The digital revolution in teaching during the pandemic – world’s largest international study on teachers and education
15 September 2021 – T4 Education has today published a landmark report revealing for the first time how teachers around the world have turned to technology to overcome barriers to education brought about by the pandemic.
Launched in Spring 2021 and informed by 20,679 teachers across 165 countries, T4 Education’s survey is the largest in the world. The report findings provide a unique and untold perspective documenting how covid restrictions have inverted understandings of disadvantage among school pupils and created a new comprehension of educational inequality.
The Covid-19 outbreak sparked a global crisis in education. Governments worldwide took unprecedented action in responding to the pandemic by closing schools and entering national lockdowns for long periods. Throughout, teachers and their schools have had to overcome unique challenges in continuing teaching and learning by adapting to remote or hybrid forms of education.
While the evidence details the overwhelming devastation unleashed by the pandemic on children’s education, the findings in this report also tell another story of how teachers stepped-up to meet the extraordinary challenges created by the pandemic. They did so by turning to technology, by embracing and mastering new digital tools for instruction and by exploring and developing new pedagogies.
Furthermore, it was not the generation of younger and more recently qualified teachers who pivoted to adapt to technology and remote learning and instruction. Instead, it was the most experienced, predominantly older teachers who used digital tools the most, who taught more classes online and who deployed the most sophisticated and creative types of remote teaching.
Faced with a once-in-a-generation challenge of switching to a new model of remote learning, the teaching profession worldwide rose to this task. But by having to do so, the digital divide has become the number one factor of inequality in education worldwide.
Nonetheless, despite well-known limitations such as poor internet access and inadequate supply of digital devices, the vast majority of respondents consider their experience of the pandemic has made them better and more enthusiastic teachers.
In summary, the key findings of the report are:
- 55% of teachers with between 21- and 30-years’ experience said they taught lessons online in the year before completing the survey in spring 2021, compared with 38% who had taught for between three and five years.
- Linked to the point above are the findings that among teachers who said they undertook more than 10 whole days of training over the previous year, 54% were teachers with 30-plus years’ experience, falling to 31% of teachers who had been in the classroom for 5 years or fewer.
- Maths teachers were consistently the least likely among teachers of all curriculum subject areas to use a range of digital tools for teaching and learning.
- The use of digital tools for assessment is surprisingly very low. The survey found that 27% used technology for assessments daily, 29% weekly and 20% once or twice a month. Another 7% of respondents used technology for assessments once or twice a year and 17% never or almost never did so.
- The vast majority of surveyed teachers considered that the experience of teaching during the pandemic had made them better teachers and over half had become more enthusiastic about teaching.
- Teachers reported the most frequently observed group of children to suffer learning loss during the pandemic were those with less access to the internet or to technology (60%). This factor accounted for more than other indicators of deprivation including economic status, unemployment, unstable home environments or special educational needs.
- Schools are proving to be a greater leveller in providing children with access to digital equipment and the internet. However, the survey exposes a sharp digital divide in which children in government-funded and, especially, low-cost private schools and schools in rural locations were much more likely to miss out and their education suffered in consequence.
- Almost a quarter of teachers (23%) reported that their school did not have access to the internet at all. More than half (53%) said insufficient online access hindered their schools’ ability to provide high quality education.
- Shortages of technology hardware for instruction also constrained the capacity of schools, more than half of teachers (52%) said. More than four in ten teachers (42%) said that they brought their own digital device, whether it be a laptop, tablet or even a smartphone, into their school to teach.
- Schools in rural areas made less use of technology than schools in cities and metropolitan areas. While this might be expected, the digital divide between urban and rural schools is still stark and means that hundreds of millions of children lost out on their learning due to where their families live. The gap in percentage points between rural and urban schoolteachers was 14 points on whether their children’s education was hindered by poor internet access (61% versus 46%) and 13 points on inadequacy of digital resources (59% versus 46%).
Vikas Pota, Founder of T4 Education, said:
“The past 18-months have been an incredible journey for teachers worldwide. This unique report documents globally how teachers have heroically responded to the world-wide education crisis being driven by the ensuing pandemic.”
“This report is distinctive and noteworthy because it shows us the viewpoint from those who have been on the frontline delivering education. We see amazing ingenuity, innovation, creativity, and collaboration amongst teaching peers in every country. The results of which are not only benefitting millions of children and whole communities worldwide, but also the profession.”
“I am really pleased to be launching this report today and want to send my gratitude to the tens of thousands of teachers in 165 countries who have taken the time to respond. Capturing the experience of teachers, the findings present a real opportunity with teachers and schools around the world, as well as with global partners to bring about the required change.”