Worlds of Education

Thematic Series:

World Teachers Day

#WorldTeachersDay | Lessons from the Pandemic: “Tackling crises and big changes ahead: the role of education”, by Steve Klees.

published 2 October 2020 updated 5 October 2020
written by:

The pandemic has been devastating and we have little idea of its future. The education of so many children has suffered. Nonetheless, the world has gained a new and deeper appreciation of the work of teachers -- of teachers as essential workers. The world has also gained an understanding of the limits of educational technologies and how nothing can replace the teacher student relationship.

The pandemic has also taught us some important lessons about what is possible.  First, forty years of a dominant neoliberal ideology has argued governments are inept and should be minimal.  Yet, around the world, despite some failures, we have seen how governments are essential to dealing with crises.  Second, the world has been miserly in attending to educational and other social problems.  Yet, the pandemic has shown us that vast resources can be mobilized quickly when a crisis confronts us.  Third, we have also seen that very big societal changes can be made quickly when we need to.

Before COVID we faced major crises that are still ongoing – poverty and inequality is widespread, environmental destruction and climate change is upon us, racism is global, and war and violence is ubiquitous, with the insane specter of nuclear war on the table.   The pandemic has shown us we can tackle big problems.  These are all difficult but not insurmountable.  Naomi Klein called the climate crisis a civilizational wake-up call.  So should be the pandemic.

In concluding my new book, The Conscience of a Progressive, I propose three dimensions of the transformations that are necessary.  We need to transform work so that workplaces are more democratic and so that everyone has a decent, sustainable livelihood. We need to transform politics to reduce the role of money in it and make it more participatory at every level from the local to the global. And we need to transform ourselves to move beyond self-interest in ways that bring to the fore and challenge the planetary precariousness of our current situation. All three, especially the latter, require transforming education.


On 5 October, Education International marks World Teachers’ Day with a 24-hour virtual broadcast spanning the globe. Teachers everywhere will come together to share what they have learned as a profession and how we can ensure inclusive equitable quality education for all moving forward.

The full programme, featuring teachers from across the globe, as well as Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers of Education, heads of international organisations, famous journalists and scientists, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and many more, is available at >www.5oct.org/programme/>.<>

The event will be livestreamed across all Education International platforms and you can register here.

All streaming links will be available on the day at >www.5oct.org/watch/>, with interpretation to English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Russian and Japanese.<>

Join the global conversation on October 5!

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.