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The transformation of education: Celebrating World Teachers’ Day 2023

Celebrate the spirit of teaching and learning this World Teachers' Day 2023. Delve into the dynamic changes shaping education's journey forward.

Audrey Campbell
Audrey Campbell
M.A. in Teaching; Senior Marketing Writer

World Teachers’ Day 2023 is celebrated annually on October 5th, recognizing how education is a beacon of hope and a catalyst for change in our world. It empowers individuals, transforms societies, and shapes the future. At the heart of this transformation are the dedicated educators who work tirelessly to nurture young minds and foster a love for learning.

This year’s theme is: "The teachers we need for the education we want: The global imperative to reverse the teacher shortage."

The 2023 celebrations will prioritize an urgent need to slow the decline in teacher numbers, and put recruitment and retention at the top of the global agenda. According to UNESCO’s World Teachers’ Day page, “Through various activities, [this year’s holiday] will advocate for a dignified and valued teaching profession, analyse their challenges, and showcase inspiring practices to attract, retain and motivate teachers and educators. It will also examine the ways in which education systems, societies, communities, and families recognise, appreciate, and actively support teachers.”

World Teachers' Day 2023 is a momentous occasion to celebrate the immense value of education and honor the incredible impact teachers have on our lives. In this blog, we’ll look at the history of World Teachers’ Day and the many ways it is celebrated around the world. We’ll also consider the importance of World Teachers’ Day to educators and the many ways in which teachers help to shape the future, every day.

What is the history of World Teachers' Day?

World Teachers' Day was established by UNESCO in 1994 to recognize and celebrate the critical role teachers play in shaping our societies. It marks the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, which set the standards for the rights and responsibilities of teachers on a global scale.

A lot has changed for teachers across history. “In antiquity, the middle ages, and up until the mid-1800s in the United States, teachers were almost entirely men,” says W. Robert Houston. “That has changed in the last 100 years; only 30% of teachers are males, and those teach primarily in secondary school.” In addition to the increase in numbers of female educators over the past century, the perception of teachers in society has undergone a significant transformation. At the turn of the 20th century, teachers were often viewed as authority figures, tasked with imparting knowledge and discipline in a highly structured and traditional educational system. However, as societies evolved and educational philosophies shifted, so did the role and status of teachers. The mid-20th century saw a growing appreciation for educators as they became recognized as facilitators of critical thinking and personal growth.

With the advent of the 21st century, teachers have come to be seen as nurturers of individual potential, mentors, and guides in a rapidly changing world. “Expectations of teachers reflect their culture – the extent of their knowledge and skills, their status in the community, and their moral dispositions” (Houston, 2009).

“We are in a time of such tremendous change and innovation,” says Jessica Carrier, an 18-year veteran educator in English/ELL and current Customer Engagement Manager at Turnitin. “Students have the world at their fingertips, so we must empower students by employing more strategies to support critical thinking and reasoning. We must adapt to the changing world, whether it’s by embracing new technologies such as AI innovation or by employing new instructional strategies to engage students differently. Although this change may be overwhelming, it’s a great time of possibilities.”

There is a well-known saying in reference to education, stating that “the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.” World Teachers’ Day plays a crucial role in elevating the status of teachers. This global observance acknowledges the invaluable contributions of educators to society. It serves as a reminder of their dedication, hard work, and the profound impact they have on shaping the future of nations.

By recognizing teachers on this day, communities and governments alike emphasize the importance of investing in education and ensuring that high-quality teachers receive the support and respect they deserve. In doing so, World Teachers’ Day reaffirms the pivotal role that teachers play in fostering knowledge, empathy, and progress in our ever-evolving world.

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How is Teachers’ Day celebrated around the world?

World Teachers' Day is celebrated with various activities and events worldwide, highlighting the significance of educators in our lives. These celebrations vary from one country to another but share a common theme of appreciating the hard work and dedication of teachers.

In many countries, students express their gratitude to teachers through cards, gifts, and heartfelt messages. We Are Teachers provides twenty-seven ways to show teachers appreciation, including renting an ice cream truck or writing messages of gratitude in sidewalk chalk outside of school. Educational institutions organize special assemblies and events to honor their teaching staff. Conferences, seminars, and workshops are held to discuss innovative teaching methods and address the challenges faced by educators.

Many argue that this day demands more than just thank you cards; rather, it requires action taken and change imagined. This year’s theme ("The teachers we need for the education we want: The global imperative to reverse the teacher shortage") highlights the fact that the pandemic and other societal shifts have put pressure on the teaching profession, creating attrition and deterring many individuals from even entering education.

According to UNESCO’s estimates, there is a global need for an additional 24.4 million teachers in primary education and some 44.4 million teachers for secondary education in order to achieve universal basic education by 2030. And some 300,000 public-school teachers and other staff in the US left the education field between February 2020 and May 2022, says Kathryn Dill from the Wall Street Journal.

As such, many organizations around the world are doing what they can to increase retention and inspire individuals to enter the education sphere.

In 2017, the Spanish trade unions celebrated World Teachers’ Day by releasing a manifesto, stressing that “(...) a plan for the recovery of the social benefits and working conditions of teachers is crucial, to provide the dignity of the teaching work, with decent working conditions, safe and healthy environments with adequate resources, confidence, professional autonomy, quality initial and continuous professional development”.

In 2020, The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit organization conducting in-depth, nonpartisan research, published a collection of twelve essays from leading scholars affiliated with the Global Economy and Development program at Brookings, entitled “Reimagining the global economy: Building back better in a post-COVID-19 world.” Emiliana Vegas and Rebecca Winthrop tackled global education and sought to explore ways to transform school systems following the pandemic. Their essay determined five key elements of school transformation:

    1. “Leverage public schools and put them at the center of education systems given their essential role in equalizing opportunity across society.

