12. Building capacity: Teacher education and partnerships

Kristen Weatherby
Weatherby Education Studies, Ltd.
United Kingdom
Tracey Burns
OECD Directorate for Education and Skills

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 risk 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 teacher preparation and partnerships, both of which are crucial to effective delivery of policy and practice. It focuses specifically on two areas brought into sharp relief during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020: supporting teachers to teach with technology and working to ensure students’ physical and mental well-being.

In the middle of March, 2020, the OECD reported that 102 countries around the world had closed all of their nation’s schools, leaving nearly 900 million children – and their teachers and parents – trying to determine how to continue formal schooling from home (Burns, 2020[2]). Teachers and schools worldwide turned to some form of distance learning, which itself is reliant on adequate technology resources and Internet connectivity, as well as the technical skills of teachers, student and parents.

In terms of access to technology, PISA 2018 data shows that in wealthy European countries, more than 95% of students report they have access to a computer for working at home. However, only 34% of students report the same in Indonesia, making distance learning all but impossible for nearly two-thirds of Indonesian students (OECD, 2020[3]). Even in wealthier countries, there is variation in access to computers at home based on students’ socio-economic background. In the United States, nearly every 15-year-old in socio-economically advantaged schools reported having access to a computer at home, while only three out of four students in disadvantaged schools reported having one. In Peru, the differences are even starker: 88% of students in more advantaged schools report having their own computer at home, as opposed to only 17% in disadvantaged schools.

It should be noted that these results were reported in 2018. The 15-year-olds surveyed by PISA might have access to a computer, but this does not mean that it was the level and intensity of access required for the full shift to digital learning that took place during school lockdowns in 2020. For successful schooling during the pandemic, families were often required to provide access to technology for every child in their household, as well as adequate broadband capacity to allow for streaming of multiple lessons at once – all while parents were also trying to work remotely using the same Internet access. In some countries Internet access at home is universal, while in others it is only available to about half of 15-year-olds. In Mexico, nearly all students (94%) from families with high socio-economic status reported having Internet access at home, versus only 29% of disadvantaged students. The same patterns play out for access to a quiet space to study and other factors required for learning.

Policymakers, social workers, medical professionals and educationalists also worried about the physical well-being of students during the COVID-19 crisis. Thousands of students across countries receive one or more free meals at school each day, which were suddenly no longer available when schools closed. Governments had to quickly arrange schemes to provide food or vouchers to families who relied on this kind of support to feed their children. Vulnerable or at-risk students also became a concern for schools that no longer had a reliable way to monitor students’ physical well-being on a daily basis. Teachers and school leaders organised home visits or online daily attendance taking, where possible, so that they could see students and attempt to ascertain whether there were any physical or emotional concerns. As many social services were no longer available due to nationwide lockdowns, schools also had to step in; as they were in regular contact with families, teachers and leaders became social workers as well.

While the situation experienced during school closures was extreme, it highlighted deficiencies in skills, capacity and resources in education that need to be addressed by policymakers around the world. It also emphasised the ongoing change in the roles of teachers from primarily academic provision to a more holistic well-being role in supporting students. This only serves to highlight the importance of strong partnerships with parents as schools and teachers tried to support families in issues of access, technical skills, pedagogy and well-being.

To tackle some of the global issues around recruitment and retention of high quality candidates into the teaching profession, it is often said that teaching today should be considered a knowledge worker profession (Schleicher, 2012[4]). A knowledge worker is someone who uses high-level knowledge, gained from either formal education or workplace experience, to create new knowledge and share it back with the profession (Ramírez and Nembhard, 2004[5]). One of the four key domains of knowledge work is professional discretion, which involves giving knowledge workers the autonomy to make workplace decisions based on their own expertise and experience (Price and Weatherby, 2017[6]). Professional discretion also implies freedom of knowledge workers to collaborate with colleagues to share and develop knowledge. Yet this key component of professions is not always present in teaching (Guerriero, 2017[7]).

