World Teachers Day - Placing teachers at the heart of education recovery

The celebration of World Teachers Day this year focuses on the effect the pandemic has had on teachers, and the steps that need to be taken to ensure that teaching personnel can play the role expected of them during the period of recovery.

October 05, 2021 by Carlos Vargas-Tamez, International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030
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5 minutes read
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A teacher with his students in class. Kenya, April 2017. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
A teacher with his students in class. Kenya, April 2017
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

Every year, World Teachers Day gives us the opportunity to celebrate the world’s 71 million teachers, recognizing their contribution and putting a spotlight on the incredible responsibility that they bear in ensuring that all children and youth everywhere can enjoy the right to education.

As we are well into our second year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebration will focus on the effect that the pandemic has had on teachers, as well as the steps that need to be taken to ensure that teaching personnel can play the role expected of them in recovering from the pandemic and achieving the 2030 global education goal (SDG 4).

A renewed appreciation of the profession is needed

Never have teachers been more wanted and needed than today. The educational disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have confirmed the crucial role of teachers in maintaining learning continuity, and in sustaining the very dynamics of households, families and communities.

We have witnessed how teachers have been at the heart of educational responses: not only in ensuring that learning can happen in spite of school closures, but also supporting their students’ socio-emotional well-being.

As a result, parents, communities, and education systems have gained a renewed appreciation of teachers and their vital role in educational recovery and in supporting the social, economic and cultural life of societies.

Yet, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted major challenges for the teaching profession, including: the lack of professional development opportunities in online and distance teaching; increased workloads; and cases of private school and community teachers going for months without pay or being dismissed.

While teachers and education personnel need to be prioritized as frontline workers in COVID-19 vaccination to encourage school reopening, to date, only 19 countries (out of 197 for which there is information) prioritize teachers in the first phase of vaccination plans.

In many countries, teachers’ status and social standing, working conditions, support and overall financing is lacking. This is a vicious cycle stemming in part from the fact that teachers and their representatives are seldom consulted in decision-making.

Even though a plethora of studies have concluded that teacher quality is the single most important in-school factor influencing student achievement, teachers remain underrecognized. As a consequence, the teaching profession is often not an appealing career for the best students going into tertiary education.

Students listen to their school teacher, Shuma Das during class at the Sahabatpur Daspara Ananda school in Sahabatpur village, Bangladesh on October 12, 2016. Credit: Dominic Chavez/World Bank
Students listen to their school teacher, Shuma Das during class at the Sahabatpur Daspara Ananda school in Sahabatpur village, Bangladesh on October 12, 2016.

3 areas of support to put teachers at the heart of education recovery

For the post-pandemic recovery phase, it is essential to include teachers as key actors in building more adaptive education systems that are resilient against future shocks. This is why the Global Education Meeting has prioritized supporting all teachers and education personnel as frontline workers, consulting their representative organizations in decision-making, and ensuring their safety, well-being and decent working conditions.

This is also why UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank launched a joint mission – Mission: Recovering Education in 2021 – focusing on supporting teachers and enabling all learners to return to school and to catch up on learning. In terms of financing, many voices have already joined the Call for Greater Investment in Teachers and Teaching, led by the global network of the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030.

The transformations that we have witnessed in education and the challenges described above call for new forms of policy support for teachers to play a key role in the recovery, in building resilience and in reimagining education.

This support covers several areas, including teacher professional development, participation in decision-making and working conditions.

Regarding professional development, this means supporting teachers to improve their practice, trusting the pedagogical judgement of trained and experienced teachers and equipping them with the skills to use educational technologies to support learning and to adapt content and teaching practices to a diversity of learners.

This requires specific pedagogical knowledge to assess learning at classroom level and adjust the curriculum to tailor teaching to different needs. These are elements that need to be embedded in teacher education so that new practitioners are better prepared for future crises.

When it comes to governance and participation, we encounter, perhaps, one of the biggest challenges facing education systems today: to create channels for the participation of teachers and their representative organizations in decision-making, and to share the knowledge they produce in the classroom at different levels, including through social dialogue, participation in governing bodies of education institutions and in networks and communities of practice.

Teachers need healthy, safe and enabling working conditions that are free from prejudice and discrimination, and they must be provided with safety measures, decent working hours, fair remuneration, and career development opportunities. This will both promote the status of the profession and improve recruitment, retention, motivation and, ultimately, student learning and well-being.

Finally, these policy areas need to support all teachers in a lifelong perspective, from novice to experienced teachers and from early childhood educators to higher education teachers, technical and vocational education and training (TVET), adult education and literacy practitioners.

This approach can ensure that the SDG 4 target on increasing the supply of qualified teachers remains a compass for policy action and international cooperation, and that teachers remain at the heart of education recovery.

 World Teachers' Day Poster from UNESCO.
World Teachers' Day Poster from UNESCO.

World Teachers Day celebrations

To celebrate World Teachers Day, UNESCO, together with its co-convening organizations, ILO, UNICEF and Education International, and its partners, the World Bank, the OECD, the Hamdan Foundation, the International Taskforce on Teachers for Education 2030, members of the Global Education Coalition and in-country local education groups, will organize global, regional and national events and an advocacy campaign through social media for wider public engagement.

This year celebrations also take place in conjunction with the meeting of the Joint ILO-UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART), running from October 4 to 8.

We hope that you are able to join one of these celebrations and to lend your support to the quest to place teachers at the heart of education recovery!

More information on the celebrations

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Did you know?

  • GPE’s Board of Directors allocates a seat for the teaching profession among its constituencies.
  • Quality teaching including support to teachers is a priority in GPE 2025.
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Thank you so much for your blog article titled "World Teachers Day - Placing teachers at the heart of education recovery". This article really resonated with me as the appreciation of teachers is often overlooked. As you discussed, the pandemic has certainly highlighted the necessity of the teaching profession and how education recovery is needed. The article stated how COVID-19 has highlighted challenges for the profession, including: the lack of professional development opportunities in online and distance teaching and increased workloads. If we want our teachers to feel valued and empowered, then providing them the effective professional development is critical so they are able to capably met the needs of their students and keep up with the overwhelming and ever increasing demands of the profession.

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