UNESCO & Teach For All Co-host World Teachers’ Day Discussion Exploring Insights and Innovations in Distance Learning

For the first time this year, World Teachers’ Day, celebrated annually on October 5, highlighted the critical role of teachers as leaders in crisis. While education systems have always relied on teachers and education leaders working at all levels of the system to ensure the delivery of equitable, quality education for all children, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the full scope of their leadership, as “first-responders” during the initial crisis and vital partners in reimagining education and more resilient education systems post-crisis. “By choosing to focus World Teachers’ Day 2020 on leadership, UNESCO and its co-convening partners wish to draw global attention to this neglected issue and to invite education stakeholders to reflect on what teacher leadership means in the context of Education 2030” (2020 WTD, concept note).

Teachers and education leaders have responded to the crisis in remarkable ways, often with little support and time to prepare, leveraging mobile phones and networks, television, radio, print materials, and their strong relationships with communities and families to ensure the continuity of learning for children in the most marginalized communities and those without connectivity.

As part of the World Teachers’ Day official program, UNESCO and Teach For All co-hosted a panel discussion on the topic: Lessons from this worldwide experiment in distance learning. The panel explored what various stakeholders have learned so far about the unprecedented shift to distance learning in response to COVID-19 and how to leverage insights learned for reimagining education systems and the role of leadership moving forward. One of the key conclusions of the panel was the realization that keeping students learning with technology requires more of teachers, education leaders, parents, and communities - not less.

The panel was moderated by Ford Foundation Professor of the Practice of International Education at Harvard University, Fernando Reimers, with panelists, Managing Director, ProFuturo, Magdalena Brier; Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO, Stefania Giannini; CEO & Co-founder, Teach For All, Wendy Kopp; CEO, Teach For Nigeria, Folawe Omikunle; and Member of Teach For All’s Student Leaders Advisory Council, Raghvendra Yadav

Speakers explored questions, such as: What have we learned about the role of technology in ensuring greater equity in learning? How do we ensure that learners with limited or no connectivity don’t fall further behind? And what more do we need to do as an international community to foster the type of education leadership and enabling conditions (whether at the community, school, regional, or global level) to strengthen equitable, quality, remote learning for the future?

“I don’t know whether this pandemic will bring about a worse world or a renaissance, but there is no question in my mind that the answer to that is not written in the stars or in the mountains, the answer is in what each and every one of us does at this moment.” - Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of the Practice of International Education at Harvard University

The session was also an opportunity to learn more about the partnership between Teach For All network partners and ProFuturo, to support the training of 15,000 teachers in Tanzania, Liberia, and Nigeria in collaboration with Empieza por Educar, Teach For Nigeria, Teach For Liberia, and Teach For Tanzania. Both Teach For All and ProFuturo are members of UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition to protect the right to education during unprecedented disruption and beyond.

Nearly 1,000 people joined the discussion, which Teach For All also streamed live on Facebook. To learn more, watch the video above and visit UNESCO’s World Teachers’ Day website.  For more information about the insights shared during the panel, please reference this panel summary.