In TALIS 2018, 78% percent of teachers across 48 countries and systems reported that they participated in school-level decision making. However, while they were fairly likely to collaborate with colleagues on a surface level by discussing specific students (61% of teachers across OECD systems report this, on average) or exchanging teaching materials with colleagues (47%), they were far less likely to engage in deeper forms of collaboration. Only 9% of teachers reported providing observation-based feedback to colleagues and only 21% engaged in collaborative professional learning at least once a month (OECD, 2020[8]). Both of these more in-depth collaboration activities would have been rendered all but impossible during COVID-19-related school closures in 2020.

In addition to professional autonomy, teachers need ongoing professional development. The beginning of a teacher’s career-long journey of professional development should start with their initial teacher education (OECD, 2019[9]). It involves partnerships (with government, schools and unions), curriculum (for both new teacher candidates and the students they are teaching), and a system of teaching standards, accreditation and certification that needs to be continually reviewed and adapted (OECD, 2019[9]).

In addition, the content of a teacher’s initial education is important in terms how prepared they feel for teaching and how effective they are as teachers. Research into initial teacher education indicates student achievement is higher when initial teacher training includes a combination of subject matter content, pedagogy and teaching practice (Guerriero, 2017[7]; Clotfelter, Ladd and Vigdor, 2007[10]).

Across OECD countries, nearly all teachers (92%) reported that their initial teacher education or training included the content of some or all of the subjects that they teach, as well as general pedagogical knowledge. Slightly fewer teachers (89%) across OECD countries reported that their initial teacher education included coursework or training in the pedagogy needed for teaching some or all of the subjects that they teach. Finally, a teaching practicum, giving teachers the chance to apply their learning in a classroom under the supervision of an experienced teacher, was included in an average of 90% of teachers’ initial training across OECD countries (OECD, 2019[11]).

While these overall averages seem encouraging, TALIS data also explores other elements of teachers’ initial training that are relevant to their work in modern classrooms. As seen in Figure 12.1 across OECD countries, only 54% of teachers reported that using information and communication technology (ICT) in teaching was covered in their initial teacher education, and only 43% of teachers reported that they felt well or very well prepared for teaching with ICT when they finished their formal training.

In fact, teaching with ICTs was consistently one of the highest areas of need for professional development across the TALIS 2008, 2013 and 2018 surveys (OECD, 2019[11]; OECD, 2014[12]; OECD, 2010[13]). These results suggest that the professional development offer could be improved. Indeed, while the majority of teachers (94%) surveyed across OECD countries and economies reported having participated in some form of continuing professional development during the year prior to the survey, not all teachers found it effective. On average, 82% of teachers across OECD countries reported that the professional development in which they participated had a positive impact on their teaching. The most effective types connected to their subject or curriculum, built on their own prior knowledge, provided opportunities to practice or apply new ideas to their own classroom and included collaboration with peers or active learning.

As the experience with the COVID-19 pandemic revealed, it would be important to drill down more into these findings. Although TALIS did not cover in detail support for emotional and physical well-being and use of digital technologies, the 21st Century Children Policy Questionnaire gives some hints.

According to the data, in 14 of 24 countries and systems surveyed, the physical health of students is required by national curriculum or other regulation to be covered in teacher education, whether this is in their initial training or continuing professional development. In five countries, the physical health of students is covered in most programmes, while in four countries it is covered in some programmes. Chapter 2 of this volume explores the connections between policy challenges and trends in physical health in more detail.

Countries generally provide support to teachers to acquire digital skills. 20 of the 24 systems responding to this question indicated that digital skills and ability to use technology were required (by national curriculum, standards or other) or covered in most programmes. Similarly, 18 of the 24 systems indicated that the skills to use technology in teaching were required or covered in most programmes. However, there was far less training available for assessing digital risks to students, with 30% of systems reporting that it was covered only in some programmes or not at all. This is surprising considering the attention to digital risks such as cyberbullying.

