Teacher Tuesday is the name of a social media campaign that caught the imagination of teachers and students around the world from February to April 2014. The campaign was started by the team behind the Education for All Global Monitoring Report, the major annual survey of education around the world, which is published by UNESCO in Paris.
Over 10 Tuesdays from February 25, 10 teachers from 10 countries shared their stories, motivations and challenges. Influential bloggers from across the globe helped bring these teachers’ daily work to life, and the featured teachers participated in “tweetchats” on Twitter.
The campaign was designed to raise awareness of the need to give teachers much greater support – a major theme of the 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report, Teaching and learning: Achieving quality for all, which was released in January.
The campaign was also a way of giving teachers a voice. The 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report detailed a strategy for providing the best teachers to those who most need them. But policies can only be effective if those responsible for implementing them are involved in shaping them.
Policy-makers who aim to improve education quality rarely consult teachers or their unions, however. One survey that covered 10 countries showed that all teachers thought it was vital to have influence on the direction of policy, but only 23% felt they had any at all.
Given their reach, teacher unions are key partners for governments. This is why the Teacher Tuesday campaign joined forces with Education International, the global federation of teachers and teacher unions, which represents over 30 million education personnel.
Some of the world’s most influential teacher bloggers and networks supported the campaign, including Tom Whitby from the United States; Julie Lindsay from Australia; Jennifer James and the “Mom Bloggers for Social Good” network; Joe Bowers from Canada; Rosalia Arteaga, the former president of Ecuador; Emmanuel Davidenkoff from France; the Zimbabwean blogger @SirNige; the regular education blogger at The Times of India, Meeta Sengupta; and the regular education blogger at South Africa’s Mail & Guardian, Athambile and of course the TeachPitch/AsWeGrow team.
The campaign featured stories of teachers working in multilingual classes in Honduras, in a Syrian refugee camp, in difficult conditions in Afghanistan, in Africa’s largest urban slum and under a tree in Malawi.
Many of their testimonies reflected the finding of the EFA report that there is a global learning crisis which has left 250 million children unable to read or write, whether they have been to school or not. Esnart, a teacher from Malawi, said “I’ve even seen children as old as 9 or 10 who are unable to read and write their names when clearly they should be able to do this.”
In Malawi, which is suffering from a huge teacher shortage, fewer than half of children are learning the basics. The latest EFA report shows that globally there is a huge lack of qualified teachers, which hits disadvantaged children hardest. At current rates of recruitment, almost 60 countries will still not have enough primary school teachers in 2015.
Natalee, a teacher from Honduras, talked about the crucial question of teaching in a language that children understand.
Her testimony reflects the evidence in the 2013/4 EFA report of the need to recruit teachers who speaks local languages – preferably from the same communities as their students: “Language has an impact on how children learn and how they perceive themselves as being part of the teaching-learning process. To not be taught in your mother tongue, leaves a gap, and makes you feel your language is not important.”
For the third anniversary of the Syrian conflict, on March 16, the campaign featured Mohammed, who taught in Syria until the fighting got too much. Supported by UNICEF, he is now working as a teaching assistant in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, which hosts over 100,000 Syrian refugees.
Nahida, from Afghanistan, talked about the power of education to help countries escape from conflict. “Now our people, after three decades of war, completely know about the importance of education. Educated people don’t take guns and don’t destroy their country and their schools.”
Several of the teachers featured in Teacher Tuesday shed light on the fact that many of the children who are missing out on chances to learn are from disadvantaged backgrounds: poverty, especially, is often a huge barrier to learning.
Russell, a teacher in Australia, drew attention to the fact that poverty occurs all over the world. He is an Aboriginal teacher in a school where many of the students are Aboriginal too: “Poverty draws a line in the sand. You’re on one side or the other. It’s hard. That’s why I don’t set homework on a computer, as I know some still don’t have computers at home. I accept homework on a piece of paper. I don’t mind how it comes back as long as it comes back!”
Teacher Tuesday is the start of an ongoing consultation the EFA Global Monitoring Report team will be carrying out with teachers, with the aim of publishing later this year a teachers’ resource based on the latest report.
Teacher Tuesday drew international media attention, from El Mercurio, Chile’s largest paper, to The Times Educational Supplement (UK), the Times of India, a weekly blog in the Mail and Guardian in South Africa, FranceInfo and L’Express in France, as well as Bloomberg Businessweek.
On Twitter, the campaign drew nearly 3,000 tweets from 80 countries, with an estimated audience of 17.5 million people.
All TeacherTuesday posts written by us can be read here. It has truly been a privilege to be able to write about these amazing teachers and how together we can improve the worldwide quality of education. This post will soon be translated into Spanish and appear in Fidal Magazine, a publication of Fundaccion Fidal.