Transforming education, transforming the world

Statement by Education Cannot Wait Director Yasmine Sherif for the Transforming Education Summit

Leaders from across the world are uniting at the UN Secretary-General’s Transforming Education Summit to address a global education crisis that threatens to derail decades of development gains and is depriving millions of girls across the world of their inherent human right to access a quality education.

As we mobilize financial resources, listen to the world’s youth, identify needs and solutions, and work collectively to elevate education to the top of the global political agenda, we must not forget the 222 million crisis-impacted children and adolescents worldwide. They are left furthest behind and they urgently need our support. Education Cannot Wait’s ground-breaking analysis highlights that about 78 million of these crisis-impacted children are out of school, and close to 120 million are in school but not learning. These shocking figures cannot be allowed to represent the 21st century.

Caught in conflicts and protracted crises, displaced by climate change, and fighting to survive in some of the harshest and most inhumane conditions on the planet, these girls and boys need our urgent and unwavering support.

We need to unite in action to deliver on the commitments that will be made at this seminal Summit to ensure girls and boys in places like Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Pakistan, South Sudan, Syria, the Sahel, Ukraine, Yemen and beyond are guaranteed their human right of a 12-year quality education.

This is our commitment to ensure and improve equitable inclusive education and learning outcomes, to protect and improve external financing, to work together in the spirit of multilateral and organizational cooperation to build crisis-resilient education systems, and to scale and mainstream high-impact and evidence-based interventions into results and sustainable impact.

Education Cannot Wait, as the UN’s global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, champions these transformational approaches designed to be responsive in the midst of brutal crises by delivering with humanitarian speed and developmental depth to ensure no child or adolescent is left behind.

We urge world leaders to make good on our promises as outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals, Charlevoix Declaration, Safe Schools Declaration and other international accords, and support us in realizing 222 Million Dreams✨📚 for an education, and 222 Million Dreams✨📚 to use that education to make the world a better one than the world in which they suffer today

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Nigeria: To transform education, we need qualified, motivated and supported teachers

By the co-Leads of the thematic Action Track on teachers, teaching and the teaching profession, representatives of Nigeria, Romania and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030

Ahead of the Transforming Education Summit in September, education ministers along with hundreds of youth, teachers and other stakeholders are meeting this week in Paris to revitalize efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 and transform education. Together, they are considering how to deliver on existing commitments and identifying new ways to recover pandemic-related learning losses and transform our education systems for sustainable futures. To help the education community get back on track and give new life to efforts to achieve SDG 4 between now and 2030, today we are launching a campaign to put teachers, teaching and the teaching profession at the heart of education transformation.

Barriers to the teaching profession are barriers to quality education

Putting qualified and motivated teachers into classrooms is the single most important thing we can do to support better learning outcomes. In many parts of the world, teachers are too few, classrooms are too crowded, and teachers are overworked, demotivated and unsupported, with the result that learning outcomes suffer. Alongside the educational disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, the quantitative and qualitative “teacher gap” is throwing our education targets, including SDG 4, way off track. Children in remote or poor areas are disproportionately affected.

More teachers are desperately needed. Globally, we are still millions of teachers short: recent estimates point to sub-Saharan Africa alone needing 15 million teachers to achieve SDG 4 by 2030. Compounding the teacher shortage, in many countries, teachers lack minimum qualifications and training.

Even if teachers are qualified, teacher retention rates are often low since poor working conditions and lack of support drive teachers to change careers. Too often, becoming a teacher is not seen as an attractive career path because the profession is poorly paid and poorly regarded. In many countries, teachers are simply not being paid a living wage, further undermining education systems.

The use of digital technology in education holds much promise for opening up learning to more children and young people. However, we need to improve access to technology for both teachers and learners, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and low-income countries where on average less than 1 in 3 schools have computers for learning and fewer than 1 in 5 have internet. We also need to better prepare teachers to adapt their teaching so that ICTs are used as a means to an end, not as an end in itself.

#TeachersTransform learning

During the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers were resourceful in continuing to educate and innovate in difficult circumstances. They forged new ways of teaching and engaging their students. Importantly, they supported students beyond academic learning, contributing to their well-being. In Rwanda, teachers innovated by using play-based learning to help rebuild students’ well-being following school closures and lockdowns. In Uganda, teachers used the radio to address learning gaps and to provide professional and well-being support to remote teachers affected by isolation.

Teachers know how to achieve the best learning outcomes for their classrooms and they should be given autonomy to organize and adapt to the changing needs of their students. This kind of flexibility has the potential to foster both bottom-up (grassroots) and top-down (system-wide) transformations. To support such efforts, school leaders should be given more autonomy and responsibility. And particular attention must be given to teachers working with displaced and refugee populations and those affected by conflict, including the educators themselves.

