The New Normal: What Skills Does the Year 2020 Teacher and Beyond Need?

 

For the longest time, the nature of technical and soft skills that a teacher needs to be effective in the class room has constantly evolved.

Since the turn of the century, the needs within the classroom have become increasingly shaped by technology while the typical picture of a teacher being a hand-holder and dispenser of knowledge to the students has been replaced by that of a facilitator, only available to guide the learning process.

In 2018, Global Education and Skills Forum noted that the ‘future’ teacher would need the following 5 skills to thrive in the 21st century:

· Strong subject knowledge

· Being a facilitator

· Strong social skills

· External focus

· Data analysis

Looking at the Nigerian context, one would assume that the listed skills will only be attained in Nirvana. With snail progress, we could never have envisioned that a pandemic on the global scale as we have witnessed would overwhelm the world and reveal the stark reality of our unpreparedness.

The COVID19 pandemic has fast-tracked the evolution of education and revealed how poorly equipped many Nigerian teachers are to face a crisis and ensure that learning goes on.

Recall that in our previous article, where we talked about the emerging trends in education, we noted that, “…continuous and systematic training of teachers at all levels is paramount.

Teachers must become versed in deploying technology in teaching, even at the most basic level. In same vein, they need to be equipped with life skills that will inspire them to build resilience and provide solutions to the educational needs that arise around them.”

To move forward we must ask ourselves: what does today’s teacher need to be successful in the classroom?

Skills for the Year 2020 and Beyond Teacher

1. Digital Skills

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The fact that schooling has stopped in many regions of the world is absolutely no reason for teaching to stop.

Technology has made it easy to connect with people spread across the globe, birthing what communication experts term a global village.

Beyond bridging the gap of distance, digital skills also make available to the teacher a plethora of resources that he or she can harness for improving the quality of course/teaching materials and access to a network that equips teachers with tools of the trade.

It is also safe to say that when schools are re-opened (hopefully, soon), the introduction of digital tools in the classroom would make learning an immersive experience for the student, with options of virtual reality. This way, students will not only be learning about ICT but it will actually be something they relate with on a daily basis.

Tools like Google Drive go a long way in consolidating the teaching process, by providing an encompassing platform for creating and organizing teaching notes, lesson plans and assessment sheets which can all be shared with other teachers. Technology is also available to aid communication between educators and parents/guardians.

 

Similarly, education technology services like Flexisaf Edusoft Limited offer a one-stop shop for Nigerian schools to teach students, offer assessments, track learning progress of students at a school-wide level and for school administration.

However, it should be noted that too often, it is assumed that digital skills have to be so advanced that one must learn how to code or use complex digital tools and platforms. Inasmuch as the world is shifting to one where coding is not the reserve of Silicon Valley or tech gurus, it must be understood that using relatively basic technology such as social media groups like WhatsApp could count as leveraging technology for teaching.

What is imperative is that the technology is adapted to the Nigerian context and it is easy for both teacher and student to navigate.

As pivotal as technology is today’s teaching process, it is worthy of note that life skills are just as important. In our webinar with Amina Abubakar, Flexisaf Foundation Coordinator, she made it clear that a major problem working with a number of teachers is their lack of life skills such as communication and adaptability. Even though the technology is made available to some teachers, they lack the requisite skills to effectively maximise them.

2. Life skills

 

The truth is that the resources for an inclusive education system are not available, at least not on a large scale across Nigeria.

High cost of internet access, poor electricity distribution and lack of sufficient funding all play roles in the poor quality of education we have today.

This is why an investment in life skills education is imperative. Teacher trainings that balance life skill education and technical skills training should be encouraged. At present, a number of educational services and non-profits like Skills Outside School Foundation offer such but there is room for much more.

The Federal Ministry of Education ought to incorporate it into their teacher training programmes for roll-out across the country. With the instrument of Federal Government will, funding and widespread adoption will be feasible.

 To this end, life skills needed by teachers in today’s world include:

· Creativity and resourcefulness

A myriad of teaching styles must be developed in the spirit of inclusive education. Participatory education demands creativity so as to build a needs-based approach to teaching.

 

· Adaptability and innovation

As the coronavirus pandemic has shown us, one can never tell what the next sucker punch might be. Yet, it is important to develop resilience that allows one roll with the punches. It is commendable to see and hear stories of teachers who have designed innovative approaches to connecting with their students and ensuring education does not come a grinding halt.

Through critical thinking and problem-solving modules, adaptability and innovation are skills that teachers can readily develop. This way, they are equipped to thrive in various scenarios.  

· Communication 

The ability to speak, write and ensure the intent of one’s message is understood by the receiver of the message is not a skill everyone possesses but it is one that cuts across different walks of life.

 In a world where technology is the driving force of communication, it is important that teachers learn how to use those tools to communicate effectively, ensuring that their lessons, enthusiasm and intentions are not lost through the emotionally detached tools used today.

In conclusion, we recommend a balance of digital and life skills with heavy investment on the part of the government to ensure extensive adoption. Trainings such as these also serve as incentive. Above all, we implore teachers to cultivate an ever-learning mindset that will position them to seize opportunities and deliver their best to learners everywhere.

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