copy the linklink copied!Chapter 13. Building capacity: Teacher education and partnerships

As education systems increasingly respond to new societal, economic and digital needs, schools are on the front line of change. In order to respond to these changes, systems across the OECD are increasingly focusing on building capacity for their schools and teachers. Yet working with a diverse set of actors, some of whom (for example those from the private sector) have different aims and goals, is a complex challenge. This chapter focuses on two specific elements that are crucial to effective delivery of policy and practice: teacher education and partnerships. It provides a rich set of country examples of policies aimed at building teacher skills, focusing on the digital skills and emotional well-being of their students. It also highlights innovative cases of partnerships across the spectrum of actors, from families through to cybersecurity experts. It ends with an identification of some remaining challenges expressed by countries.


copy the linklink copied!Introduction

As education systems increasingly respond to new societal, economic and digital needs, implementation of policies takes on new importance. A key element of successful implementation of policy reform is ensuring that local stakeholders have sufficient capacity to meet this challenge. In particular, they need adequate knowledge of educational policy goals and consequences, the ownership and willingness to make the change, and the tools to implement the reform as planned. Without these, the best policy reforms risks being derailed at the level where it counts most: the classroom. It is at this level that education policies must be implemented, and it is here that they succeed or fail (Burns and Köster, 2016[1]).

This chapter takes a closer look at two specific elements that are crucial to effective delivery of policy and practice: teacher preparation and partnerships. It is clear that in the effort to modernise today’s classrooms, teachers will be on the front lines. Schools and communities depend on educators to help integrate students of different languages and backgrounds, to be sensitive to cultural, linguistic and gender-related issues, to encourage tolerance and cohesion, and to respond effectively to the needs of all students. Teachers are also expected to prepare students for the digital world – to help them learn how to use new technologies and to keep up with new and rapidly developing fields of knowledge. They are counted on to encourage students to be self-directed learners, and they play an active role in constructing their own learning environments and being open to the community.

These shifts in the roles and duties of teachers come at the same time that attracting and retaining effective teachers is a challenge faced by many OECD countries (OECD, 2005[2]; OECD, 2010[3]). They also come at a time of rapid change in the digital world. This requires that educators progressively need to work in partnership with a wide variety of other actors. These include parents and families, but also health professionals, psychologists and law enforcement. Increasingly, they can also include cybersecurity professionals and programmers. Developing, maintaining and supporting partnerships with such a diverse set of actors, some of whom (for example those from the private sector) have very different aims and goals, is a complex challenge. This chapter looks at how countries are currently addressing these issues through teacher education and partnerships, drawing from responses to the 21st Century Children Policy Questionnaire.

copy the linklink copied!Supporting teachers for modern classrooms

Educating teachers for the challenges of modern classrooms is a complex and multifaceted endeavour. Breaking patterns and learning new behaviours requires ongoing training and preparation as well as support and capacity building (OECD, 2010[3]). But education systems are not always particularly successful on this front: TALIS 2018 reveals that although many teachers actively participate in professional development, they consistently report high needs in certain areas, particularly teaching students with special needs and using ICT skills for teaching. The most commonly cited reasons for not taking part in available training were “conflict with work schedule” (54%) and “no incentives for participating in professional development” (48%) (OECD, 2019[4]). There is thus room for improvement both in terms of better targeting types of professional development that reflect teachers’ needs, and in seeking ways to provide more flexible timing and delivery of training opportunities.

National curricula, standards and guidelines for teaching represent a fundamental first step toward helping teachers frame their professional competences around integrating knowledge and skills to protect and foster the emotional well-being and digital literacy of students. Figure 13.1 shows the responses of countries to the 21st Century Children Policy Questionnaire in terms of the topics included in teacher education programmes, either initial or continuous professional development.

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Figure 13.1. Topics covered in teacher education (initial and continuing professional development)
Figure 13.1. Topics covered in teacher education (initial and continuing professional development)

Note: Responses indicate the proportion of systems that confirmed the topics were covered in existing teacher education in their systems. 24 countries and systems responded to this question.

Source: 21st Century Children Policy Questionnaire

Emotional well-being

18 out of 24 countries and systems that responded to this question reported that emotional well-being is required at the national level or covered in most teacher education programmes, with no countries responding that it was not widely available. This finding is particularly interesting given that respondents also frequently highlighted that it was difficult to draw a general picture of how professionals have dealt with emotional well-being given existing regional, teacher and school autonomy.

Digital competence in teachers

Countries generally provide support to teachers to acquire digital skills and to use technology in their teaching. 15 of the 24 countries responding to this question indicated that digital skills and ability to use technology were required (by national curriculum, standards or other) and another six indicated that it was covered in most programmes. Similarly, 16 of the 24 countries indicated that the skills to use technology in teaching were required (by national curriculum, standards or other) and another two indicated that it was covered in most programmes.

