A new report based on feedback from hundreds of teachers around the world highlights important lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic
There are a lot positives to come out of this very difficult and dark situation that we mustn’t lose sight of and the challenge now is maintaining that momentum.
Steve Hall, Senior Lecturer in Education
More than 900 teachers shared their experiences with the International Council on Education for Teaching (ICET) and charity MESHGuides, with common themes emerging across more than 30 countries.
Steve Hall, a Senior Lecturer in Education at Staffordshire University who helped to conduct the study, explained: “Teachers, schools and communities have shown incredible innovation and determination to reach out to support their learners during the pandemic. Where online access was limited or unavailable, radio, telephone as well as hand-delivered learning resources were used to keep in touch with their learners.
“As children return to schools it is an ideal opportunity to reflect on what has worked well and what hasn’t. By inviting teachers at all levels of education to share their knowledge, understanding and insight we can better prepare for future crises and ensure continuity of learning.”
Teachers surveyed across low, medium and high-income countries identified five main challenges for sustaining education during times of crisis. These are:
- Government leadership
- Limitations with online and teaching and learning
- Teaching practical subjects
- Loss of learning and increased dropout rates
- Equity and students and teacher access to technology, internet and electricity
Teachers offered many ideas for being better prepared for future crises so that teaching, learning and assessment can continue. This includes the need to redress inequity due to school closures and to implement “technological literacy for all” policies. They also highlighted a need for more national online resources for teachers and learners, similar to Scotland’s Glow which offers a digital environment to support learning across the whole curriculum.
Mental health was also a key concern and participants suggested creating and maintaining pedagogical and professional support networks and to put policies in place that address better support teachers and students in terms of wellbeing, time management, stress levels.
Steve said: “Despite the overwhelming impact on their mental health, teachers across the continents were generally very positive about the new skills and knowledge they acquired. This presents an opportunity for countries to consider the long-term future for online supported teaching as part of their plans for raising achievement.
“However, there is a huge digital divide and teachers are calling for countries to establish free and open access to public broadband and better provision of technology. Parental support is also key to education during crises, but a large portion of parents are technologically illiterate and so there is a need to upskill the wider public.
“To do this, our teachers identified that governments and leaders need to be dynamic, flexible and prepared to support the education sector during crises.”
In support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 4c, focused on improving the quality of education for all children, the report authors question whether universal access to learning materials, via the internet or satellite communications, could be seen alongside access to clean water, food, education and health care as core goals for all governments.
The authors aim to disseminate their findings to as many stakeholders as possible, and plan to make the report openly available for researchers, students, policy makers and organisations to use the findings to inform their own research and policy.
Steve added: “There are a lot positives to come out of this very difficult and dark situation that we mustn’t lose sight of and the challenge now is maintaining that momentum. The question is, what value will be placed on the voice of teachers?
“Our research shows a clear need for decisive leadership from government and we hope that those charged with planning for education in the future will learn from this experience.”
The full report Teacher Experiences and Practices during Covid-19 will be published later in the year. Anyone wishing to obtain a copy of the interim report can contact Steve Hall directly on S.J.Hall@staffs.ac.uk.