School children in Tanzania celebrating the end of the school year

A University of Newcastle team has been named a finalist in an international competition to solve global education challenges post-pandemic.

The Teachers and Teaching Research Centre team, led by Director Laureate Professor Jenny Gore, was among 600 participants in the 2021 Jacobs Foundation Solveathon, hosted virtually by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from April 21 to 23.

Among 18 finalists, the Newcastle team pitched a solution to a challenge posed by the Schools2030 initiative: “How can 1000 actionable school-led solutions be codified, validated, and showcased through an online portal to help the world’s teachers and education policy-makers improve quality learning for all?”

Professor Gore said the Newcastle team chose to “disrupt” the challenge by instead tackling the broader issue of building teachers’ capacity for quality teaching.

Their pitch highlighted the UNICEF concern that “access to education that is of poor quality is equal to no education at all”.

“We can have 1000 solutions designed to improve learning, but real impact will depend on the quality of teaching,” Professor Gore said.

“We might not be able to address all the challenges facing teachers including those created by the pandemic.

“But we have developed a low-cost, scalable form of professional development for teachers of every grade, subject and career stage, which has been shown to improve the quality of teaching, teacher morale and student achievement.

“Just imagine the potential impact on the lives of teachers and students all over the world.”

Professor Gore said it was an honour to have been selected to compete against leading innovators and educators.

“The recognition of our Quality Teaching Model as a way forward, particularly for the world’s most disadvantaged schools, is rewarding indeed,” she said.

The Newcastle team of Professor Gore, Dr Drew Miller, Associate Professor Jess Harris, Julie Cowan, Michelle Ware, Steve Hannan and Tom Carey, tag-teamed around the clock to develop and deliver their pitch at midnight last Friday.

While the team didn’t walk away with the Grand Prize, their pitch has attracted serious interest from judges and organisers, including Global Lead for Education from the Aga Khan Foundation.

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