However, there was far less training available for assessing online risks or identifying signs of digital dependency in students. In the Policy Questionnaire, 30% of systems reported that training on assessment of online risks was covered only in some programmes or not at all. For identifying signs of digital dependency, 45% of systems reported that it was only covered in some programmes or not at all. These figures are at odds with the high policy priority given to online risks (see Chapters 2 and 12).

Countries appear to prioritise fostering the digital skills of teachers broadly, perhaps assuming or inferring that this will also improve their ability to assess online risks or other threats to well-being. However it is important to flag that these are unique skills and explicit attention should also be given to fostering them in teachers. This is particularly important given how quickly the landscape of online risks changes (see also Chapter 10). And, as highlighted in Chapter 12, there is also room for improvement in the training and education available to teachers in teaching these skills to their students: almost half of the systems reported that their existing teacher education programmes do not provide widespread training to teachers to educate students in online risks.

The gap between the importance given to preparing teachers to acquire digital skills and use technology in their teaching on one hand, and supporting them in learning to identify online risks on the other, is important to underline. Similarly, the disconnect between educating students to develop responsible online behaviour and managing the risks of digital technologies (see Chapters 11 and 12) illustrates some of the challenges around the integration of technology in schools. One important issue is that preparing students to live in a digital(ised) society involves interdisciplinary skills and student behaviour both inside and outside of school. This makes establishing clear and coherent standards for practice much more difficult.

copy the linklink copied!Policies and practices to support teachers

As laid out above, new expectations for teachers require building new skills and capacity for the teaching workforce. Although there is room for improvement in the support that can be offered to teachers in both their initial teacher education and ongoing professional development, a number of interesting measures have been developed. These can be broadly grouped into three main approaches:

  • curriculum reforms and extension

  • formal teacher education and training

  • network approaches to teaching and learning.

Curriculum reform and extension

In the Policy Questionnaire, policy makers often referred to a new national curriculum as a key resource for improving the use of technology in the classroom, fostering the teaching of digital skills and supporting the emotional well-being of students. In some cases, policy makers mentioned that the curriculum currently recognises the central importance of pupils’ mental, emotional and social well-being, as is the case of the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland (United Kingdom), or the skills that are required to fulfil these goals, as in the competences of the Finnish National Core Curriculum for Basic Education. In other cases, emphasis is placed on the way the curriculum provides models of how to use technology in the classroom or what should be the ideal conditions for students to develop skills critical in that area, as in the new Basic Education Curriculum in Mexico.

Countries also described measures that help teachers and schools develop certain areas of the curriculum, with a particular focus on technology. In many cases, for example Quebec (Canada), Mexico and New Zealand, systems have developed plans dedicated to the implementation of digital technologies, building on specific areas described in their respective curricula. These plans include detailed curriculum implementation actions as well as resources to help schools.

In addition to reforming the curriculum, another approach used by countries is to take certain curricular development measures to help extend the existing curriculum. Examples that focus on the importance of the social and physical environment of students include New Brunswick’s (Canada) Joint Consortium for School Health (JCSH).

New pedagogical approaches

The important role of pedagogies is reflected in UNESCO´s ‘Happy Schools’ framework (UNESCO, 2016[5]). Key elements include variables such as fair workload, teamwork, funny and engaging pedagogical approaches, learner freedom and engagement, relevant content, and defining learning as a team process between students and teachers. Pedagogies are important for the well-being of students in two ways:

  1. 1. By how content is delivered and how the core schooling experiences of children are framed. For example teachers can play a role in reducing schoolwork-related anxiety of their students, acknowledge students’ feelings about the tasks, avoid excessive pressure and control, provide supportive relationships with their students, and explicitly connect with students’ worldviews as a way to improve the overall experiences of students (OECD, 2017[6]).

  2. 2. Certain pedagogies and teaching practices can explicitly target particular toxic forms of behaviours and promote more inclusive and safe environments.

Examples of the supports available for teachers are highlighted in Box 13.1.

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Box 13.1. Promoting well-being through pedagogy

Personalising learning through ICTs: Project Leerling (Pupil) 2020

The Pupil 2020 project in the Netherlands supports secondary teachers and their schools in developing a vision of personalised learning and its implementation in practice, placing a significant emphasis on the use of ICTs. At MY College, in one of the many examples featured in the project, teachers describe how thinking in learning goals and working with iPads, coaching pupils, and decreasing control so that each student can learn at their own pace and level, have transformed the school radically.