    2. Focus on the instructional core, the heart of the teaching and learning process.

    3. Deploy education technology to power up schools in a way that meets teaching and learning needs and prevent technology from becoming a costly distraction.

    4. Forge stronger, more trusting relationships between parents and teachers.

    5. Embrace the principles of improvement science required to evaluate, course correct, document, and scale new approaches that can help power up schools over time” (2020).

In 2022, Leeds Trinity University (UK), encouraged individuals on World Teachers’ Day to work as “governors in local schools” and to “contact local MP or councillors” to ask what they are doing to help schools solve their issues.

It is also worth noting that many countries around the world celebrate World Teachers' Day NOT on October 5th, but have instead chosen to have their own national day, some of which are based on events relating to famous historical educators. A few global dates to note are:

  • February 28: In many Arab countries, including Morocco and Jordan, Teachers’ Day is celebrated on this day.
  • October 15: Brazil commemorates Emperor Peter I signing the law that established schools for teaching literacy in all cities and villages.
  • March 28: Slovakia marks the birthday of Jan Amos Komensky, born in 1592, a Czech educator, philosopher, writer, and theologian.
  • September 28: While not an official holiday, this date commemorates the birth of Confusius and in Taiwan, it is customary to give gifts to teachers on this day.

World Teachers' Day goes beyond simple recognition and gratitude; it serves as a critical opportunity to reflect on history, on the challenges teachers encounter, and to contemplate how policy changes and community efforts can positively transform the teaching profession.

By acknowledging the hurdles educators face, from overcrowded classrooms to limited resources, we can start meaningful conversations about how to better support and empower them. It's a moment to consider innovative teaching methods, professional development, fair compensation, and the overall well-being of teachers. By collectively recognizing these challenges and working together, we can shape a brighter future for education, ensuring that teachers are equipped to provide the best possible learning experiences for the generations to come.

What is the importance of World Teachers’ Day for educators?

World Teachers' Day holds great importance for educators and academic administrators alike. It offers a platform to reflect on the transformative power of education and the crucial role teachers play in this process.

“Engaging students in work that matters must be the goal of education,” says Karen Smith, a 34-year veteran educator and a Turnitin Senior Teaching and Learning Specialist. “I believe that the current dichotomy that exists now between educators who want to return to pre-pandemic educational practices and those who want to embrace AI and other transformational practices must be balanced somehow, with a focus on empowering students to become ethical global citizens.”

“The world has changed. Students have changed,” emphasizes Carrier. “Previous instructional methods may no longer be relevant and how we engage our students may no longer be applicable, so it’s important that we listen and adapt to the needs of the students of today.”

And as educators listen to and empower students in an ever-changing landscape, it’s important to reflect on a few key tenants of education that remain steady, even in the face of change. A few of these include:

  • Promoting literacy: Teachers are the torchbearers of literacy. They introduce students to the world of diverse books and knowledge, opening doors to a lifetime of learning. On World Teachers' Day, educators are reminded of their pivotal role in helping students become proficient readers and writers.
  • Fostering academic integrity: Teachers instill a strong sense of academic integrity and ethical behavior in their students. They teach the importance of honesty, originality, and responsible research. World Teachers' Day emphasizes the need for nurturing not only intellectual growth but also ethical development.
  • Cultivating critical thinking: Education is not just about memorizing facts; it's about developing critical thinking skills. Teachers encourage students to question, analyze, and evaluate information critically. In celebrating this day, educators reaffirm their commitment to nurturing independent thinkers.
  • Nurturing creativity: Creativity is the cornerstone of innovation. Teachers inspire creativity in their students, fostering the next generation of artists, inventors, and problem solvers. In fact, 65% of students cite doing and creating as the most effective methods of learning. World Teachers' Day underscores the importance of fostering creativity and innovation in education.

In addition to the above, it’s clear that artificial intelligence is quickly becoming a focus for students and global educators. “We must help students become AI literate,” shares Kristin Van Gompel, former elementary school teacher, adjunct education professor, and Turnitin Manager of Customer Engagement. “AI is quickly evolving and we need to ensure our students understand how to use it ethically and safely. It’s challenging for educators because we’re trying to understand AI almost in tandem with our students so it can feel impossible to get ahead of it. I think what will help us come together in our thinking is to pay attention to the guidelines and best practices for AI being set by researchers, policy makers, and organizations.”

Conclusion: Gratitude for our educators on World Teachers’ Day

As we celebrate World Teachers' Day, it's essential to acknowledge the formidable challenges that educators face worldwide, from resource limitations to changing pedagogical landscapes. Teachers are the cornerstone of our societies, shaping the future leaders and innovators who will address the global challenges of tomorrow. They are not just individuals in classrooms but catalysts for progress, equity, and enlightenment. As we commemorate this day, let's remember that the responsibility to elevate education does not rest solely on the shoulders of teachers, but on all of us.

"Education is a team sport," says Carrier. "The only way to truly innovate and truly support each other is to share, share, share- whether it’s a new instructional strategy, manner of engagement, or even that last cookie left in the teachers’ lounge, we must share. We must remember that we are sharing the responsibility of educating students together, learning together, sometimes failing together, and above all, educating together.”

We all have a role to play, whether through policy changes, community support, or simply by expressing our gratitude and respect. Every day is an opportunity to prioritize education and ensure that our teachers are equipped to inspire the next generation. Together, we can raise education to its highest level, paving the way for a brighter and more prosperous future for all.