Reimagining education, together

The pandemic has created the biggest upheaval across our societies in living memory. Millions of children and young people have had their education disrupted and if learning losses are not addressed now, it will limit the choice and opportunity for this generation of children and young people – the opportunity to learn, to pursue a career, and to contribute to the world they’ll inherit.

Three out of four learners who cannot be reached by remote learning come from rural areas and/or poor households

The most marginalized children are the least likely to be learning when schools are shut and are less likely to return to schools when they reopen. UNICEF’s reachability index shows that three out of four learners who cannot be reached by remote learning modalities (including radio, television and internet) come from rural areas and/or poor households.

But as dire as this situation is, there are new possibilities which give us hope that the experiences in the last twelve months will enable us to reimagine education, and more quickly than we could have believed possible only a year ago.

We’ve stepped out of the box that has contained education for decades, and while progress has been made on improving access, we know this is not sufficient for meeting the needs of children and young people who need skills to create a more inclusive and prosperous world.

A modern education means children and young people have the skills they need to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty – literacy, numeracy; digital, transferable, entrepreneurial and job-specific skills. Learners, educators, families, governments and other organizations have experimented with new means of engaging, even in low-tech environments.

To keep children learning, we need to enlist the energy of our societies’ most promising, committed, and creative leaders. We have seen how teachers all over the world have invented solutions during the pandemic – teachers like Rabiah Chaudhry and Sannia Salman in Pakistan who created a “WhatsApp School” to keep the girls in their classrooms learning.

We will need to support many more young leaders like Rabiah and Sannia to innovate, implement digital and blended learning solutions, and develop learners as leaders and agents of their own learning. We will need large numbers of leaders at all levels of education systems – including those who do not currently work in education – to channel their energies towards the most marginalized children and young people.

A girl on reads on mobile phone and her textbook
© UNICEF/UNI322054/SuleimanMaria, 9, follows a pre-recorded lesson on her father’s smartphone in a tent at the Kili IDP (internally displaced person) camp in rural Idlib, Syrian Arab Republic.

This is why UNICEF, Teach For All, AT&T, Atlassian Foundation International, Amgen Foundation, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Google.org, Sofina Covid Solidarity Fund and Zoom Cares, together with government ministries and education stakeholders around the world, are teaming up to support a rising generation of education leaders to reimagine education.

This multi-stakeholder collaboration will help expand and maximize the impact of Teach For All’s extensive network of committed education leaders already working in partnership with education stakeholders in their communities to get children and youth learning again and to support systems to reimagine education to meet their needs through and beyond the pandemic. This collaboration involves:

 

  • Cultivating, training and developing leaders at all levels of the system – from new teachers to those already in positions of responsibility
  • Providing world-class digital and low-tech learning solutions to reach the most marginalized children and young people
  • Providing training and support to teachers in remote and blended learning strategies
  • Partnering with education ministries to help reopen schools, including ensuring the most marginalized return, especially girls and children with disabilities
  • Providing accelerated learning and catch-up lessons to children who have fallen behind and ensuring child well-being
  • Working with governments to create educational content for radio, TV, and print materials to enable blended learning
  • Capturing and disseminating stories of teacher resilience, innovation and leadership to inspire entrepreneurship and creativity in the education space

 

The collaboration is already enabling important initiatives.

Enseña Perú, in partnership with the Ministry of Education (Peru), is delivering virtual programming to help marginalized learners in remote regions stay connected through phone calls, text messages, TV and radio.

Teach For Pakistan is training fellows to diagnose and respond to the unique emotional and mental health needs of children who are returning to school after prolonged periods of school closures.

Teach for the Philippines, an officially authorized learning service provider of the National Educators Academy of the Philippines (NEAP), is dramatically expanding the reach of their training and support on distance and blended learning strategies, supporting parents, teachers and school leaders across the entire Filipino education system.

Investing in the mobilization of promising leaders at all levels of the education system is a crucial step in ensuring that we have the continued innovation and leadership we will need to build our education systems back better so that the rising generation of young people can thrive and shape a better future for all of us.

 

Henrietta Fore is Executive Director, UNICEF.
Wendy Kopp is CEO and Co-founder, Teach For All.

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