Moving forward after the pandemic: Governments and teachers’ unions working together to leave no-one behind

If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it is that the future will always surprise us and that success in the future is about coping in a world full of challenges. Education is key to strengthen cognitive, social and emotional resilience among learners, helping them understand that living in tomorrow’s world means trying, failing, adapting, learning and evolving. Schools are key to enhancing students’ optimism for the future. But educational institutions and education systems, too, need to become more resilient to succeed amid unforeseeable circumstances. Resilience provides individuals, institutions and communities with the flexibility, intelligence and responsiveness they need to thrive in social and economic change.

How can governments and teacher unions become better at creating scenarios for education which anticipate the challenges of the future and which enhance equity for all students? How can they anticipate the consequences of such scenarios for the goals and functions of education, for its organisation and structures, and for the education workforce, and ultimately, imagine education’s future? How can governments and unions better navigate between reform and disruption, reconcile new goals with old structures, foster innovation, leverage potential with existing capacity, and reconfigure the spaces, the people, the time and the technologies to educate learners for their future, not our past?

Looking to the future of education, ISTP 2022 continues the forward momentum begun in the last Summit, which focused on equity and the whole child, teacher professionalism and well-being, and intentional collaboration between governments, teacher organisations, schools and communities. Countries highlighted priorities for further discussion- including the need for digital tools to support educational excellence for all and the role of schools and communities in supporting the whole child. These will be explored further within ISTP 2022.

SUB-THEMES (each sub-theme will include some questions to generate dialogue and exchange among official delegates):

Sub-theme 1

The pedagogical potential of digital technologies in education: a vital challenge for schools, teachers and students

The pandemic made technology a lifeline for education. At the same time, it highlighted the importance of the social and relational value of schools in the education of children and young people. It has shown that education systems need to have a strong and inclusive digital learning infrastructure and system capacity which can support schools, and which is accessible and relevant to all students and teachers. It has also emphasized the importance of digital school strategies that integrate all the relevant aspects to harness the potential of digital tools.

How can governments and unions work together so that students and teachers are not consumers of digital technologies but become co-creators and designers of innovative learning environments? How can they work together to increase the integration of pedagogical approaches, improve compatibility between different technologies and shift attention from learning technology to learning activities?

How can they work together so that technology best enhances pedagogy, the development of the teaching profession and teacher professional collaboration? How can evaluation enhance the digital competence of students, teachers and schools?

How can artificial intelligence empower learners and teachers rather than disempower them, and how can it help close rather than amplify learning gaps by personalising their learning, taking into account relevant elements such as ethics, transparency and data protection? How can the experts in learning – teachers – be at the centre of the design, development and implementation of digital learning environments supporting all students to thrive?

Sub-theme 2

School systems as a driver of more inclusive communities

The pandemic has shown how schools can assume responsibility for innovation, with teachers, parents and students working together on new forms of learning and ways to protect health. How can school systems, school communities, teachers and policy makers work together to design and implement education policies that will not just enhance equity within the education system, but to ensure that education systems contribute to more inclusive communities and societies?

What can teacher unions and governments do to enable schools improve, including schools with significant numbers of students with disabilities or/and students from socially and economically deprived backgrounds? How can equity and inclusion be achieved, and how will we know? How can governments and teacher unions bring relevant social institutions together to positively affect the social outcomes of education?

What implications does the experience of the pandemic have for the provision of professional learning of teachers throughout their careers and how can the needs of teachers be identified?

Sub-theme 3

The role of teachers and school communities in securing a sustainable future

The pandemic has meant that the other major challenges faced by humanity, including climate change and how to bring sustainable development for future generations, have had to compete for the attention of policy makers.

How can governments and unions work together to enable education to develop the knowledge, skills attitudes and values that are the foundation for a more sustainable and humane world that can live up to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals? What is the role of education in preparing today’s young people to mitigate and adapt to the effects of existential challenges such as climate change and the need to foster sustainable development? How can education help society shift towards adopting values that create social bonds, trust and hope? How can learning about the new challenges facing humanity be incorporated into the curriculum without amplifying learning gaps and social disadvantage? What role does the teaching profession have in developing the curriculum to address these new challenges? What approaches will governments and unions need to adopt to achieve these ambitions?