Tutorial support to foster positive discipline

In Portugal, the Specific Tutorial Support (Legislative Order no. 4-A/2016) is intended for students in the 2nd and 3rd cycle of basic education who accumulate two or more grade repetitions throughout their school career. It aims to increase their involvement in educational activities through the planning and monitoring of their learning process.. Quality tutoring can be an important factor for self-regulation of learning, and become a platform for strengthening positive discipline, which focuses on strengthening positive behaviour rather than just punishing negative behaviour (which can lead to the disengagement of vulnerable students).

In addition to these initiatives, attention must be paid to the quality of the training provided. Even if skills such as working with different languages, cultures and religions, and promoting and supporting student well-being and digital literacy initiatives are covered in teacher education programmes, this does not always mean they are effective. There is a need to improve the design and development of the current training on these issues so that it better aligns with the reported need.

Formal teacher education and training

Only a few countries mentioned specific actions taken within initial teacher education. One example is the Digital Laboratoriums implemented in Norway to develop the digital competences of teacher candidates.

Overall, the majority of the responses to the 21st Century Children Policy Questionnaire concentrated on professional development programmes to address both technological issues in the classroom and the social and emotional development of students. Sometimes the support is embedded within the school through the creation of teams with specialised roles. Examples include the Digital Technologies in Focus, delivered by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), which provides support to 160 disadvantaged schools with information and communication technology (ICT) curriculum officers. In France, a recent national body of educational psychologists (PsyEN) has been mobilised to better attend to the range of cognitive and social needs of students by collaborating with teachers and families.

On-site initiatives such as these provide opportunities for teachers at the same school to engage in active learning and experimentation. This allows for collective participation and sharing reflections (Bautista and Ortega-Ruiz, 2015[7]). In addition, carefully developed online learning resources can also offer dynamic and flexible opportunities for teacher professional development. In particular, when resources are sustained, intense and backed by a dedicated training programme over time, they are more likely to have a bigger impact on the professional development of teachers (Garet et al., 2001[8]).

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) also provide ongoing professional development in digital skills. An example is Webwise in Ireland, which helps integrate Internet safety into teaching and learning. Innovative approaches to online learning are included as well. In Portugal, blended learning training courses are being introduced to help psychologists develop attitudes and skills to support teachers in adopting intervention strategies in the classroom to prevent and inhibit disruptive and bullying behaviours.

The Australian Government has developed two comprehensive portals, the Digital Technologies Hub and the Student Well-being Hub, to provide quality-assured learning resources and activities to support implementation of the Australian Curriculum. Both initiatives target students, parents and school leaders, provide activities and events, and host new content and resources as they are developed. The Student Well-being Hub also links to the Bullying. No Way! website, which provides helpful information and advice about bullying and promotes the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence, as well as a link to the Australian Student Well-being Framework, a foundational document to support school communities to build positive and inclusive learning environments. The Framework is based on evidence that demonstrates the strong association between safety, well-being and learning.

In addition to formal education for teachers, there are also a variety of initiatives that work with teachers and other actors (e.g. parents, mental health professionals, etc.). These are illustrated in Table 13.1.

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Table 13.1. Training for teachers, parents and other actors


Target group

Aims and methods


Primary and post-primary teachers

Training in restorative practice, as an evidence-based approach to address bullying


Psychologists in public schools

Develop attitudes and skills to support teachers in adopting strategies of intervention in the classroom to prevent and inhibit disruptive and bullying behaviours

Develop attitudes and skills that will allow them to develop their relationship with ECEC and first cycle teachers


Teachers and school psychologists

Training to recognise signs of depression, suicidal tendencies and other mental health problems

Scotland (United Kingdom)

Teachers and educators

Training through Career-Long Professional Learning (CLPL) for working in partnership with families and to develop capacity and resilience skills for young people and all those who play a role in their lives to prevent and deal with bullying



Address family and peer relationship issues and stress as well as issues related to anxiety over grade progression

Source: 21st Century Children Policy Questionnaire

Network approaches to teaching and learning

Networks play a key role in the development of coherent pedagogical approaches, support materials, professional sharing and learning, and leadership (Paniagua and Istance, 2018[9]). Networks can build upon whole school communities, but also on individuals from a diverse range of organisations and extend their professional peer network beyond their own school. These peer networks can provide fresh eyes to reflect on the particular school culture and the way the community approaches their students’ needs.

When providing examples of promising networks, some countries highlighted the important role of existing networks of schools to advance and improve teacher practices and professional learning. In the case of [email protected], in the Netherlands, four school boards and eighteen schools from both primary and secondary education collaborate to learn from each other and to inspire each other. The overall aim is to connect with individual learning needs and achieve better learning outcomes by focusing on personalised learning experiences.