Governments and civil society must work together to build respect and trust for teachers and appreciation for the role teachers play in educating future generations. Serious commitment and investment are needed to grow the teacher workforce, improve training and support, include teachers in decision-making and raise the profession’s status.

Education systems need to transform to better support the teaching profession

To genuinely transform education, we must build a workforce of teachers who are engaged, respected and properly resourced. Consultations held as part of the thematic Action Track on teachers, teaching and the teaching profession have suggested three ways in which we can achieve this goal.

First, comprehensive national policies for the teaching profession need to be developed. These policies must provide stronger scaffolding for teacher preparation, career paths and governance, and should also lay out ways to empower leadership and promote innovation, develop qualitative frameworks and provide better work conditions.

Secondly, we need teacher participation in every step of decision-making and policy-making, through robust social dialogue. Teachers were at the forefront of the education response to COVID-19 and are best placed to address learning gaps and long-term learning solutions in the pandemic’s aftermath.

And lastly, we need to increase investment in wages, professional development and working conditions. As part of this, governments must honour their commitment of 20% annual expenditure on education. Domestic education budgets must grow and international donors need to increase levels of education aid to meet the benchmark of 0.7% of gross national income. Teacher policies should be properly costed and effectively implemented, especially in countries with the most severe shortages.

Much work remains to be done, but one thing is clear: teachers are central to transforming education and alleviating the global education crisis. Only together can we reimagine education and deliver on the promise of quality education for all.

Join the #TeachersTransform campaign launched today by the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, as part of the thematic Action Track on teachers, teaching and the teaching profession. More information here.

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How A People-First Culture Is Transforming Education In India

Por: Garnett

Since 2005, when he became president and later CEO of HCL Technologies, Vineet Nayar has led a remarkable turnaround that saw the company triple its revenues and income growth. He wrote about this in his book, Employees First, Customer Second. The value-based leadership simultaneously resulted in the company being ranked by Hewitt Associates as the Best Employer in India and by BusinessWeek among the top five most influential companies in the world.

Nayar is now trying to transform the education of India’s children. He’s taking on a huge goal, and I’ve always admired his focus on people. I wanted to sit down with him and talk about his current work with his own fund and figure out how he plans to transform education.

Laura Garnett: What is the problem that you’re trying to solve and what is your goal?

Vineet Nayar: In India, government-led primary school education systems suffer from a myriad of issues, not only preventing families from sending their children to these schools but also affecting the learning outcomes for those 144 million children who attend. Most children in grade 5 can’t do basic math or construct simple sentences in English.

 Sampark Foundation was founded with a belief that “frugal innovation,” along with relentless execution in partnership with the government, can drive large scale change in learning outcomes. Our goal is to design and implement frugal innovation ideas that will transform learning outcomes for 20 million children studying in 200,000 rural government schools by 2025, at less than $1 per child per annum. As of today, we have touched the lives of 7 million children across 76,000 schools.

Garnett: How did you come up with the Innovative ideas that you speak about?

Nayar: While many educational change initiatives are in-flight in India currently, we realized they have not been able to deliver impact because they are either sub scale or resource intensive, or they ignore the ground realities surrounding these kids. For example, you can’t just solve this problem by giving away iPads to children in an environment that lacks electricity.

We believe that for any long-lasting change to happen it has to be driven by practical and sustainable solutions that are frugal but at a large scale. Our area of investment and focus was on design thinking and coming up with frugal innovation ideas (low on resources, high on impact) and leveraging them to deliver a comprehensive, multi-fold improvement in learning outcomes that can be sustained.

This led to Sampark Smart Shala: a learning-outcome focused, frugal innovation-led initiative that uses audio technology, a voice mascot called “Sampark Didi,” toys, folklore, board games and teacher training modules combined with rigorous monitoring in collaboration with state governments.

Garnett: What allowed you to have these innovative ideas?

Nayar: Our design thinking was inspired by three ideas. The first came from an unlikely source: Bollywood! Going to a movie in an Indian village is an open-air three-hour deeply immersive experience of life enacted through dance, songs and dramatic scripts. We asked ourselves – could we bring that experience to the classroom too?

The second came from watching people in villages charge cell phones using their bicycles. Could this battery drive an audio device with a big speaker that could be used in a class? And the third inspiration came from Teaching Learning Materials (TLM’s). Students retain 70% of what is said in the first 10 minutes of class and only 20% of what is said in last 10 minutes. Adding visual aids and stories increases retention by 250% even in the last 10 minutes.

Garnett: How are these ideas making an impact on your goal?

Nayar: The results have been nothing short of magical – a 56% increase in learning outcomes measured through an independent assessment study. This is also now a case study at the Harvard Business School, showcasing how frugal innovation can create large scale social impact.

Garnett: How are you bringing people first customer second to your foundation and how does it operate?


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