A special high-level panel on teachers, held on October 20 to address the future of teaching and learning, highlighted the leadership, creativity and resilience of teachers as they have responded to the pandemic and ensured learning has continued throughout the complex and unfolding set of circumstances it has brought about.
The event was part of a virtual Global Education Meeting (GEM) on Education post-COVID-19, convened by UNESCO with the support of the governments of Ghana, Norway and the United Kingdom.
The meeting aimed to secure commitments from leaders for the protection of education financing during the COVID-19 recovery, and to produce a consensus on priority actions for the coming year.
“Societies should take this opportunity to recognize the social value of the teaching profession”, declared Jaime Saavedra, Global Director for Education at The World Bank. He added, “we must ensure teachers are prepared to fulfil the extremely complex task which has been entrusted to them”.
Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future
The landscape of education has changed profoundly this year and the future is uncertain. Schools remain closed nationally in 35 countries, affecting over 500 million students, while the pandemic has disrupted the work of 63 million primary and secondary school teachers and the education of over 90% of the world’s students.
During a week-long series of regional and global events, organized with the International Task Force on Teachers, IIEP, OECD, Education Development Trust, Teach for All, the Hamdan and Varkey Foundations, and Apple, World Teachers’ Day celebrations, UNESCO’s flagship event on teachers, analyzed various initiatives and challenges in relation to remote learning, whether in low-, mid- or high-tech environments, and payed particular attention to collaborative, teacher-led responses and to ICT skills and gaps.
World Teachers’ Day also served as the backdrop to the publication of a “Gender in teaching: a key dimension of inclusion” infographic and the World Teachers’ Day 2020 Fact Sheet. Both follow up on the 2020 Global Education Monitoring Report, which this year addressed “Inclusion in education: All means all”.
Identifying inequalities in the teaching profession
Research conducted by UNESCO indicates that, globally, the teaching profession does not reflect the diversity found in society. Women are underrepresented in school leadership positions, and in the tertiary sector, as well as being under-represented in a number of low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa, while, for their part, men are under-represented in the lower grades and in higher-income countries.
To address these imbalances, governments should develop policies to encourage women to enter leadership positions, such as offering flexible working hours and family allowances. Likewise, teacher education institutions and district offices can support female teachers so they advance into leadership positions by targeting them during pre-service and in-service training, and, in so doing, building their leadership competencies and skills.