Other networks and collaborations target specific practices, for example using social and emotional skills and arts as a way to promote children and young people’s well-being. The Student Success Network’s (New York, United States) philosophy is that students need more than academic skills to realise their potential, and that social and emotional learning is essential to prepare them for success in life. Defining themselves as a movement, members of the network range from social entrepreneurial organisations, such as I-Mentor and Citizen Schools, to long-standing community-based organisations, such as the YMCA and Good Shepard Services, to those that serve special needs students, such as Ramapo for Children (Olson, 2018[10]). In order to build up the movement, they provide training sessions for creating workshops among their members, organise events and have developed an online platform to strengthen the sharing of resources and collaboration. Key partners at NYU´s Research Alliance for New York City Schools help improve the quality of the data gathered and its use.

copy the linklink copied!Cross-sectoral collaboration and partnerships

As many challenges go beyond the walls of school settings, parental and wider community involvement play a critical role in addressing the challenges of digital and emotional well-being. Collaboration between schools and their communities to work together and engage other sectors and agents can take different forms (OECD (2017[11]), adapted from Stevenson and Boxall (2015[12])):

  • Schools as anchor institutions in their communities. In this configuration, partnerships are likely to be basic and collaboration with other agents limited to the individual initiatives of either schools or a particular actor from the community.

  • Schools’ entrepreneurial relationships with different members of the community, collaborating in joint initiatives and transferring knowledge-based expertise to policy makers and public services. Here, partnerships are more collaborative and engagement with other agents is more dynamic.

  • Involvement of schools in the life of the wider community through a variety of corporate social responsibility activities, ranging from outreach programmes with community groups to opening campus facilities to public and outside users. On this level, partnerships are stronger and reaching other agents is a joint effort of both schools and their communities.

These partnerships are often strategic collaborations aimed at expanding the capacity of schools to improve the way they build and reinforce digital skills (for example, helping teachers to apply technology in the classrooms and develop new pedagogical approaches) and reinforce well-being (e.g. addressing bullying and fostering healthy habits).

The following section will look at the types and forms of partnerships that have been reported across OECD countries and systems, with a special focus on those addressing digital skills and emotional well-being.

Types of partnerships between schools and other external actors

While policy makers have been incorporating new competences for teachers into national curricula and standards, they are also mindful that they should avoid increasing the burden on teachers that may come along with these often complex demands. They also work to avoid diluting the role of teachers, or creating overlapping competences with professionals from other areas. Teachers, first and foremost, are not seen as specialists for health or psychological issues, but as key players to connect and collaborate with other specialists and services.

Partnerships can range from ad hoc discussions between different actors to designing, evaluating and improving programmes together, as shown in Figure 13.2. Between these two extremes, it is possible to identify different levels of depth when establishing partnerships. These levels of depth do not necessarily measure the quality of the collaboration, as this would depend on the goal and the nature of the actors involved in the partnership. For example, collaborations between families and teachers can work well for particular objectives with basic or collaborative partnerships.

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Figure 13.2. Depth of partnerships and collaboration
Figure 13.2. Depth of partnerships and collaboration

Note: This continuum was proposed for initial teacher preparation but it can also be applied more generally across the system.

Source: Toon and Jensen (2017[13])

The nature of partnerships is strongly dependent on the authority and expertise of the actors involved and on the resources mobilised to make it happen. Mechanisms to support the collaboration of different partners and institutions include:

  • establishing formal feedback loops or accountability measures

  • collaborative learning practices

  • dedicated time and ongoing funding

  • developing professional responsibility, agency and trust.

Countries participating in the Policy Questionnaire were asked to describe the different types of partnerships between their schools and other external actors (see Figure 13.3).

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Figure 13.3. Partnerships between schools and external actors
Figure 13.3. Partnerships between schools and external actors

Note: 23 countries and systems answered this question.

Source: 21st Century Children Policy Questionnaire

Partnerships with parents and families

The most common type of partnership reported in the Policy Questionnaire was with parents and families. Almost two-thirds of the systems that responded to this question reported that family partnerships are required in schools, and only two commented that these types of partnerships are not widely established in their systems.

However, these responses must be interpreted with caution. On the one hand, policy makers often place emphasis on partnering with families, acknowledging the central role of families in protecting and fostering the well-being of children. This is reflected in the many national plans and initiatives targeting families as a key actor. On the other hand, the international literature highlights the challenges of establishing school-parent collaborations, particularly when trying to involve hard to reach parents in deep, substantial collaboration (see Box 13.2).

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Box 13.2. School-family partnerships: Possibilities and limits

Since the publication of the Coleman report (Coleman et al., 1966[14]) in the United States and the Plowden report (Plowden, 1967[15]) in the United Kingdom, a growing wave of evidence has demonstrated how the education level of parents, their financial resources and attitudes, and the overall influence of the home environment are among the best predictors of young people's academic achievement (OECD, 2018[16]). Involving and partnering with parents is thus encouraged in order to help realise the potential of all students, especially those most vulnerable.

