Rohan Parikh, managing director – The Green Acres Academy , Rhea Jaffer, manager, research and outreach, The Acres Foundation.
A vast body of educational research suggests that teachers are one of the most significant influences on student learning. For many of us (the lucky ones), this has held true during the COVID-19 pandemic too. We have seen teachers toiling away for hours in order to be able to spend even more hours teaching their students (and our children), online.
If you had asked anyone that attended a physical school in February 2020 if they could imagine schooling taking place online, you would certainly hear a resounding “no!” And yet, teachers around the world have surprised us all and surpassed all expectations by building their capacity overnight. School communities, leaders and teachers worked day and night to have their schools up and running as soon as they possibly could once we went under lockdown.
In fact, over the past year, we have all heard incredible stories of resilience and persistence where the protagonists have inevitably been teachers going the extra mile for their students. We have heard stories of teachers using Whatsapp to send videos, homework and circulars. We have watched videos of teachers innovating in their homes to set up makeshift blackboards and resources. And against all odds, many of us have seen teachers show up every morning at 8 am well prepared to teach our children.
We have seen teachers swiftly adapt to change to keep up with the pandemic – thereby proving their ability to navigate the digital revolution through continuous learning.
Since the onset of the pandemic, we have seen tremendous progress in the use of technology in school education, especially in areas with access to the Internet, devices and electricity. However, this leapfrog has been a consequence of challenges and a lack of choice. Teachers were thrown into the deep end, with the responsibility of our youngest and brightest, without being prepared for the challenge.
Their flexibility and effort have revealed their ability to thrive in the face of challenge. But, it also revealed that teachers had not been prepared to effectively use technology in classrooms.
If we want to ensure that our students continue to learn, and especially those who have been disproportionately affected by this pandemic, we must invest in our teachers.
Teacher capacity building and training efforts must equip them to be relevant. Their training should help them be effective and up to date in their choice of pedagogy and content. It must focus on building teachers’ understanding and ability to meaningfully leverage technology to augment the teaching-learning process. Given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it must also enable teachers to leverage technology to help their students catch up on the learning they have lost.
In fact, just as we intend to prepare our students to learn how to learn so they can survive and thrive in the world of AI and VR, we must focus on enabling teachers likewise. As we have seen in this most unpredictable year, teachers (even those with the most limited means) provided predictability and stability for our youngest and brightest.