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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.

***

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

Declaration / Statement
  • pdf
  • 01.12.2022
  • FR  |  ES  |  AR

Youth declaration on transforming education

The Youth Declaration was presented as young people’s inputs to the Transforming Education Summit Chair Summary/Secretary-General’s Vision Statement. Its aim is to drive political commitment on the...
Blog
  • 08.08.2022

#TeachersTransform climate education: How the Climate Action Project became a global movement

A portable solar suitcase with a battery and solar panel, eco bricks, electricity from seawater, and 3D printed coral reefs… these are just a few of the innovative solutions imagined and implemented by teachers and learners through the Climate Action Project.

Belgian IT teacher, Koen Timmers, created the Climate Action Project in 2017. He envisioned it as a useful resource to help teachers incorporate climate change into their lesson plans. He didn’t expect it to become a global movement in just five years.

The project is helping to transform education and support teachers by creating a space for climate change and sustainable lifestyles in the curriculum. It also promotes a global outlook by encouraging dialogue and collaboration between learners in different countries.

Today, over 10 million learners from 107 countries have taken part in the six-week online course which has been endorsed by world-renowned conservationist Dr Jane Goodall, Amnesty International, Microsoft, WWF, NASA, UNESCO, the UN Environment Programme, and ministries of education across 16 countries.

Transformative teaching encourages learners to take action

“Climate change is something that’s affecting everyone, everywhere. I created the project so that students and teachers from all over the world could talk about this issue, learn from each other, and take action,” says Koen. And that, he believes, is the key to the project’s success.

“You can learn by reading a textbook, you can learn from a teacher, you can learn from a newspaper. But in all of those cases, you really only have one side of the story,” says Koen. “But when you are able to speak to someone living on another continent, and you realise you share passions (like football and sustainability), you build a relationship with them.”

Using technology to transform and expand teaching platforms

Koen’s passion has always been to help transform the field of education. “I wanted to work with people. I really love explaining stuff, and I wanted to do something that was relevant in society, so I became a teacher.”

Since 2016, Koen has been involved in helping to set up and equip a learning centre in the Kakuma refugee camp.  Through the facility, over 420 teachers from 75 countries around the world offer online lessons to the learners in the refugee camp. 

“Through these classes, learners from different countries are able to have meaningful conversations with the learners at Kakuma,” says Koen. “It helps all of the learners develop a global outlook and break down stereotypes.”  

It is this online interaction between learners from around the world that inspired Koen’s Climate Action Project.

Supporting the SDGs through the Climate Action Project

As well as being a useful teaching resource, Koen’s vision for the Climate Action Project was to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by giving teachers and learners a platform to help create positive change in the world.

“I wanted to make a way for students from all across the world to connect with each other, to share how climate change is affecting them, and to be empowered to create solutions.”

“I think what surprised me the most about the Climate Action Project is how different the stories are,” says Koen.

Participants in Ireland convinced the government to create a new logo for recyclable plastics while learners in India built a solar-powered car. In Malawi, students planted 60 million trees, in the US they built a portable solar-powered battery pack in a suitcase, and in Indonesia they developed their own ecobricks.

Koen and his partners also developed the EarthProject app which allows users to track their climate-friendly behaviour, such as avoiding red meat, buying a refurbished phone, and ride-sharing. It adds up the amount of carbon saved through these actions.

The app proves that incorporating something like the Climate Action Project into lessons is one of the ways we can transform education and achieve the SDGs.

“Students are not only learning about climate change. They are taking action, and coming up with sustainable solutions.”

Prioritising teachers and learners is key to transforming education

While Koen supports the use of technology as a teaching resource, he believes that nothing is more effective than a passionate, skilled teacher.

“We need to increase teacher salaries so that we can get the very best teachers back into the classroom. To be a successful person you have to know how to solve problems, filter fake news, and build relationships with people who are different to you. That’s how teachers can help their students build a global outlook. And that, in my opinion, is the future of education.”

