Teachers are the bedrock of national education systems. Over the last two years, as the world has responded to the pandemic, 85 million teachers worldwide have led efforts to keep children learning through and beyond the crisis.i
But too often, teachers are overlooked in education reform and new commitments. As conflicts and crises have increased, teachers have not been supported in line with growing demand. A gap in workforce numbers and capacity has become a gulf, even more exposed by the recent pandemic.ii
Our new policy brief highlights the risks to children’s learning and wellbeing if we continue to fail teachers. It finds that in order to fully unleash the power of teachers, we need Ministries of Education, donors and international partners to invest in evidence-based education system strengthening, supporting teachers to be the best professionals they can be. They should engage teachers in policy making to ensure that all their skills, expertise and most importantly passion are leading the way in education innovation.
WHY DO TEACHERS NEED MORE SUPPORT?
Teachers are our eyes and ears in the world’s classrooms, where the next generation of global citizens will emerge. Teaching quality is the single most important influence on learning outcomes at the school level.iii
Teachers are also increasingly taking on other responsibilities to protect and help children. Through crisis, teachers find themselves having to provide extra support to their learners – sometimes physically, as well as emotionally – which they are often poorly trained to do.
The largest investment in any education system is teacher salaries. In over half of all low- and lower-middle income countries the cost of the education workforce accounts for 75% or more of the national education budget.iv To ensure value for money when education budgets are limited – teacher recruitment, professional development, and retention requires sufficient, sustainable, and consistent financing. However, the failure to allocate enough equitably distributed financing to education in many low- and lower-middle income countries results in teacher shortages, overcrowded classrooms, and poor conditions for teaching and learning.v
WHAT IS WORKING?
The pandemic demonstrated the natural instincts and abilities of teachers to respond quickly and creatively to the challenges they faced.
In Zambia, teachers told us that it was ‘very important’ that they take part in policy discussions because ‘we know what is required in the school, classroom and children’s individual needs. This would also avoid wastage of resources whereby government and other development actors end up buying us wrong materials.’
In Vietnam, teachers highlighted the value of professional development through a peer network model. The majority of the teachers who took part in this model stated that peer support improved their teaching skills, and they appreciated helping each other.
In Jordan too, teachers in the Transforming Refugee Education towards Excellence’ (TREE) programme co-designed and tested a new Teacher Professional Development curriculum, and self-reported their own levels of wellbeing – working together to develop solutions to deal with any challenges.
Building on our long experience working with teachers in low-and-middle-income countries, Save the Children created the global Enabling Teachers Common Approach, which underpins all of our programmatic and advocacy work on teachers. This approach develops teachers’ professional competencies and improves the enabling environment required for their motivation and success.vi Elements of this approach are active in over 25 countries, with delivery happening at local and national level.
SO WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE?
When teachers are supported, they are the most natural innovators and advocates for education, having impacts on children and communities far beyond what we can easily measure.vii
To properly support teachers, we need to consider the intersection of systemic barriers they face. That’s why we’re calling on decision makers to look closely at their policies and budgets, and re-evaluate and strengthen the role that teachers play in both. Teachers need to be an active part of scoping a new landscape for themselves where they are supported to reach their potential.
If global and national policy makers are serious about protecting education systems from the threats of Covid-19, conflict and climate change, then unleashing the power of the world’s teachers will be essential to guarantee a quality, safe and inclusive education for all.
See our new briefing which sets out recommendations under three pillars:
- Invest in evidence-based education system strengthening
- Support teachers to be the best professionals they can be
- Engage teachers in policy making
Our final suggestion, is to check our children’s book about Munni, a girl determined to gain an education and teach others by setting up her own rooftop school in India.
Photo Credit: Nour Wahid / Save the Children