Schools must put teachers at the heart of decision-making to achieve the innovations needed in education today, a Dubai education conference heard.
Education ministers from around the world discussed the challenges facing the sector at the RewirEd summit at Expo 2020 Dubai on Monday.
Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister of Government of Delhi, and Patrizio Bianchi, the Italian Minister of Education, were among the high-ranking speakers at a panel moderated by Mina Al Oraibi, editor in chief of The National.
Liina Kersna, Estonia's Minister of Education and Research, said advancing learning required a team effort from heads of schools through to pupils and parents.
“Innovation in education means a mindset change of the whole school community, the school leaders, teachers, also students and, families, as they are very often the most conservative when it comes to a change attitude to learning,” she said.
She said teachers in her country swiftly learnt how to use new video and digital tools during the pandemic.
Estonia is known for its successful education system, with pupils ranking highly in global assessments such as the Programme for International Student Assessment rankings.
In 2018, Estonian pupils were the best in Europe for reading, science and mathematics in the Pisa rankings.
Emphasis on teacher skills
Focusing on teachers is part of the country's winning formula, says Ms Kersna.
“We highly value schools and teacher’s autonomy, and teacher education. Our teachers must hold a master’s degree which means five years of universities and one year of in-service training,” said Ms Kersna.
“It is very important that if we want to give teachers more autonomy, we have to educate them, because we have to trust them.”
She said the country had ensured that every child had equal access to free quality education, regardless of their economic background.
She said that to boost a spirit of innovation, children should not be reprimanded for making mistakes
“I do not want to punish students for making mistakes. If we punish them, then they never will be innovators,” she said.
Dr Dipu Moni, Minister of Education for Bangladesh, said the role of teachers was evolving in a digital environment.
“Teachers will play a huge role in being facilitators or guides, because now we know that the teacher is no longer the only source of knowledge and information. So, they will have to adjust to that new role,” said Dr Moni.
She said teachers in Bangladesh had risen to the challenge of the pandemic and within 11 days the country had moved lessons from classrooms to television, online and radio.
The government’s Digital Bangladesh programme, which has been in place since 2008, works to make effective use of technology in education, health, jobs and to reduce poverty.
“Digital Bangladesh became the leader during this pandemic, because we could switch from classroom to remote learning or within a matter of days,” said Dr Moni.
“Digital Bangladesh is helping us because we are able to reach out to teachers for their training and it has become easier.”
She said teachers in remote areas were able to create their own digital content now.
Mohammad Al-Sudairi, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Education for Universities, Research and Innovation said it was important to focus on how pupils were taught and ensure methods continued to progress.
“If you have teachers capable to act and react quickly to the changes, make more involvement with the students, then you will be able to have children who graduate skilled and empowered with the needs of the future,” said Mr Al-Sudairi.
He said many of their initiatives focused on re-skilling pupils, teachers and school administrators.