In many systems, the teaching of digital technology in schools is moving beyond how to use computers and the Internet safely and responsibly. Increasingly, education systems are focusing on developing students’ understanding of how technology works and how to develop it themselves. Systems are seeing economic, cultural and social rationales for developing computer science education in schools, from primary education onwards (Fluck et al., 2016[14]). As children increasingly become consumers of technology at younger ages, they need to understand the principles of how things work so that they can be better informed to make decisions about complex issues surrounding technology. Across many systems, computational thinking, algorithms, programming and artificial intelligence are being integrated across existing curricula in subjects such as mathematics, science and the arts, or are being added as part of separate computer science or computing courses throughout primary and secondary school (Bocconi et al., 2016[15]). Increasingly, coursework also includes work on neural networks and robotics. This naturally has implications for teacher training and ongoing professional development.

Teachers have consistently been expressing high levels of need for training around teaching with technology for more than a decade, and this was only underlined during school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Box 12.1 discusses the inequity in provision that resulted from lack of skill, equipment, and other circumstances within countries.

As laid out in the previous sections, new expectations for teachers require building new skills and capacity for the teaching workforce. A number of interesting measures have been uncovered, which can be broadly grouped into three approaches:

  1. 1. curriculum reform and extension

  2. 2. formal teacher education and training

  3. 3. guidelines, recommendations or regulations that are instituted at a national level by a central government body or partner.

In the Policy Questionnaire, policy makers often referred to a new or updated national curriculum as a key resource for improving the use of technology in the classroom, fostering the teaching of digital skills and supporting the physical health 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.

In addition to reforming the curriculum, another approach used by education systems 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) Comprehensive School Health (CSH) Model. In Ireland, an extension to the curriculum around physical health is part of a larger commitment to promote increased physical activity levels across the population. As part of this initiative, a framework has been provided for schools to assess health needs of students and develop programmes to address them within the curriculum. One such programme, Move well, Move often, has been designed to complement the teaching of the Irish Primary School Physical Education (PE) curriculum and aims to provide a range of tools to support the teacher in teaching fundamental movement skills throughout primary school. Similar resources are provided for teachers of students in the junior and senior cycles of Irish education.

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 digital technologies curriculum officers.

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 Oretga-Ruiz, 2015[18]). 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[19]).

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, discussed further in Box 12.3.

Responses to the Policy Questionnaire regarding the physical health of children often discussed guidelines, recommendations or regulations around particular physical health objectives or practices which are to be followed by schools or are suggested to parents. In some cases, government inspections of schools include the evaluation of specific physical health targets that are included in the regular inspection of school quality. In relation to use of digital technologies in school, some countries also issued regulations or guidelines regarding the appropriate length of time students – especially young children – should be exposed to screens at school or at home. These guidelines, recommendations or regulations are imposed from the top town, and although schools have no choice as to whether to implement them, they are often left to decide how to best implement them, given their individual context and resources.

In Canada, a number of provinces have published guidelines and recommendations on a variety of aspects of physical health. Better Nights, Better Days is a digital behavioural programme designed to help parents who have children aged 1-10 years with sleep problems. Providing tools in both English and French, the interactive program is tailored to individual families to support implementing behavioural strategies for better sleep. Québec has implemented the provincial measure À l’école, on bouge! (On the Move at School) that supports preschools and primary schools to ensure that all of their students are physically active for at least 60 minutes of every school day. The Flemish community of Belgium has developed a statement of commitment for schools that requires them to ensure students receive healthy drinks and other refreshments at school.

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 can take different forms, as set out in Figure 12.3.

This framework captures three main spaces:

  • Schools as anchor institutions in their communities: partnerships likely basic and collaboration limited.

  • Schools’ entrepreneurial relationships, transferring knowledge-based expertise to policy makers and public services. Partnerships are more collaborative and dynamic.

  • Involvement of schools in the life of the wider community, ranging from outreach programmes with community groups to opening facilities to public users. Reaching other agents is a joint effort of schools and their communities.

In addition, there is a fourth space of open and collaborative partnerships in which schools and communities work together to create collective economic and social benefits. This mode of engagement goes well beyond institution-centred interactions and can help develop local or regional responses to educational and social challenges.

School/community partnerships are often strategic collaborations aimed at expanding the capacity of schools to improve the way they build and reinforce digital skills (e.g. 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 physical health.

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 well-being issues, but as key players to connect and collaborate with other specialists and services (see also Chapter 11).