***

       To join the Climate Action Project for free, register here: https://www.climate-action.info/user/register

       The Kakuma Project, as well as several other educational facilities in the refugee camp are supported through donations to the Kakuma NPO. Partners include Maggie, UNHCR and TAG. 

       The Climate Action Project is supported through Koen’s non-profit organisation, Take Action Global.

Learn more about the #TeachersTransform campaign as part of the Transforming Education Summit.

Photo credit: Koen Timmers

News
  • 28.07.2022

#TeachersTransform learning: Focus on experiential learning transforms girls’ interest in STEM subjects

How do you encourage more learners to choose STEM subjects at school? You develop project-based teaching and experiential learning, and you turn learning into an experience that delivers life skills instead of exam results.

This is the vision of Kavita Sanghvi, the principal of Chatrabhuj Narsee Memorial School in Mumbai, India. Throughout her 21-year teaching journey, Kavita has always loved the challenge of ‘discovery’, and now she’s passing this skill on to her learners through an innovative new experiential approach to teaching.

As an educator, one of Kavita’s main goals is to encourage more girls to take on STEM subjects and pursue careers in this field.

She identifies with some of the barriers that girls face when pursuing STEM subjects. “My parents were always very supportive. But traditionally, science subjects are only seen as useful if you’re going to be a doctor or an engineer. And there’s still a societal expectation that women will marry and raise a family, so spending money on further studies is seen as a ‘waste’.”

This is echoed in UNESCO’s Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics report released in 2017.

According to the report, factors that influence girls’ participation in STEM subjects include social, cultural and gender norms. “Girls are often brought up to believe that STEM are ‘masculine’ topics and that female ability in this field is innately inferior to that of males. This can undermine girls’ confidence, interest and willingness to engage in STEM subjects.”

And yet, Kavita pursued her passion for science and obtained her master’s degree in nuclear physics as well as a master’s degree in education. She is proof that STEM is not only for boys, and she's encouraging more girls to follow her lead.

Pioneering a new way of teaching to encourage girls to pursue STEM subjects

When Kavita became the principal of Chatrabhuj Narsee Memorial, one of the first things she noticed was that many learners, especially girls, were dropping STEM subjects. She also found that some of the top graduates from the school were struggling to cope at university.

“I realised that instead of exam results, the skills of collaboration, critical thinking, networking, and creativity were given more prominence in higher education. The trend is the same in business and industry. But these weren’t being taught through the traditional national curriculum.

“I knew we needed to transform the way we were doing things. And I proposed to the team that we rework and redesign the way we were teaching in grades 1-8.”

Turning STEM learning into an experience

Together with her team, Kavita transformed the way classes are taught in their school, calling it a “Global Outlook” approach. The focus is on experiential learning, and links every topic to one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“The transformative approach incorporates real-life scenarios like laundry day, washing dishes, and making soap. It’s all about experiential learning while instilling STEM skills,” says Kavita.

Experiential learning is a new model of education that is making its way into classrooms around the world. Studies show that it helps learners connect the material that they are studying to practical applications in the world around them.

And just four years down the line, the results are starting to show.

“Our students are entering interschools events and they’re winning prizes,” says Kavita proudly. “And we have made it onto the top 10 shortlist for World's Best School Prize for Innovation.”

Creating awareness of career opportunities

Kavita is passionate about promoting STEM subjects in her school, and encouraging girls to pursue careers in this field. “Every year, we invite universities to participate in our career fair. And we host an event called Hi-STEAM which combines history and STEM subjects into one.”

“Last year, the theme was Space and Beyond, and we hosted some female astronauts from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO),” says Kavita who uses the events as an opportunity to break down stereotypes. “This year, the theme is Gamification in STEM.” 

Kavita has found that her girl learners are motivated to take up STEM subjects thanks to the female role models who are invited to attend school career days and science fairs.

