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If education is central to the world’s future recovery, teachers need our support
25 January 2021
Earlier this week, on 24 January, the UN celebrated its third International Day of Education, which highlights the valuable role education plays in peace, development, and in creating opportunities for all. The theme for this year’s event was ‘recover and revitalize education for the Covid-19 generation’; perhaps not surprising given that the pandemic continues to disrupt our lives, as well as the education of millions worldwide. It calls for those in education to collaborate so that ‘education and lifelong learning is front and centre of the recovery, and the transformation towards more inclusive, safe, and sustainable societies’; something I have echoed in some of my previous articles. Alongside this, the celebrations on the day focused on three main segments—learning heroes, innovations, and financing.
When I think about who our learning heroes are during this time, one group always comes to my mind: teachers. Wherever in the world they are based, they have had to quickly adapt and upskill to embrace remote learning and new technologies, as well as being agile and flexible to respond to local government measures—all while maintaining a clear focus on students’ learning, wellbeing, and overall attainment.
Even though vaccinations are now taking place on an international scale, there is still so much uncertainty ahead of us. No one knows when learning will return to normal, or indeed if it will ever return to how it used to be. That’s why at OUP, we are committed to supporting our teachers wherever we can—not only through providing rapid access to digital learning resources, but through facilitating professional development. Last year, we ran a series of webinars, and made available various resources to help teachers adapt during unusual, unpredictable circumstances. In September, our English Language Teaching division ran a four-week programme of professional development webinars—ELT Together. We also recently launched our Oxford Owl Lockdown Learning Hero Awards, to recognize inspirational individuals who have made a difference to learning throughout lockdown, no matter how big or small it may be.
However, professional development is not finite. Even in countries that are experiencing a second or third lockdown, we must not assume that teachers will be used to teaching remotely. Equally, if we do start to see more of a shift towards blended learning in the future, we need to make sure teachers are supported so they can embrace and get the most out of new methods and technologies.
At OUP, we will continue to look for opportunities to help our teachers during these testing times. In fact, next month we are running one of our flagship events—the English Language Teachers Online Conference (ELTOC) 2021. It provides teachers from all over the world with the opportunity participate with colleagues in professional development webinars. In 2020, it became the largest online conference in the industry’s history, with 10,000 attendees worldwide. This year, the sessions planned cover a breadth of areas, from addressing the digital divide, to guiding parents to support their children’s learning, to building motivation in the workplace. While the conference is specific to the ELT market, the themes in this conference will cover pedagogy relevant across all of education.
Our industry is ever-changing, and the pace of transformation has significantly accelerated during the pandemic. All of us are trying to keep up, move quickly, navigate these changes, and continue to deliver to high standards. I’ve said it before, but we really are all part of one global education community, united by a common purpose: supporting education worldwide and furthering people’s life chances. Education will not only be essential to the world’s future recovery; it will play an increasingly crucial role in helping prepare people for whatever future lies ahead of us, and in driving future progress. Developing ourselves, developing others, and broadening our knowledge so that we can continue to adapt and help learners to thrive has never been so important.