A successful education recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic hinges on increased investment in the well-being, training, professional development and working conditions of teachers to recover learning losses and manage transformations in teaching and learning brought about by the crisis.
This is the key message delivered by education leaders on World Teachers’ Day, a day observed globally on 5 October to celebrate teachers and the role they play in education. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have been on the frontline of the education response, and they are at the heart of education recovery as countries start to emerge from the crisis. Teachers have shown exceptional dedication and courage, as well as the capacity to adapt and innovate under very challenging and uncertain conditions.
This year, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) and UNESCO in cooperation with schools, teachers, development partners, other government agencies, and the private sector, organized an online World Teachers’ Day event with the theme, “Teachers Play an Important Role in Education Under all Circumstances. The theme reflects on the pivotal role of teachers in education, regardless of where learning takes place and how. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that whether students learn online or face-to-face, in school or at home, the presence and guidance of their teachers is indispensable to ensuring a quality education.
During his opening remarks, Mr. Sardar Umar Alam, UNESCO Representative to Cambodia, commended the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, for prirotizing the vaccination for teachers. Cambodia is one of only 19 countries where teachers have been included in the first phase of vaccination rollout, a decision that will allow learning to resume safely as schools reopen. Mr Alam highlighted that beyond celebrating teachers, World Teachers’ Day, is also a reminder of the need for greater investment in and support to teachers: “Education recovery will be successful if it is conducted hand in hand with teachers – giving them a voice and space to participate in decision-making and enhancing their knowledge and expertise as we reimagine the way out of the crisis and build more resilient, inclusive, but also more innovative and agile education systems, responsive to our ever-evolving societies.” Most importantly, Mr Alam thanked teachers in Cambodia for their immense contribution and acknowledged that their work is highly valued.
In his keynote address, His Excellency Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, the Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, highly applauded the work of the teachers of Cambodia, highlighting their dedication to ensure learning continues by adopting new digitial teaching strategies, and engaging students through small-group learning in villages. He emphasised the importance of transforming teacher training to better support teachers to teach in a rapidly changing education landscape and develop 21st century skills among their students.
His Excellency Dr. Hang Chuon Naron also participated in the global World Teachers Day event together with UNESCO’s Director-General, Audrey Azoulay, UNICEF’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, ILO’s Director-General, Guy Ryder, and Education International’s General-Secretary, David Edwards. The Minister shared with a global audience the policies and programmes underway in Cambodia to support teachers in this period of educational recovery. The Minister’s participation is a testament to the priority that is given to teachers in Cambodia and a recognition of the lessons that other countries can take from the achievements in Cambodia.
With financial support from Global Partnership for Education, the MoEYS with technical support from UNESCO, is implementing one of the largest teacher-focused initiatives in the country, Strengthening Teacher Education Programmes in Cambodia (STEPCam). STEPCam aims to strengthen the foundation for the overall quality of education by enhancing the competencies of teachers at the primary level. STEPCam does this through the establishment of a Continuous Professional Development system for teachers, school directors and teacher educators; supporting teachers inside the classrooms with effective in-service training methodology in early grade reading and maths accompanied by continuous school-based mentoring; upgrading the qualification and competencies of trainers at the Provincial Teacher Training Centre level, and improving their learning environment through the renovation of 11 teacher training centres across the country.
As the world faces an unprecedented global learning crisis that threatens the fundamental human right to education of a generation, it is more important than ever that teachers are supported with the training, continuous professional development, and working conditions to accelerate progress towards inclusive, equitable and quality education for every learner, in every circumstance.