This is in line with UNESCO’s Cracking the code report, which found that mentors and role models can help encourage girls to pursue STEM subjects. According to the report, “The presence of female role models in STEM subjects can mitigate negative stereotypes about sex-based ability and offer girls an authentic understanding of STEM careers. Role models can also enhance girls’ and women’s self-perceptions and attitudes toward STEM, as well as their motivation to pursue STEM careers.”

The future of learning

Kavita believes that the experiential approach to teaching could be implemented in the classrooms of the future, as a way to transform education and help encourage more girls to take up STEM subjects.

“We’re moving away from a teacher-centred classroom to one where the learners are far more involved. As teachers, we need to empower them with resources and give them agency to express themselves.”

Kavita’s own vision of a classroom of the future incorporates spatial computing. “I see a curator leading the learners on a tour of the pyramids of Egypt, and we’re joined by another school from Europe. I see a space where we’re all connected, and collaborating virtually, with no boundaries. I believe that this is the future of STEM learning - that no matter where I am, I’m connected to everywhere around the world. This is true experiential learning.” 

Learn more about the #TeachersTransform campaign as part of the Transforming Education Summit.

Photo credit: Kavita Sanghvi

Event
  • 16.05.2022

Higher education teachers: reinventing the future of the profession

For more information and registration, see here.

This roundtable on higher education teachers is part of the World Higher Education Conference 2022, to be held in Barcelona on 18-20 May. The discussion will be led by UNESCO PLS and ILO focusing on the challenges of the teaching profession for reinventing higher education.

This 3rd World Higher Education Conference will bring together all relevant stakeholders to define and prepare their roadmap for a new era of higher education systems and institutions. This roadmap will be responsive to the challenges faced by humanity and the planet, as a result of diverse forms of crises, with special attention to the global disruption created by COVID-19. Furthermore, higher education must anticipate and prepare for its role in societies that goes beyond the next decade, inspired by the Futures of Education initiative, mentioned above.

It aims at breaking away from the traditional models of higher education and opening doors to new, innovative, creative, and visionary conceptions that not only serve current agendas for sustainable development, but also pave the way for future learning communities that overcome barriers, speak to all and are inclusive of all lifelong learners.

Blog
  • 24.01.2022

Teachers innovating for education transformation

To mark the 2022 International Day of Education, Linda Darling-Hammond* reflects on the challenges and opportunities for teachers brought about by the global pandemic.

The education systems of today are too often inherited from decades-old structures and procedures, born in the industrial era, which have not evolved to meet the educational needs of the 21st century. However, the disruptions caused by the global pandemic have created a wide range of opportunities to reinvent education by opening up new roles for teachers to recreate schools. The COVID-19 pandemic has also made clear the urgency of capitalizing on innovations that have emerged for creating child-centred approaches to foster 21st century education systems.

In many countries, schools are being reinvented under the leadership of teachers. During the pandemic, teachers joined hands to innovate and support each other during school closures - by exchanging technical assistance in using new technologies, curating resources, using digital platforms, and developing innovative pedagogies, including those that build independence and resilience in learning. Novel approaches to education are appearing in teaching, teacher preparation and development, and school design.

During the crisis, teachers around the world led the efforts to connect students and their families to schools digitally (and in other ways) by ensuring access, sharing ideas with other teachers and with parents, and by creating partnerships. Many teachers demonstrated resourcefulness during the crisis leading content design, facilitating capacity building as peer leaders, mentoring and readily adopting and catalysing change within their schools. 

Ashok Pandy wrote that “teacher leadership has been redefined, reflecting a shift from conventional positional roles – coordinators, faculty heads, headmistresses, or vice-principals – ascribing power and authority to the holder. Teacher leadership is now determined by the proactive roles that teachers play, initiatives they undertake, and the support they render to leadership, students, and parents.”

Countries are urged to support teachers to develop and share their innovations for the future of education, advancing the necessary change to build back better education systems.


Learning and development: a whole child approach to education

During this time there has also been a growing awareness of new discoveries in the science of learning and child development, including the ways in which relationships and contexts determine brain development and learning.  These insights emphasize the need for a whole child approach to education that takes into consideration each student's academic, social, and emotional development in learner-centred and culturally relevant ways.

