Teachers and school leaders are the driving force of learning. Let’s unlock their massive potential. Now.
COVID-19 is not loosening its grip. Many countries are experiencing a second or even third peak in infection rates. Some schools are again obligated to turn away their learners or to resort to parttime or online education. Other schools remain closed altogether. More than 1.5 billion learners around the world are or have been affected by school and university closures.
Learning can take place in many environments, but the classroom is still its main driving force. Today’s school closures have an undeniable effect on children and youth’s learning process. And we are not just talking about the impact on their cognitive development; we cannot ignore the degree to which the socioemotional development of children and youth is curbed too. Schools are often a safe haven for learners growing up in a vulnerable home environment.
Keeping schools open in areas that are hard-hit by the pandemic would be irresponsible if the conditions are unsafe for learners, teachers and their communities. Most health systems cannot carry the weight of the consequences of rapidly spreading infections, often devastating. At the same time, closing schools prematurely or not offering alternatives for children and young people to continue learning can be every bit as devastating for their education. We cannot forget about them. This dilemma requires flexible solutions.
Over the past decades, digitalisation has been laid out as the road to go down for education. Many initiatives have been set up in that spirit, and digitalisation has shown its relevance in today’s crisis. But in parallel to this positive outcome, some challenges have also surfaced: in many countries, learners have limited or no access to these digital solutions; in others, the gap between rich and poor households has widened.
We want the solutions – digital or otherwise – to this crisis to leave no one behind. This calls for customised solutions that fit specific contexts. VVOB believes that teachers and school leaders are the ideal partner in making education initiatives work for all learners.
Teachers and school leaders understand their learners and their specific situation and needs best. Everyone reading this has a fond memory of an educator that inspired them growing up. And these past few months, they have once again shown how crucial they are for learning. Especially in the most challenging times.
But we cannot expect teachers and school leaders to bear the brunt of today’s education disruptions by themselves. In our quest to mitigate this and future crises the best way we can, we need to invest in professional development and support for teachers and school leaders. Starting in initial teacher education and progressing into continued professional training, we call to integrate discussions and modules on ensuring learners’ cognitive and socioemotional development throughout crises.
Let’s not waste any time and prioritise support and professional development for teachers and school leaders. Taking a needs-based and safe approach, we can work with them in blended modalities.
To make continuous professional development a priority, more investments are needed. VVOB calls on governments and donors to help us unlock teachers’ and school leaders’ massive potential to ensure continued learning for all during and after this crisis – without losing sight of the most vulnerable.