective teacher professional development programmes and systems. If we fail to “retain the trained” by 2030 we will have failed to heed the warnings by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics in 2014 that by 2030, 89% (24 million teachers) of the teacher gap will be caused by attrition.
Helping 175 million children learn moves us closer to the shared vision expressed in SDG4. The international education community will be able to maintain the momentum created by the Global Education Summit – and help to ensure quality teachers for all – at the 13th Policy Dialogue Forum and governance meetings of the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, which will be held in Kigali, Rwanda, and online from December 1 to December 3, 2021. The meetings provide the ideal setting to come together again and invest in teachers now to ensure sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and prepare today’s learners for tomorrow.
Have your say in developing, implementing and assessing teaching policies
The Inclusion and Equity in Teacher Policies and Practices Thematic group is launching a series of online discussions – synchronous (September 2021) and asynchronous (October and November). The discussions are designed to allow you to get involved with shaping policies and practices that promote fair opportunities for all teachers. By sharing your knowledge, you can help bridge the growing gaps in teacher recruitment, preparation and deployment, which have been exacerbated by COVID-19.
Your engagement in this inclusive policy dialogue will ensure teachers and their representative organizations have a greater voice in policy-making processes. You can participate in these discussions at a time and place convenient to you, increasing the diversity of perspectives on how to provide pathways into teaching for the underserved, vulnerable and underrepresented (including migrants, people with disabilities, indigenous people, ethnic minorities and the poor), closing the teacher numbers gap across the globe.
Details of the first synchronous session on September 24 will be posted on the TTF website. If you are already a TTF member, please visit the TTF website and join the Inclusion and Equity in Teacher Policies and Practices thematic group in the Member Space before the event so you can receive information on TTF events. If you are not a TTF member, please contact the coordinators of the thematic group: Purna Shrestha at email@example.com or James O’meara at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: The teacher and her students in a Rwanda primary school. Credit: GPE
The COVID-19 crisis, with its lockdowns and school closures, shed light on the urgent needs of the education sector as well as the vital role of teachers. As governments scrambled to meet the pressing education needs of students, teachers and communities, it became clear that teachers not only are key to ensuring quality education but also are in dire need of greater support.
During the Global Education Summit: Financing the Global Education Partnership 2021-2025, held in London in late July 2021, the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 organized a side event, “The best investment – Supporting Teachers in COVID-19 recovery and beyond”. A panel of policy makers, teacher advocates and practitioners offered a wide range of perspectives on the needs of teachers as well as promising ways of enlisting funds and supporting teachers in a holistic way.
Supporting teachers and education: a question of political will
Political will is needed to place education at the top of the public investment agenda. Aminta Navarro of the Global Campaign for Education noted that governments need to realize that they must give priority to investing in education if they want to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. In the context of the current crisis and beyond, it should be a question not of allocating resources one way or another but of governments showing political resolve by deciding to spend on education.
The Peruvian government sought to display such political resolve during the COVID-19 crisis by enlarging its education budget and focusing on those who needed help the most. Peru’s then Minister of Education, Ricardo Cuenca, explained how his transitional government led a massive campaign to support rural teachers who serve disadvantaged communities during the crisis. Coming up with funds to support rural teachers during the crisis required being strategic. Dr. Cuenca noted that making concrete and detailed proposals to the Economics and Finance Ministry allowed the Education Ministry to augment the rural teacher budget allocation by 250%. This increment supported actions that included changing rules regarding teaching conditions and working hours, and allowing for more collaboration between teachers. It also enabled:
- training rural teachers in digital and specific distance-learning pedagogical skills;
- supplying teachers with tablets and Internet connections to enable them to work remotely;
- opening a line to provide teachers with socioemotional support as they confronted the crisis;
- putting into place a massive vaccination campaign for rural teachers.
Investing in teachers: meeting benchmarks and closing gaps
Citing the internationally agreed funding benchmark of spending 20% of the national budget on education, Dennis Sinyolo, Chief Regional Coordinator for Africa for Education International, called on governments to meet this benchmark and invest adequately in education and in teachers in particular. Aminta Navarro suggested that countries expand tax bases and modify national debt payments to assign more resources to education. As recognized in the fourth Sustainable Development Goal, teachers have a critical role in education and in the life of students and communities, and therefore must be the priority in education budgets.
