Three ways to encourage the world’s teachers to innovate

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Azwa Nayeem, Founder & Chairperson, Alokito Teachers, Alokito Hridoy Foundation & GM Rakibul Islam, Assistant Professor & Chairman (Acting), Department of Educational Administration, Noakhali Science and Technology University

  • Some teachers found that the pandemic allowed them more agency, as they had to problem-solve in response to the crisis.
  • Now we need to motivate teachers to continue to innovate, by celebrating and promoting their successes.
  • The trust that a society has for its teachers is also key to their ability to innovate.

Rozina Easmin Tanny, a teacher at Chornoabad Mohila Dakhil Madrasah, a religious girls’ school in southern Bangladesh, realized that her students were dropping out to be married off early. Disturbed by this finding, she informed her school authority and took action. Rozina invited doctors, councillors, journalists, community elders, and the students’ mothers to her school. Through student plays and detailed presentations setting out the consequences of early marriages, she persuaded the mothers to stand against it.

According to a UN report, Bangladesh has a 51% child marriage rate, which puts it among the top 10 countries globally for child marriage, and it is likely that there will be an increase due to the pandemic. Innovative initiatives like Rozina’s have the potential to reduce this number. Rozina’s innovative approach has been rewarded the title of a top teacher innovator for succeeding in preventing child marriages in her school.

How can we motivate more teachers globally to innovate, like Rozina?

1. Celebrating success

Each teacher is presented with a unique set of problems in their classrooms and areas of practice. But rarely are their achievements captured and promoted. Susan Rosenholtz and Carl Simpson, have written that: ‘teachers who feel competent and valued for that competence are apt to try even harder to improve their performance.’

In Bangladesh, a culture of recognition has been initiated by the Teachers’ Portal, an initiative of Aspire to Innovate under the ICT Ministry of Bangladesh and a social enterprise called Alokito Teachers (Alokito meaning Enlightened in Bangla). It sets out to celebrate teachers and their innovations, awarding them the title of Teacher Innovator. Such labels and competitions can help capture and empower innovations while inspiring and motivating other teachers.

2. Blending autonomy with appropriate challenge

Wendy Emo has written that: ‘through five decades of research, studies consistently show that teachers value autonomy and appropriate challenge.’ On a regular day, tied up with numerous and repetitive tasks such as conducting classes, checking copies, attending staff meetings, meeting parents, planning for classes, and so on, teachers often feel constricted. Many teachers found that the pandemic opened up a space to innovate out of urgency, giving them a sense of purpose.

When classes were at a standstill with the school doors closed and only 17% of the households able to access the internet, Subarna Roy Lipa, a teacher at Tripolli Government Primary in rural Bangladesh, was unable to connect all her students for online classes. Taking the initiative, she formed ‘Community Help Circles.’ Only 5 out of 40 of her students had access to a smartphone, but she connected with her former Grade 5 students. Subarna bought data for these older students, who were each responsible for gathering 4 to 5 current students together outdoors to do online classes.

Teachers like Subarna found that the pandemic allowed them to exercise their individual and unique visions to solve the crisis. Many experienced a renewed sense of agency, and this narrative can be supported by the control-value theory, which suggests that people feel more motivated to take action if they have professional agency.

What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve digital intelligence in children?

The latest figures show that 56% of 8-12-year-olds across 29 countries are involved in at least one of the world’s major cyber-risks: cyberbullying, video-game addiction, online sexual behaviour or meeting with strangers encountered on the web.

Using the Forum’s platform to accelerate its work globally, #DQEveryChild, an initiative to increase the digital intelligence quotient (DQ) of children aged 8-12, has reduced cyber-risk exposure by 15%.

In March 2019, the DQ Global Standards Report 2019 was launched – the first attempt to define a global standard for digital literacy, skills and readiness across the education and technology sectors.

The 8 Digital Citizenship Skills every child needs
The 8 Digital Citizenship Skills every child needs Image: DQ Institute

Our System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Media, Information and Entertainment has brought together key stakeholders to ensure better digital intelligence for children worldwide. Find our more about DQ Citizenship in our Impact Story.

3. Greater capacity demands greater responsibility

In his book Teach like Finland, Timothy Walker compares the American education system of accountability with the Finnish education system that confers teachers with responsibility and holds them to high standards. Considerable societal trust and confidence are placed on the teacher, contributing to quality education and innovative practices. Although Walker does find that high teacher qualification standards are essential, he also writes that the trust a society has in its teachers is key to their success. As we build teachers’ capacity to innovate, we need to trust them with that responsibility.

Teachers are at the forefront leading the change in education systems around the globe. It is essential to enable them and build their capacity, to expedite their learning and its application. Their achievements will be underpinned by trust, self-determination and recognition.

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