Celebrate the leadership of teachers around the world

As the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates the global learning crisis, teachers have led efforts to ensure that learning doesn’t stop. World Teachers’ Day will celebrate their work.

October 02, 2020 by UNESCO
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4 minutes read
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A teacher explaining the lesson to one of her students at the Hidassie School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. November 2013. Credit: GPE/Midastouch
A teacher explaining the lesson to one of her students at the Hidassie School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. November 2013.
Photo credit: GPE/Midastouch

Every October 5, since 1994, UNESCO has celebrated World Teachers’ Day (WTD) to commemorate the anniversary of the signature of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. The day is the occasion to celebrate the teaching profession worldwide, to take stock of achievements, to raise awareness of the challenges facing teachers, and to highlight their role in the achievement of the global education targets.

This year, as WTD revolves around the theme Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future, it will also be an opportunity to address the role of teachers in education systems, and societies in general, as we cope with the COVID-19 crisis and into what inevitably will be new and as yet largely unchartered territory.

Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future

While the topic of leadership has been somewhat neglected amongst the multitude of issues facing the teaching profession in the push towards achieving SDG 4, the issue is not just timely, but critical in our time of pandemic response. The contributions that teachers have made to provide remote learning, support vulnerable populations, re-open schools, and ensure that learning gaps in the curriculum are being mitigated are outstanding.

The theme for this year’s WTD also considers the role of teachers in building resilience and shaping the future of education and the teaching profession.

The COVID-19 crisis created a unique situation for teacher leadership, creativity and innovation to be demonstrated. Around the world, teachers worked individually and collectively to find solutions and create new learning environments for their students to ensure that learning could continue.

In Indonesia, for example, a teacher travelled for hours each day to set up small learning groups around his laptop. In most cases, teachers have had to act without much warning and with little time to prepare, being forced to modify or condense the curriculum and adapt lesson plans to carry on with instruction, whether via the internet, mobile phone, television, or radio broadcast.

In many low-income countries, where there is poor or no connectivity to the internet or mobile networks, teachers have prepared take-home packages for their students. The move to online learning has required capacity for innovation and creativity never before attempted in order to keep children engaged and learning.

Some teachers have even posted their lessons online for the benefit of all; others check-in with their students through WhatsApp, while others visit homes to pick up work and bring back revisions and feedback.

Moreover, teachers have formed communities of practice and support groups through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Without much guidance or pedagogical support from education authorities, the frontline workers of the education sector have shown great capacity and flexibility to adapt to an ever-evolving situation in order to keep children and youth learning.

Indeed, in certain cases they have also played a part in ensuring that social programs remain in place. In the United Kingdom, Zane Powels, acutely aware of their importance to vulnerable students, delivered over 2,000 school meals, door to door.

The learning crisis has grown

The learning crisis that existed globally prior to the pandemic has been seriously exacerbated by schools and other educational centers being closed down around the world: the education of nearly 1.6 billion learners, representing over 90% of the world’s total enrolled student population, has been affected by the pandemic.

Even before the health crisis, the world was facing a shortage of trained and qualified teachers, with an estimated 69 million new teachers needed to meet rising demand to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030.

COVID-19 has significantly added to the challenges faced by already over-extended teachers. To date, at least 63 million primary and secondary teachers alone have been affected by the pandemic. In response to the crisis, the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 released a Call for Action on Teachers which, among other things, advocates for teacher participation in short, medium-, and long-term planning and policymaking as we move forward.

A global event online to celebrate teachers

In view of the current situation, this year’s WTD celebrations will take place online. As well as the WTD Opening Ceremony (and UNESCO-Hamdan Teacher Prize Awards Ceremony) on October 5, and the Closing Ceremony on October 12, there will be a series of global and regional events throughout the week.

Events will be open for all teachers around the world to join, and indeed they will be open to anyone else who would like to participate. You will find a registration link for each event on our website.

Join us!

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