Partnerships can range from ad hoc discussions between different actors to designing, evaluating and improving programmes together. 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 (Toon and Jensen, 2017[23]):

  • establishing formal feedback loops or accountability measures

  • collaborative learning practices

  • dedicated time and ongoing funding

  • developing professional responsibility, agency and trust.

Countries reported a range of partnerships between their schools and external actors (see Figure 12.4)

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.

While policy makers and schools have long understood the importance of partnering with families to protect children and support their learning, this partnership became especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, when families were required to support schooling from home over a period of many months in some countries. However, the international research literature highlights the challenges many schools can experience in collaborating with parents and families, especially when trying to involve parents who are hard to reach or may not have had a positive schooling experience themselves (see Box 12.3).

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. 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. The mental health and emotional well-being of children is a focus of Chapter 13 in the companion volume to this one (Burns and Gottschalk, 2019[35]).

Since a majority of governments surveyed expressed that their biggest challenges regarding students’ physical health were around exercise, weight and nutrition, it is surprising that school partnerships in this area are not required or observed in most countries. Partnerships between dieticians or nutrition experts and fitness professionals (e.g. coaches or trainers) are only required in two of the 25 countries that responded to the survey. Policy makers in 15 systems reported that partnerships between schools and fitness professionals are present in some or most schools, while in only 11 systems are partnerships with dieticians or nutrition experts present in some or most schools. This aligns with the finding on the requirement for teacher training in this area and could perhaps indicate that governments tend to provide regulations or guidelines for schools while providing advice, resources and possible partnerships to parents instead.

Nonetheless there are some countries with interesting policy examples in these areas. The Latvian Ministry of Education and Science has partnered with the Latvian Olympic committee and various enterprises to develop a school initiative called Everyone Exercises. The objectives of this programme are to strengthen the role of sports in society and inspire children to engage in regular physical activity and to monitor the effects of physical activity on their health. As part of this programme, primary students are given two mandatory physical education lessons and three additional optional lessons per week, covering general physical fitness, football skills, and swimming or other outdoor activities. Participants in the programme are monitored in terms of their diet, sleep, motivation, learning achievements and any changes to height, weight and muscle gain.

The government of Switzerland also partners with the Swiss Olympic committee to provide resources and guidelines to schools to promote increased physical activity among its students. During school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the School Moves programme provided videos, activities and exercises for students to complete at home in order to keep their level of physical activity. The programme website provided ideas for “soothing” or “activating” breaks from students’ academic studies, as well as a variety of movement tasks for students to complete alone or in groups. Some of these movement tasks taught fundamental sports skills, and others allowed students to move while learning academic content.

Fostering digital skills and incorporating digital technology 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[36]).

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 or coding and cybersecurity are not among the key priorities of policy makers regarding technology and schools, despite the attention paid to protecting children from digital 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. As highlighted earlier in the chapter, it is still not clear that teachers are confident in their abilities to do this.

Many countries mentioned partnerships or initiatives based around providing devices or technical equipment or content into schools. According to TALIS 2018 data, 25% of lower secondary principals reported that a shortage or inadequacy of digital technology for instruction hindered the school’s capacity to provide quality instruction by quite a bit or a lot (OECD, 2019[11]). A further one in five school principals said that their schools had insufficient Internet access to provide quality instruction.

The digital equipment or content access programmes mentioned by systems in the Policy Questionnaire would provide their teachers and learners access to interactive whiteboards, tablets or PCs and labs providing access to equipment that would allow students to build skills in robotics, programming, making and other digital skills and competencies using a variety of methods. Glasgow City Council had plans to roll out 55 000 tablets and other technology as part of a 1-to-1 computing initiative for all pupils and staff. In Korea and the Russian Federation digital textbooks for a variety of subjects were being implemented across schools, and Sweden is in the process of developing digitalised national exams. The Greek Ministry of Education 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 digital technologies.

Countries are also entering into partnerships dedicated to providing more evidence-based, tried and tested education-specific technology into schools. In the United States, Digital Promise is a foundation dedicated to research, programme and practice development around furthering the use of technology in schools. Their League of Innovative Schools is a community of over 100 forward-thinking US school districts that receive support from Digital Promise in using technology to address key education challenges.

