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.