When this occurs, students thrive, as innovative schools in the United States have demonstrated.  Educators in cities from New York to Los Angeles have created personalized school models that rethink the factory model we inherited, which produces large anonymous schools with high dropout rates. These schools, which are run democratically and organized around teaching teams and advisory systems, allow teams of teachers to plan interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum for a shared group of students, while supporting them emotionally as well as academically.  

Many of these sites that rely on teacher leadership are community schools which help make education more relevant to students’ lives through an aligned curriculum that provides experiential education rooted in community concerns.  Such schools engage in strong partnerships with families, along with connections to local organizations that partner on afterschool activities and a wide range of health and social service supports.  As schools have built their capacity to more fully meet student needs, their students – especially those in low-income communities -- have experienced stronger academic success, graduation rates, and access to college.

Teacher leadership: reinventing teaching as an innovative and collaborative profession

A key aspect of building this capacity is developing environments that foster teacher collaboration, leadership, and decision-making as core elements of the school design, while involving teachers themselves in the process. In countries participating in the 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), teachers who reported opportunities to participate in decision-making at the school level had higher levels of job satisfaction and were more likely to see teaching as a valued profession in their countries. However, only 42% of principals reported that their teachers have significant responsibility over a large share of tasks related to school policies, curriculum, and instruction, and just 56% reported that teachers have a role in the school management team.

Professional and collaborative working environments proved to be vital building blocks for developing collective teacher efficacy, which research suggests is one of the most crucial factors influencing student achievement.  The TALIS survey data show that, around the world, opportunities for teacher collaboration are strongly associated with their sense of efficacy and effectiveness.  Such opportunities are also associated with teachers’ willingness and ability to implement innovative practices like project-based learning, the use of new technologies, and the higher order skills needed for 21st century economies and societies.

Preparing the next generation of teachers to support student learning

A growing body of research has established that effective professional development, which produces gains in student achievement, is intensive, collaborative, job-embedded and classroom focused. In the TALIS study, while three quarters of teachers globally reported that their teaching practice was positively influenced by collaborative forms of professional development, only 44% reported participating in such professional learning.

Successful education systems prioritise time and other resources for teachers to collaborate, share knowledge and practices, and engage in collective decision-making to enable innovation, improve effectiveness, and build shared knowledge and collective efficacy in their teaching. This requires change in how we conceptualise and invest in teacher preparation, working conditions, professional learning, career pathways, remuneration and evaluation systems.

Preparing the next generation of teachers, with the best knowledge and support that our systems can offer, is ultimately the most powerful approach to enable student learning and directly contribute to transforming education. This is particularly true when those teachers adopt whole-child education strategies and pedagogies. To ensure teachers can innovate and that these can be scaled up effectively based on a whole-child paradigm, education systems need to listen to teachers and provide them with the tools they need - including effective training and various means of support. This includes integrating the family, community, and societal dimensions into curriculum, pedagogy, and organizational design.  Systems will also benefit by enabling teachers to innovate and lead in schools organized for professional collaboration, with opportunities to connect across schools and communities to share what they have invented and learned.  It is only by building on and expanding the creativity and capacity of teachers that we can design 21st century schools that truly meet students’ and societies’ needs.


*Linda Darling Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University and founding president of the Learning Policy Institute. You can access her full presentation at the following link: See ‘36:21.  

References

Pandey, A. K. (2021). Teacher leadership during COVID-19. Teacher India, 15(1): 10-12. https://research.acer.edu.au/teacher_india/39/

OECD (2020), TALIS 2018 Results (Volume II): Teachers and School Leaders as Valued Professionals, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/19cf08df-en

OECD Education and Skills Today. (2020, January 22). Reflections on the Forum for World Education. OECD Education and Skills Today. Retrieved January 8, 2022, from https://oecdedutoday.com/reflections-forum-for-world-education/

 

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.