The Financial Express

World Teachers' Day-2021

Are teachers really at the heart of education recovery?


Today, October 5 is World Teachers' Day. This year, the day will focus on the effect that the pandemic has had on education and on teachers, as well as the steps that need to be taken to ensure that teaching personnel develop their full potential to play the role expected of them in recovering from the pandemic and achieving the 2030 global education goal (SDG 4).

CONCEPT NOTE ON THE DAY: The concept note released by UNESCO on the Day, highlights the role of teachrs during the one and half years into the Covd-19 crisis. To Qute a few lines: "During the  current crisis we have witnessed how teachers have been at the heart of educational responses: they have provided online teaching and learning; they have prepared take-home packages for students living in rural and remote areas that lack the connectivity and technologies needed to pursue online learning; they have adapted their practices and diversified the formats, means and contents of education to cater for the needs of learners, including their socio-emotional well-being; and they have preserved and reinforced social interaction among learners, fellow teachers and school communities, often checking in on students via social media and messaging systems, and exchanging practices and resources with other practitioners, enhancing a sense of community within the profession.''

Simultaneously, the UNESCO note draws attention to the worrying situation as to how shortage of teachers has been affecting the world for more than a decade. According to projections from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), in order to ensure universal primary and secondary education by 2030 (SDG target 4.1), 69 million more teachers are needed worldwide: 24 million for primary and 44 million for secondary education.

In  this Backdrop, UNESCO suggests: "For the post-pandemic recovery phase, it is essential to restore the role of teachers as key actors in rebuilding more adaptive education systems that are resilient against future shocks, and ensure equity and inclusion for all learners at all times. This is why the Global Education Meeting's Ministerial Segment set as a priority the provision of support to 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, enabling all learners to return to school and to catch up on learning.''

Finally, the Concept note stresses on the need to support all teachers in a lifelong perspective, from novice to experienced teachers and from early childhood educators to higher-education professors, technical and vocational education and training (TVET), adult education and literacy practitioners. This also entails professional development as a continuum from pre-service education to induction, mentoring and in-service teacher education, combining several learning settings including online training and through engagement in communities of practice. 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.

Five Facts of World Teachers' Day: 1.World Teachers' Day is a global observance and UNESCO provides a theme for the Day every year. 2. More than 100 countries commemorate World Teachers' Day and each country maintains its own characteristics. India, Vietnam and some other countries observe the day in different days. 3. First World Teachers' Day was held on October 5, 1994 on the occasion of the anniversary of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. This Recommendation mentions in details in 149 clauses the rights, responsibilities, standards, recruitment, and teaching and learning conditions for the teachers. 4. In 1997, again during the 29th session of UNESCO, a recommendation to cover teaching and research personnel in higher education was adopted. 5. World Teachers' Day is an opportunity to promote the teaching profession.

VIEW OF BEVERLY PERDUE: Beverly E. Perdue, former governor of North Carolina, who serves on the National Assessment Governing Board, says, "I welcome the opportunity to change our education system to meet the needs of all children. But I caution against keeping the focus so squarely on COVID-19 and its impacts. Because the truth is while the pandemic may have exacerbated the existing issues within our education system, it certainly did not create them."

To evolve our education system and improve student outcomes for good, we need to reevaluate our policy-making decisions from the last 50-plus years-not just the last 18 months-while also looking forward to what students need to learn to be successful in the future. We need to examine how we value and invest in teachers and students. We must ensure students have the basic reading and math competencies they need to succeed in any trade. Most importantly, we have to incorporate equity into everything we do, so all students-regardless of race, ethnicity or ZIP code-have the opportunity to succeed.

The pandemic has accelerated existing trends in remote work, e-commerce and automation. As a result, more than one in 16 workers-25 per cent more than before the pandemic-will need to find a new job by 2030. Students entering kindergarten today will graduate high school in 2034. Will they be ready for what their world will look like when they go to college or enter the workforce?

BANGLADESH CONTEXT: The theme of this year's World Teachers' Day, 'Teachers At The Heart Of Education Recovery,' is very much relevant in the Bangladesh context as well, like other countries no matter developed or developing. As the issues of learning loss, widening disparities and the need to help both the learners and their educators are global phenomenon, it is high time concerted international guidelines for action along with helpful co-operation, not mere expression of pious wishes, are extended. In Bangladesh, authorities did not fail to engage the students in the absence of in-person or face to face learning. But the great digital divide and the lack of equal opportunities in urban and rural locations, the onslaught of gender disparity limited the success of this initiative creating new problems of unemployment, child marriage and child labour etc. The engagement and sacrifices of the teachers and the education staff have created new history. Joblessness, work without salary and decisions without, or with poor consultation with them, are common experiences. The intervention and humanitarian actions of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have come as a blessing. But it is difficult to agree to the proposition that teachers are at the heart of education recovery. True, the teacher leadership has not come forward with concrete issues, nor they were asked for any suggestions in accordance with the provisions of UNESCO/ILO recommendation concerning the status of teachers, of 1966 and 1997. It is not easy to foresee such a scenario when the country has achieved spectacular successes in education under the guidance of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Very recently she received not only appreciation for achievements in SDG, the World body was all praise for her as a leader of Bangladesh. It makes people of Bangladesh proud.

On the other hand, it pains us to observe lack of co-ordination in the arena of education. The process of consultation with teachers though very fruitful, is not found in practice. Teachers are instructed to perform their duties but there are reports of lack of due consultation as and when required, particularly in decision making and assessment of concerned local and overall situation. Under the circumstances it may be pertinent to view the theme of the World Teachers' Day with a question: 'Are teachers really at the heart of education recovery?'


Prof. Quazi Faruque Ahmed was a member of National Education Policy 2010 Committee.  

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