Just a few months ago, who would have imagined education on a massive scale without schools or home schooling and tutoring by digital platforms? And yet, in most countries, during the pandemic, that was the only alternative to no education at all. In that context, the “lucky” ones were those students who had digital access even though it widened the gulf of inequalities and opportunities even in the most fortunate countries. In countries without good internet access, the effects of school closures were even more damaging. Education International’s reference group on the future of the Teaching Profession is working in that new and very different environment. One of its first moves was to draft and circulate a survey of member organisations.
The better the response, the better the information. Submissions that come in before the end of August 2020 can still be included. Education International is working with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on the future of work. Survey responses will also inform that work and have an impact on ILO policy.
The dangers as well as advantages to the teaching profession of the introduction of new technologies in teaching has long been an issue and, several months before the COVID-19 emergency, Education International’s Eighth World Congress of July 2019 in Bangkok adopted a Resolution on the future of the teaching profession that focused on those issues.
The resolution stressed the importance of the involvement of education unions in the introduction and use of new technologies to ensure that it enhances the role of the teaching profession and, therefore the quality of education, rather than undermining it. It asserted that “new technology can never substitute for the relationship between teacher and student or teacher and class. Technology should supplement but should not supplant teaching. These technologies, which include AI, should not, under any circumstances, jeopardise the professional independence of teachers.”
EI General Secretary David Edwards said: “The effects of the pandemic on students, workers in education, and parents has been enormous. The Bangkok Congress discussion and resolution recognised the great challenges of new technologies, including AI, to education and defined key elements of our mission, including developing student competencies such as creativity, communication, curiosity, civic skills, and emotional intelligence.”
“The pandemic has provided a forced look into a possible digital future of education,” he acknowledged, adding that “we need to incorporate its lessons, good and bad, in our work. We learned that, with rare exceptions, there was no consultation with teacher unions about school closures and too little on re-opening. Professionals need to become key actors in shaping the use of learning technologies rather than being shaped by them. It is not only the teaching profession and education that are at stake, but also democracy, accountability and the public good.”
For further information:
Article on the research on the commercialisation and privatisation in/of education in the context of COVID-19.