Learning from one another: EI publishes "Forward to School"

published 13 July 2020 updated 9 June 2021

Education International released its publication Forward to School on 13 July. The document is based on the five pillars identified in the EI Guidance on Reopening Schools and Education Institutions released in April.

The publication reflects the experience of member organisations organised around those pillars:

  • Engage in social and policy dialogue
  • Ensure the health and safety of education communities
  • Make equity a top priority
  • Support physical and emotional well-being and recovery
  • Trust the professionalism of educators

There has already been considerable experience with school reopening. Forward to School adds common concerns of education trade unions and specific material in those five areas. It features information, research, and examples of union actions in more than 50 countries from all regions. Given the rapid changes in school and community environments, Forward to School, is a work in progress that will be periodically updated. It is only available in English at this time but will be translated. Additional national experience, described in more detail, can be found on the Education International’s Information Hub.

Reopening challenges include dealing with the legacy of the pandemic in education. The emphasis on social and policy dialogue in the April guidance was based on reports that such dialogue was rare during closures. Subsequent information indicates improvement in dialogue, but it is still missing or of poor quality in many countries.

Existing inequities were highlighted and aggravated by the pandemic and by distance learning. Not only did access to the internet vary widely and disadvantage vulnerable individuals and marginalised groups, but, even in countries where everything worked well, students suffered, with greater impact on some individuals, from the lack of social contact that is so vital to education. Governments need to consider the damage that has been done to learning, but also to morale and well-being by education in pandemic conditions and compensate for it as much as possible in the re-opening process.

One lesson learned from the pandemic is that, although it was difficult everywhere to adjust to such a radical change with closures and reopening, school systems and public authorities that invested resources in the teaching profession and trusted the judgement of teachers were more flexible and adaptable. Recognition of the profession and for the status of those who exercise it should be a priority to advance education in the post-pandemic era.

Education International’s General Secretary David Edwards, in commenting on “Forward to School”, said: “The experiences during closures and reopening of schools have varied considerably among countries. This reflects the ability and willingness of governments to effectively fight COVID-19, but also the strength and resilience of systems of education. This is a very stressful and disruptive time for teachers and other education staff, for students and for parents.  Successful recovery from the pandemic and its massive social and economic devastation can only take place if it is built on the well-being, progress, and respect of learners and educators. It must be much more than returning to normal or even re-building better. We must imagine and realise education for a dramatically different future of healthy and peaceful societies with justice, inclusion, freedom, and solidarity.”

The Education International’s Guidance on Reopening Schools and Education Institutions is available here.