However, while participation with school activities and governance seems to work well for those families that know how to ‘work and navigate’ the school system, it has proved more difficult to induce participation among families from vulnerable groups who are more at risk of education inequalities (Corter and Pelletier, 2005[17]; Furstenberg, 2011[18]; Gordon and Cui, 2014[19]). This can be particularly true in the digital space, as parents from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to have the digital skills and knowledge required to effectively participate. One example is that parents tend not to be aware of minimum age requirements for children in establishing social media profiles (e.g. on Instagram and Facebook, with a minimum age of 13), or how best to identify and react to online risks such as security and privacy concerns.

Nawrotzki (2012[20]) points out that one challenge within parental participation in schools comes from how schools reward certain forms of parental participation over others. Conflicts with work schedules, childcare needs, transportation problems, lack of familiarity with the institution and not speaking the same language as the teacher are just some of the participation barriers faced by parents (OECD, 2017[6]).

While the idea of family participation as a way to overcome educational inequalities continues to be an issue of debate (Paniagua, 2018[21]), research based on forms of collaboration that addresses the needs of families and students rather than asking for ‘ideal parenting’ has shown promising outcomes with vulnerable groups (Lopez, Kreider and Coffman, 2005[22]; Perez Carreón, Drake and Calabrese, 2005[23]). One way forward might be to focus on school-family partnerships that are less school-centred and more aimed at the community, and establishing trustful relationships with parents, as laid out below.

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Table 13.2. Moving towards community-based models of parental involvement

Traditional School-Centred Model

Community-Based Model

Activity based

Relationship based

Parents as individuals

Parents as members of community/collective

Parents follow school agenda

Parents as leaders and collaborators in setting agenda

Workshops that provide information

Training for leadership development and personal growth

School to parent communication

Mutual exchange

Source: Warren et al. (2009[24])

Partnerships with medical and mental health professionals

After partnerships with parents and families, mental health professionals and medical practitioners are the next set of commonly reported school partnerships. These professionals, are required in almost a third of the countries and are widely present in another third. The traditional connection between education and physical health is becoming increasingly augmented by mental health specialists, as awareness grows about the importance of emotional well-being. In addition, the prevalence of these partnerships might be related to the authority of these actors and the feasibility of developing a supportive role for the work of teachers – which is clearer in the case of psychologists.

Several responses to the Policy Questionnaire described the way education and health networks and ministries work together to promote a joint vision and reinforce the coherence of actions (e.g. New Brunswick (Canada), Nova Scotia (Canada) and France). In some cases, this shared vision establishes specific goals, such as targeting vulnerable children, as in the 0-24 collaboration in Norway (see Box 13.3), providing access to specialist support and ways to improve mental health for young people as in the Headspace project in Scotland (United Kingdom), or focusing on babies, young children and their families, as in the First 5 initiative in Ireland.

The programme Stronger for Tomorrow, a collaboration between the Ministries of Health and Education in New Zealand, supports schools with specialised workers that have a diverse range of skills, including psychologists, social workers, health specialists from indigenous groups (whānau ora kaimahi), counsellors and youth workers (see Chapter 3). Similarly in the French community of Belgium, schools voluntarily participated in the pilot programme Cellules Bien Être, where a well-being team from six services from different sectors (e.g. health, youth) collaborated with teaching staff.

Other examples include the Healthy Students Toolkit in the United States, which gathers information about resources, programmes and services offered by non-governmental organisations in different states to outline high-impact opportunities. These include the importance of helping eligible students enrol in health insurance, the provision of Medicaid and other services in schools, promoting nutrition and physical activities and building local partnerships with health services. In Finland, the education provider appoints a steering group for pupil welfare with representatives from health care, psychologists and social workers. Prince Edward Island’s (Canada) student well-being teams include school health nurses, mental health clinicians, school outreach workers, counselling consultants and occupational therapists.

Partnerships with digital experts: Creating the conditions for using technology in schools

Fostering digital skills and incorporating ICTs in the classroom involves more than simply trading textbooks for tablets. It raises the challenge of unprecedented investment in education technology and professional development to build the capacity of teachers for understanding the use, content and pedagogical implications of technology. Further, it also implies establishing stronger connections with the whole community, for most of the opportunities and challenges that come with the use of technology lie both inside and outside the schools. Therefore, comprehensive efforts to bring families and community organisations together are needed to ensure digital learning does not become another source of disadvantage (Hooft Graafland, 2018[25]).

Despite the growing emphasis on equipping teachers with digital competences, countries reported a low rate of partnerships with programmers and experts in cybersecurity. This is potentially due to a number of factors. Firstly, areas of programming/coding and cybersecurity are not among the key priorities of policy makers regarding technology and schools, despite the attention paid to protecting children from online risks. Furthermore, teachers are often expected to integrate digital skills into existing subjects – which would be a powerful way forward as long as they are proficient in these skills. This is however not clear, as highlighted with the lack of access to teacher training in these subjects in the first half of this chapter.