In Finland, the Smart Learning Environments of the Future project involves the six largest cities in Finland and multiple universities, who are working together with schools and edtech startups to co-develop edtech that better meets the needs of the education sector. In this project, schools not only become test beds for edtech, but students and teachers are able to participate in companies’ product development processes and influence the how the products are developed. Edtech companies embed the process of piloting and evaluation in schools into their development process and using this feedback to improve their products.

Founded by the Center for Education Technology in Israel, MindCet aims to engage with creators of educational technology, schools and teachers to create innovative new models for learning with technology. Among the MindCet offerings are opportunities for teachers to become edtech entrepreneurs or pilot innovative new pedagogies in their schools.

In Estonia, the Edulabs programme partners schools and researchers to pilot educational technologies and develop innovative pedagogies to use the edtech with learners. It aims to develop research skills in teachers so that they can reflect on and improve their own practice, and further supports teachers with an online community of their peers which they can consults for resources or help.

Community involvement is one of the key factors for effective intervention design (Aston, 2018[37]). 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[36]). Over two-thirds of the countries and systems that responded to the Policy Questionnaire confirmed that partnerships with community organisations are required, present in all schools or present in some schools. One example of a partnership with a community institution 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.

Many social services also liaise between schools and families to help support vulnerable children. Often schools and teachers identify or are notified by social services of children who are being harmed or at risk of harm outside of school and are able to monitor their health and behaviour in school on a daily basis, reporting back to social services when needed (for more see Chapter 11). During the COVID-19 pandemic, the daily, in-person contact with these vulnerable children was removed, and keeping a close watch on vulnerable children became a particular concern for schools and social workers.

In Ireland, a survey of school leaders found that pastoral care (supporting the social and emotional well-being) of students was the most difficult school service to replicate remotely (Mohan et al., 2020[17]). Indeed, in many countries, schools were kept open during lockdown so that vulnerable children could attend in-person. However, in the United Kingdom, the Early Intervention Foundation reported that often parents of these children would not send them to school, thus making the process of monitoring them much more challenging for schools and social services (Wilson and Waddell, 2020[38]).

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 to the Policy Questionnaire.

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 supporting 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[40]).

Yet change in schools has been compared to turning an oil tanker (Gardner and Ollis, 2015[41]): it’s slow and laborious, and once you have committed to the change, it is difficult to turn back – even if you realise you are headed in the wrong direction. It can be difficult to convince key stakeholders in education – government, parents, teachers and the community – that the system of schooling in which they themselves took part should be radically altered.

With the ever increasing challenges facing our youngest members of society, education systems need to be agile enough to respond to the threats our children confront from society (bullying, alcohol, drug and tobacco use), the Internet (online predators, securing personal data, cyberbullying) and their own healthy living habits (obesity, lack of physical activity, poor diet and nutrition). Teachers and schools need to be confident that they have the knowledge and resources necessary to address these challenges, and many others, on a daily basis.

Responding to these challenges, 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 many other initiatives to provide equipment to schools and build skills among teaching staff and learners have been implemented.

More than any other time in recent history, the challenges faced during the COVID-19 crisis of 2020 showcased just how important partnerships and professional development are for teachers. Schools and teachers struggled to transition from the traditional face-to-face learning environment to one managed virtually, using a mixture of digital resources accessed via computer, mobile phone or television, and traditional books, pens and paper worksheets. While teachers laboured to quickly solve the technical issues necessary to put their learning materials online, they also found creative ways to monitor their students’ physical and mental well-being on a daily basis. Governments and schools had to rapidly develop solutions for providing free school meals to those students who regularly received them at school, as well as hand-delivering laptops, books and printed worksheets to families in need of those resources. In many instances, these vital resources were not provided soon enough, and after six months of the pandemic, countries wondered just how many students would be left behind. It is up to all of us -- policy makers, school leaders, teachers, parents and members of the community – to work together in supporting schools to care for and develop our nations’ children.


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