Teachers play a crucial role in building fairer, sustainable societies

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© UNESCO

Former Minister of Education in Argentine and World Teachers’ Day Keynote speaker Juan Carlos Tedesco spoke to UNESCO on the eve of the event.

What changes need to be made to ensure that teachers are the key to sustainability?

While the changes needed vary from one national context to another, there is a common factor: the need to foster a firm commitment to the values of social justice and sustainability among teachers. This commitment must be a pillar for the working culture of teachers. To bring about this change it is important to overcome the disassociation that currently exists among the discourses that recognise the importance of teachers and the policies that demoralise them and deteriorate their working conditions.

What is the best way to empower teachers to achieve quality education and sustainable societies?

The best way to empower teachers is through integral policies that set out to guarantee optimal working conditions, promote improvements in initial and in-service training, and design systems that provide incentives for team work, pedagogical innovation and the professionalization of teaching.

How can a teacher best help and support pupils towards building sustainable societies?

Without a doubt, the best approach is to help students attaint satisfactory learning results both from a cognitive as well as an ethical and emotional point of view. With this in mind, it is worth recalling the point made in the Delors Report and, more recently, in the UNESCO document Rethinking Education: Towards a global common good. From a cognitive point of view, the challenge is to teach students to learn to learn and, from an ethical and emotional point of view, to teach them to learn to live together.

Goal 4 has as a target to ‘substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers including through international co-operation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing states’. Is this achievable by 2030 and how?

If we want to build fair and sustainable societies, all the targets set for 2030 can be realised. To do so there is a fundamental need for a strong political will, both at national and international level, that mobilises the necessary financial, human and social resources. Political will must be accompanied by the planning of pertinent strategies for action, adapted to each national or local context. Said planning should include the design of evaluation systems that make it possible to identify the attainment of targets, to in turn be able to take immediate action to address the results not meeting them. The role of international cooperation is central and must reinforce national capacities.

What role does Early Childhood Education play in sustainable societies?

There is a broad consensus that recognises the crucial role played by early childhood education in obtaining significant results in terms of educational equity and quality. This consensus is based on research on and the analysis of policies applied in countries that currently boast the best educational indicators. To break the poverty cycle one must intervene as early as possible, through policies that guarantee that the children of families living in vulnerable social conditions receive an early education of very high quality, which allows them to successful pursue their schooling in due course. 

What message would you give to teachers on World Teachers’ Day in relation to sustainability?

I would like to communicate a message of optimism and commitment. As teachers, we can play a crucial role in the construction of fairer and more sustainable societies. These societies will only be possible with a quality education for all. To overcome this challenge we must build partnerships with the other actors of social development who share the goal of social justice and sustainability.

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