Schools that are successful in using technology effectively establish strong partnerships with key stakeholders from universities, technology companies and other organisations (Levin and Schrum, 2013[26]). This is not always straightforward, as it can involve actors with conflicting agendas, which in turn can undermine the capacity to establish healthy collaborations (Abrams, Chen and Downton, 2018[27]). The formation of partnerships with private sector companies (for example, cyber security experts or representatives of large platforms/service providers such as Google or Microsoft) can be particularly challenging, given the different agendas and expectations of the sectors. However, given the speed of technological change, it is almost inevitable that a way must be found for these actors to work together. This is especially true given the decentralised nature of many education systems, which effectively locate the responsibility for protecting student data and for ensuring the security of school and class technology infrastructure to the level of the school (see also Chapter 14).

A variety of examples of effective partnerships were provided in the Policy Questionnaire responses. For example, in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (Canada), Brilliant Labs, a not-for-profit technology and experiential learning platform, collaborates with schools to implement Makerspaces. These labs build on the pedagogical approach ‘Maker Culture’, encouraging learners to use, explore and experiment with diverse materials and tools to build up engines as well as more complex tools or artefacts, providing an authentic learning experience that activates previous Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM) knowledge. Brilliant Lab’s makerspaces are managed by their staff, who provide support for setting up the design of the space and professional development. Schools, in turn, determine the specific type of equipment needed and are expected to leverage their traditional funding sources and practices. The success of this partnership is illustrated by how the maker movement is being implemented in hundreds of schools across Atlantic Canada and by their ‘platform’ nature, aimed at encouraging and preparing schools to deliver maker opportunities rather than providing a one-off service (MakerMedia, 2019[28]).

Although it is more focused on providing the infrastructure, the ambitious pilot initiative launched by the Greek Ministry of Education is similar in that it has implemented a network of 145 open technology laboratories across the country in partnership with Building Infrastructure and the National Banks’s i-bank. The labs consist of a network of workstations with Raspberry PI, robotics kit, 3D printers and scanners, interactive projectors, multifunction peripherals and various sensors. The aim is that the network will develop into a broader professional community of practice around the effective use of ICTs.

Other actions revolve around supporting partnerships for the professional development of teachers. In Ireland, the Schools Excellence Fund – Digital invites clusters of 4-6 schools to work together on innovative projects in teaching and learning using digital technologies. These clusters can receive up to EUR 30 000 to run a project over a three-year period. Examples of these clusters include a cluster of six post-primary schools in Dublin, Cork and Westmeath, working together on a project that will use drones to record footage of the local areas to inform core elements of the Junior and Senior Cycle Geography curricula, while another cluster of Midlands post-primary schools are using industry-lead training in MoJo (mobile journalism) video content creation to enhance teaching, learning and digital literacy among educators and students in the cluster schools (DES, 2018[29]).

Partnerships with community institutions and law enforcement

Community involvement is one of the key factors for effective intervention design. For example, many promising childhood intervention programmes to enhance social and emotional skills often include parental training and involvement, and one of the common features among successful bullying prevention programmes is that they take a holistic approach involving the whole community (Choi, 2018[30]). By involving the community in intervention design and implementation, there is often an opportunity to make use of existing infrastructure and build on the strengths in the community (Hooft Graafland, 2018[25]).

Community institutions and law enforcement partnerships represent a diverse spectrum of actors and services, which in the former case includes people who work on a voluntary basis. This means that the ways in which schools can engage with community institutions and law enforcement are much more varied than with other actors. For example, over two-thirds of the countries and systems that responded confirmed that partnerships with community organisations are required, present in all schools or present in some schools. There is some potential confusion around this figure, however, given the overlapping role of parent associations, which can fall under the label of both “community organisation” and “parent/family involvement”.

One example of a community partnership comes from Providence (United States), where the school strategy Afterzone was developed as a response to the lack of organised activities available for middle schoolers. Implemented by the After School Alliance, the initiative coordinates community-based organisations to provide after school programmes focusing on teamwork, problem solving and engagement in education. All participating organisations are held to a single set of quality standards and receive training and support to help students acquire essential skills (Olson, 2018[10]). An independent evaluation found the programme reduced school absences among its participants by 25% after two years, with the greatest benefit for students who participated in at least thirty days of programming. Further, those students who reported high levels of engagement in the programme thought more about their future, had better social skills and demonstrated more positive behaviour (Kauh, 2011[31]).