Investing in teachers must go beyond teacher salaries and hiring. Comprehensive training, continuous support, a motivating environment as well as adequate resources are also key to ensuring that teachers can not only provide quality education but also remain motivated. All these elements must be costed into education budgets.
Rwanda has been investing heavily in holistic professional development and school leadership that considers teachers’ complex needs. The country’s Education Minister, Valentine Uwamariya, said her government acknowledges that high quality teacher and school leader training and engagement contributes directly to achieving the desired levels of student learning. Dr. Uwamariya detailed the efforts being made in Rwanda for pre-service and continuous professional development. Primary- and secondary-level programs support school-based peer learning, coaching, career guidance and counseling. Attention is given to fostering teachers’ well-being, providing special motivation incentives and promoting professional standards. There is also particular consideration to reviewing teaching methods, including those related to digital learning.
Many countries struggle to meet the needs of their teachers, despite dedicating a large portion of their education budget to their wages. Using the example of Sub-Saharan Africa, Carlos Vargas, Chief of UNESCO’s Section for Teacher Development and Head of the TTF’s Secretariat, pointed out that even though more than 90% of the education budget goes into teacher salaries in 13 out of the 28 countries reporting this indicator in the region, salaries remain low and teacher shortages are enormous and persistent. He explained that these shortages are the result of a combination of factors including poor working conditions, low salaries, and a lack of training and professional development. This illustrates well why a more holistic approach to supporting teachers, coupled with domestic and international funding, is crucial to closing the teacher gap.
To invest smartly in education, include teachers in policymaking
Dennis Sinyolo pointed out that involving teachers in policy making profoundly enhances the quality and relevance of educational policies. For this to happen, social dialogue is of critical importance, and it needs to be institutionalized and legislated. Teachers are more than just implementors of policy. They have an on-the-ground perspective that allows them to identify needs and help better budget them. That is why it is vital to include teachers and teacher unions from an early stage when making decisions about planning, monitoring, evaluation and implementation.
Involving teachers in policymaking requires viewing and treating teachers as professionals. However, the de-professionalization and casualization of teaching have become global trends, so governments need to boost teacher development by making more efforts to facilitate high-quality teacher education, both pre-service and in-service.
There is an urgent need to invest in teacher professionalization especially in rural areas
The lack of formal teacher training is most acute in rural areas. Babuo Abba, a refugee teacher from the Central African Republic who arrived in Chad in 2014, explained that in Chad’s rural areas most teaching is done by community teachers who lack formal credentials. This lack of training and certification often results in attrition, as community teachers leave teaching because they are not viewed as teaching professionals and therefore are not granted proper remuneration, work conditions, professional development, let alone get a say on educational policy. COVID-19 aggravated the situation of these teachers. Lacking formal status, they did not have access to the resources they needed during the crisis and were often not paid during school closures. This resulted in massive teacher attrition.
Teacher professionalization must be holistic and culturally relevant
Echoing Babuo Abba’s concerns, Cindy Leafland from the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of Suriname explained that, in her country, rural teachers often lack qualifications because they have less access to training than urban teachers. Moreover, rural students and teachers suffer because both curricula and assessments lack cultural relevance. While there is a need to strengthen national standards, these must allow for authentic learning experiences for teachers and learners in a variety of settings, and not just in urban contexts. To foster more holistic and context-sensitive teacher training, Leafland suggested different forms of mentoring and modeling that could take place between novice and more experienced teachers.
COVID-19 has challenged educational systems around the world, but as we learned from this panel discussion at the GPE summit, the pandemic has also provided an opportunity to reflect on what needs to be prioritized and, in some cases, a chance to leap into action. Investing in education is crucial not only to repair the losses brought about by the pandemic, but also to redirect efforts towards a more sustainable future. Investing in teachers in a holistic and context-sensitive manner is a crucial way of ensuring that future generations receive the education that they need in order to deal with an increasingly complex world.
Photo credit: Yoly Gutierrez/CIFOR, taken in Peru.