Teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges for educators worldwide. However, it has also revealed opportunities for teachers and students to challenge longstanding failures, offering the chance for governments to enact successful reforms if they can listen to teachers’ voices.
Education Outcomes Fund (EOF) CEO Amel Karboul was joined by two EOF High-Level Steering Group members, former Education Minister of Guinea Aïcha Bah Diallo, and T4 Education’s founder Vikas Pota, in a recent webinar, entitled ‘Do Teachers’ Voices Matter?’ for an in-depth discussion on this critical issue.
The panelists agreed that there is an urgent need for governments to learn from teachers’ experiences and harness their knowledge. Mr. Pota emphasized that, “it is exactly [during the pandemic] that we need to think differently. It is exactly in these times that we should think about these grassroots approaches, because top-down, frankly, hasn't worked. And that's why this bottom-up approach is [key]. You have expertise in schools. Let's find a way of surfacing these voices and surfacing these best practices.”
Teachers can be “agents” in prioritizing the needs of young people in societies remarked Mr. Pota, but that role has long been ignored by policymakers. Dr. Karboul agreed, saying that teachers’ roles are vital in engaging and empowering young people in all communities. Ms. Bah Diallo then noted that to create a “virtuous circle” between communities and their schools “teachers have to put [students] in the middle of the decision making.”
To best support teachers and students, Ms. Bah Diallo emphasized that policy must do more to keep teachers in the profession, saying that “salaries and professional development [are] the two key elements that will incentivize teachers to stay, otherwise they will find some other things to do.”
The panelists also urged nations to think differently in order to combat the disconnect between policy and the needs of communities. Governments must acknowledge the important role that teachers can play in shaping policies and reforms for education, and teachers must learn to use their voices differently to advocate for the needs of their students and their communities.
In order to begin the process of listening to teachers’ voices, Mr. Pota’s company T4 Education recently conducted a survey of over 20,000 teachers in 165 countries. He suggested that due to the pandemic causing education to be moved primarily online, there was a negative stereotype that older teachers were not able to adapt to this new form of learning. However, the results of the survey did not support this opinion, with Mr. Pota noting that, “when we try to characterize them as being digital dinosaurs, you couldn't find anything from the truth.” He also revealed that the majority of teachers who responded to the survey said that the experience of teaching during the pandemic had made them better teachers, which is counterintuitive to the “[media] headlines that we are often sent.”
The panelists concluded by sharing stories about teachers that had inspired them as children. Dr. Karboul finished the webinar by saying that when it comes to education and teaching, it’s “…about believing [and] seeing you as a person, seeing you really as a human being, and giving space for growth.”
Watch the webinar here.