Another example comes from Latvia, where the Ministry of Education invited vocational cultural education institutions to carry out the RaPaPro Creative Partnership Programme. Schools had to open their doors to the public and look for partners among businesses and within the social sphere, which also included neighbouring schools and local residents. This meant cooperating so as to be able to learn from each other’s experience, collaborate, innovate, solve problems and unleash the potential of creativity. Full understanding of the idea of creative partnerships is demonstrated as equality between all parties, where everyone is a benefactor as well as a beneficiary, be it student, teacher, businessman, doctor or mayor of the city. Between 2014 and 2016, 16 RaPaPro projects were implemented through different forms of collaboration, including music education students collaborating with media industry representatives, design education students looking for responsive partners between business education schools and ceramic industry companies, or dance education students engaging with design education students and craftspeople.

In the case of law enforcement, given that schooling includes a diverse range of actions that are mandatory by law, it is likely that most schools – and in particular those working with students more likely to suffer from educational inequalities – are in constant contact with law enforcement services. This continuous contact might be considered a form of partnership by some countries – even if these are singular collaborations to address specific targets – while others might consider this continuous contact as a form of routine process or protocol that does not match the idea of partnership. No specific examples of effective partnerships with law enforcement were provided by respondents in the Policy Questionnaire.

Fostering a holistic approach to the well-being of all students

The examples above illustrate that a strong partnerships can be established between two agencies or ministries. They can also be harnessed to create an interdisciplinary, whole-of-government approach, including not only education and health, but also social development, public safety, justice and other regional authorities.

A key goal of many of these partnerships is using the power of schools to detect and reach vulnerable students. For example, in Central Texas (United States), the nation-wide programme Communities in Schools builds partnerships with the local housing authority to provide case management, leadership development programmes for adolescent males and adult education to help parents get either the General Education Development or the English as a Second Language certificate while their infants receive care. Similarly, in Nova Scotia’s (Canada) Schools Plus, early years centres, family resource centres and youth centres are located within schools to provide social work, health, justice, recreation and mental health services to all, and especially those most vulnerable. Another example comes from Norway (see Box 13.3).

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Box 13.3. Establishing a shared view of the well-being of vulnerable children and young adults in Norway: The “0-24 Collaboration”

Vulnerable children and young adults often have complex difficulties (such as school difficulties, health problems, poverty in the family) that require follow-up from several services. The "0-24 collaboration" in Norway is an interdisciplinary effort between ministries, directorates and county governors to facilitate proactive, comprehensive, efficient and competent services for vulnerable children and young adults under the age of 24. This initiative has inspired other similar initiatives in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and the autonomous islands of Greenland and Aaland, called the Nordic 0-24 Project. All of these initiatives aim at ensuring ministries and directorates design and organise the state instruments based on the needs of the municipalities and users, through better co-operation and dialogue, to ensure a long-term, close and relevant follow-up of vulnerable children and youth.

One example from this collaboration is a network of seven municipalities administered by the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities. In this network, the municipalities work with cross-sectoral learning processes, the aims of which are to develop a set of indicators for good practice in services for vulnerable children and young people. The participants in the network are primarily leaders or managers from different sectors and units within the seven municipalities. Units include schools, kindergartens, educational-psychological services, child welfare services, public health centres, school health services, family houses and the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration offices. At the municipal level they explicitly foster cross-sectoral collaboration, while at the national level regional authorities are in dialogue with the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training regarding their contribution to the project.

Source: Hansen et al. (2018[32])

Another example of a holistic approach is well-being frameworks. Well-being frameworks tend to address multiple challenges through a comprehensive policy approach and are designed and coordinated by central governments. However, they are then implemented locally and focused on the school. This autonomy mirrors that of many digital policies, which are also often coordinated at the school level.

What is characteristic of well-being frameworks is that they broaden the traditional ‘service-delivery’ or ‘protecting students’ safety’ mind-set, which often focused primarily on the physical dimension of well-being. While these frameworks often involve the integration of health services as part of a prevention/detection strategy, there is an increased focus on strengthening the protective factors and resilience for children through the climate around the school and learning themselves. For example, the Australian Student Wellbeing Framework supports school communities in building positive and inclusive learning environments. Its development was based on evidence that suggests a strong association amongst safety, well-being and learning. Table 13.3 highlights examples of how different systems implement well-being frameworks.

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Table 13.3. School-based implementation of well-being approaches


Well-being approach

Responsibilities of the school


Australian Student Well-Being Framework

Schools are expected to enact the principles and practices of the framework, though are given wide autonomy for how to do so.

Belgium (Flanders)

Gezonde School project

School-based initiatives to support students’ mental well-being engaging parents, the environment, the class, etc.

Educational packages offered to schools by various organisations that prepare interventions and resources.


National Health Strategy

Schools are expected to integrate a health and well-being plan (including mental health).


