Covid-19 has created an unprecedented situation, and is forcing governments and educators to find quick solutions to ensure the continuity of quality education at all levels. In India, over 320 million learners have been affected by the pandemic. As we pass through this extremely challenging and volatile situation, there is a strong belief among all stakeholders that it is our duty to ensure that learning never stops. And in achieving this goal, the role of the teachers is of utmost importance.
Teachers have the maximum potential to be real impact creators in the current crisis. Known to be the architects of the nation, they have not only shaped the minds of millions by creating awareness and enhancing knowledge, but also played a crucial role in instilling values, morals and ethics among learners. Therefore, this year’s World Teachers’ Day theme — Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future — helps us bring attention to the frontline teachers who have shown excellent skills in adapting to the Covid-19 situation. They are using a wide range of online tools to make education accessible, fun, creative and engaging for learners.
On 5 October, the World Teacher’s Day is celebrated internationally and by UNESCO in partnership with UNICEF, the International Labour Organization and Education International, to bring attention to the importance of teachers at the global level.
Quality of education matters now more than ever
The right to education has been recognised as a human right in a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Covenant recognises a right to free, compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, particularly by the progressive introduction of free secondary education, as well as an obligation to develop equitable access to higher education, ideally by the progressive introduction of free higher education. Quality education is of paramount importance for economic prosperity, health and well-being, and the promotion of peace and equality. Indeed, it is a valuable investment for the future of a nation (even more so, given the current circumstances).
Target 4.c of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 highlights that teachers are key to achieving the Education 2030 agenda and in our collective goal of providing equitable quality education for all.
The level of technological solution to online digital learning varies across countries. While some countries and institutions can provide appropriate tools for real distance learning (such as fast internet and interactive learning platforms), others, at a less advanced technological level, are setting up alternative systems (such as the use of text messages and issuing handouts).
What’s India doing
India has developed courses to reach out to all learners via internet, radio and television. School classrooms have been replaced with digital classrooms where teachers are imparting education through online communication platforms. However, challenges still remain in providing quality education through distance learning, because it calls for trained teachers who are well equipped with skills and knowledge that enable a smooth learning process using ICT (information and communication technologies) to deliver.
The National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has recently conducted a survey to understand the scenario of online learning for students amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on the findings of the survey, they have developed an Alternative Academic Calendar and Students Learning Enhancement Guidelines with a focus on improving learning outcomes to fill the gaps or loss of learning among students.
Amid the global pandemic, we empathise with all the teachers across the world who have adapted to the changing learning environment. While schools might be ‘closed’ across the world, it is crucial for us to acknowledge that it is only the school buildings that are closed. Teachers have been working harder than ever.
Gandhi said: “I have always felt that the true text-book for the pupil is his teacher”. Let this World Teachers’ Day be a reminder that teachers will continue to be the backbone of all education systems and that we should always unequivocally support them.
Prof Hrushikesh Senapaty is the Director of National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), New Delhi. Eric Falt is the Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. Views are personal.