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Teach For All – reaching students around the world during the Covid-19 crisis

Learning Differences Programme / Partner story

Photo provided by Teach For All

In 2020, as the Covid-19 crisis swept the world and school closures became a common tactic to help curb the spread of the virus, millions of students shifted to learning at home. But not all children have the opportunities, tools, or technological access needed to participate in remote learning, exacerbating inequities that threaten to hold back a generation of young people.

Globally, teachers have been required to find innovative, flexible, and inclusive solutions to help children learn throughout this challenging period. And they have responded. Pandemic-inspired innovations include: using SMS messaging to communicate with parents; asking local grocery shop owners and police to deliver educational materials to students; influencing local radio stations to deliver lessons over the radio; and supporting parents to support their children in other ways. Around the world, teachers have overcome technological challenges by leveraging the resources available to them.

“Right now, there’s no question that everyone knows that life has totally changed,” says Dr. Miriam Siwela, CEO and Co-founder of Teach For Zimbabwe. “I think it’s important to realise that so that we go back to the drawing board and ask, what are the innovations that we can keep and what else can we bring into place?”

Teach For All, an interconnected global network of 60 independent, locally led and governed organisations, is making it a priority to do just that. It wants to learn from the innovation, leadership and cross-border collaboration that have kept many children learning during the Covid-19 crisis.

Teach For All’s initiative, ‘Learning through the Crisis’, drew on its extensive network of dedicated and creative teachers and alumni from over 60 countries, to glean understanding on how to enable great outcomes, even in a crisis. The aim of the initiative is to support teachers and education leaders during and after Covid-19, and create more resilient, sustainable education systems by ensuring that teachers’ skills and capacities are strengthened, and learners don’t fall further behind. The initiative focuses on three outputs: global knowledge products; learning experiences; and self-sustaining professional development communities.

Reports from the initiative, published on the UNESCO Teacher Task Force blog, highlight the role of teacher leadershipdistance learning, and the efforts of communities in keeping kids learning during the Covid-19 crisis. The report states that “the digital divide is a leadership divide. Teachers, school leaders, parents and local leaders who commit to leveraging available resources have found ways to succeed in supporting students”, but that “infrastructure remains a massive challenge. We must continue to invest in our students’ rights to resources: school materials, reliable devices, and internet access.”

“The pandemic pushed people forward, there was no other way than to embrace technology,” says Anam Palla, a Teach For Pakistan alumna, in this video. In Chile, a group of Enseña Chile teachers began ‘La Radio Enseña’, a 30-minute radio programme that delivers quality and entertaining educational content for students in secondary education, including history, maths, art, science, and Spanish lessons. “We really had to rethink the way we teach and it was amazing the impact it had on student engagement,” says Tomás Rivadeneira, an Enseña Chile alumnus.

La Radio Enseña exemplifies how teachers from across the Teach For All network, working in under-resourced schools and communities, designed and rapidly scaled educational initiatives during Covid-19. “Now thanks to the pandemic, we have realised that we can be flexible and adaptable,” says Juan Manuel Gonzalez, CEO of Enseña por México. “I’m hoping that that mindset will continue to be present in the entire education system.”

This grant falls under Oak’s Learning Differences Programme (LDP), which seeks to build a world where schools unlock the creativity and power of every young person, and equip them to shape more just and equitable communities. We partner with and invest in not-for-profit organisations that improve education for all students, particularly those with learning differences who experience further marginalisation due to racism and poverty. You can read more about the programme here. For more information on the efforts of the Teach For All network in response to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, check out these case studies on the work of Enseña Chile, Enseña Perú, Enseña por Colombia and Teach For India alumni to keep students learning despite school closures, as part of a joint initiative of the Harvard Global Education Innovation Initiative, HundrED, the OECD, and the World Bank.