Wellbeing Policy and Framework for Practice

Schools engage in a well-being promotion process, use self-evaluation to identify needs and implement practices to develop well-being of learners.


SePAS and CePAS teams

The school is the locus of service delivery.

The teams liaise with various organisations and external bodies addressing help and support, youth issues and mobilisations, study and professional orientation, housing and prevention.

United States

Schools should ensure counselling support is available for students.

Schools are expected to develop strategies and programmes in collaboration with community partners.

Source: 21st Century Children Policy Questionnaire

In order to ensure smooth and effective implementation, emotional well-being frameworks should also equip teachers, parents and students with the tools they need to deal with challenges to emotional well-being. Research suggests effective intervention programmes enhance social and emotional skills and often involve engaging parents, including training, family environment, and parent-child interaction in home/school settings (Choi, 2018[30]).

Special focus: Alliances for addressing persisting and emerging forms of bullying

Bullying and cyberbullying are significantly related to multiple psychosocial and behavioural problems (Choi, 2018[30]). Given the complexities and persistence of bullying there is no easy one-size-fits-all approach to preventing it, although research suggests that schools still have a significant role in improving anti-bullying mechanisms, such as improving the communication with parents, better supervision in the playground, improved disciplinary measures, promoting healthy relationships with peers, and better classroom management. Teachers have a particularly important role, since students’ perceptions of teacher´s unfair treatment is one of the strongest predictors of bullying (OECD, 2017[6]). Some of the common features of successful anti-bullying programmes are the provision of training and information to parents, holding parent-teacher meetings and improving and systematising supervision and monitoring of symptoms and activities such as bullying among children and youth (Choi, 2018[30]).

Collaboration among teachers, parents and other members of the community appears in most country initiatives to fight bullying and promote a safe environment for students. In Australia, the National Centre Against Bullying (NCAB) works with school communities, governments and industry to give advice on the creation of safe schools, with a focus on building the capacity, knowledge and skill base of a range of sectors to enable them to address the issues of bullying and well-being and drive evidence-based practices. Similarly, the Australian platform Bullying. No Way! promotes whole-school strategies, with a focus on encouraging the engagement of families.

In a similar vein, in New Zealand the Bullying Prevention Advisory Group (BPAG) – a collection of 18 agencies committed to reducing bullying with representatives from education, health, justice and social sectors, including Internet safety and human rights advocacy groups - have created Bullying-free NZ, a collection of information and resources to assist New Zealand schools in becoming bullying free. This platform includes a roadmap to tackle bullying in schools, and tools for assessing existing plans and involving the community.

Other initiatives described in the responses to the Policy Questionnaire include the involvement of external professionals in schools. In the French community of Belgium, different campaigns with third sector organisations (e.g. Child Focus, University of Peace) have been launched to fight cyberbullying specifically, including a pilot initiative to include universities collaborating with schools to implement experimental plans to help teachers prevent school violence. In the Russian Federation, the program Stop Bullying includes famous Russian psychologists, writers, film and theatre stars to inform children, parents and teachers about the importance of sympathy, acceptance, patience, respect and understanding of the uniqueness of each person.

copy the linklink copied!In sum: A shared vision of well-being

As education systems increasingly respond to new societal, economic and digital needs, schools are on the front line of change. Communities depend on educators to help integrate students of different languages and backgrounds, to encourage tolerance and cohesion, and to respond effectively to the needs of all students, including enhancing their well-being. Teachers are also expected to prepare students for the digital world – to help them learn how to use new technologies and to keep up with new and rapidly developing fields of knowledge (OECD, 2010[3]).

These changes mean that educators are increasingly expected to work in partnership with other actors. These include parents and families, but also health professionals, psychologists and law enforcement. Increasingly, they also include cybersecurity professionals and programmers. In order to develop a coherent agenda and support strategic action, the actors collaborating in partnership need to share an explicit, common vision. Developing, maintaining and supporting partnerships with such a diverse set of actors, some of whom (for example those from the private sector) have different aims and goals, is a complex challenge.

Responding to these changes, systems across the OECD have focused on equipping their teachers with new skills through their initial teacher education and continuing professional development. There are numerous examples of policy initiatives supporting the well-being of students, as well as training teachers to develop digital skills in their students. Somewhat surprisingly, there are fewer examples of initiatives to train teachers to educate their students about digital risks, despite the high priority of these issues.

In terms of partnerships, countries reported extensive partnerships with families and parents, and increasingly also with other sectors such as health providers and mental health professionals. Less common were initiatives with programmers and cybersecurity experts. Although more difficult to manage given the different goals of public and private actors, these partnerships will need to be strengthened in order to ensure that schools and education systems can keep up with the rapid speed of technological change. This topic and discussion will be dealt with in more depth in the following chapter.


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Chapter 13. Building capacity: Teacher education and partnerships