Reasons to be cheerful: 5 highlights to celebrate the UN's International Day of Education

To mark the UN’s International Day of Education (24 January), we’d like to celebrate recent successes in the world of education. 2022 presented schools with numerous challenges, the sheer magnitude of which could leave one feeling rather helpless. But when the going gets tough, teachers get going.

We’d like to commend and take courage from these 5 highlights in education:

1. Covid and catch-up

2. First T-Level students results in England

3. Private / state school partnerships

4. Cost of living; Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong

5. Technological transformation

1. Covid and catch-up

Turns out man’s best friend also makes for a (p)awesome 🐾 teaching assistant. Reading aloud around the class or to your teacher can be intimidating – it’s a pet hate for many. Ingenious researchers at the University of Edinburgh have been asking pupils to read to Archie, the school… labradoodle! And it’s having a positive effect. Chief researcher Jill Steel reported: “Every week the children were ready and excited. Some of the teachers said the children wanted to practise reading so they could be ready to read to Archie.”

In an interview with Tes, she explained: “Many children report they feel less anxious about reading to a dog than to a human, which increases their enjoyment and confidence in reading. The generally accepted rationale behind it is that the dog is a non-judgmental and comforting listener.”

This generation of school children have not had it easy, not by any stretch of the imagination, but the endless inventiveness and agility of education institutions when dealing with catch-up and hangover from Covid should give us paws for thought – we’re sure you’ll forgive the puns🐶

Paws and Learn - YouTube

2. First T-level students results in England

Literacy enhances everything a child does, as has the emergence of STEM literature and teaching across the primary and secondary sectors over recent years. And all this ripples through a child’s years in school and beyond. Last summer, the first Year 13 students to take T-levels received their results. The two-year course is equivalent to three A-levels, with 80% classroom learning and 20% industry placement.There is a wonderful array of courses on offer, with new additions this year, including: Digital: IT Infrastructure; Business and Management; Health and Nursing; Engineering and Manufacturing; Finance; and more.

All this means greater choice for post-16 education, and young people feeling better prepared for the rapidly changing world of work. 71% of T-Level students successfully applied to university.

First T-level students receive their results in England - BBC News

T Levels: supporting the success of our students in a changing landscape | Blogs | University of Portsmouth

3. Private / state school partnerships

Post- and pre-16 education has also benefited from private / state school partnerships.

The amazing facilities enjoyed by the former are the envy of many, inside and outside the UK, hence the huge success of the likes of Harrow International School Bangkok and Dulwich Phuket, in Thailand.

The rise of branded schools - Spear's Magazine (

Britain’s top schools are keen to share their state-of-the-art sports facilities, museums, music centres, and much more. For example, over 3,000 state school students benefited from Eton College’s Partnerships programme in 2022. Local primary schools were able to enjoy six different activity-based sessions linked to the National Curriculum and taught in one of Eton’s three museums: Natural History Museum, Museum of Antiquities, and Museum of Eton Life. There were also student and teacher conferences, CPD opportunities in collaboration with the Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning (aka CIRL), university interview preparation, Science and Student Leadership days, and community open music opportunities.

Eton Connect Local Partnerships - Eton College

4. Cost of living; Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong

With the cost-of-living crisis, and families home and abroad struggling, working together is more important than ever. Schools have rallied to help feed and clothe the vulnerable and disadvantaged in their communities. They have also welcomed school children from Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Hong Kong. Over 40,000 school places were made available in total, according to government figures.

School placements for children from outside of the UK, September 2022 – Explore education statistics – GOV.UK (

And anecdote and social media bear witness to the success of their assimilation. EdTech, of course, played its part in the process, with auto-translate software rolled out on online learning hub Oak National Academy to assist Russian or Ukrainian speakers. Pupils were then better able to access quizzes, worksheets, and video lessons.

5. Technological transformation

In a show of great courage against the odds, schooling continues in war-torn Ukraine, and technological feats such as the first 3D-printed wartime schools are a source of wonder and cause for celebration. Big shout out to TEAM4UA, the non-profit tech and humanitarian start-up behind this impressive initiative. Over 2,000 Ukrainian schools in Ukraine are said to have been damaged or destroyed since the February Russian invasion, but children and teachers battle on, making the most of remote technology, and undeterred.

Education Amid War: Teachers And Students Continue Learning Teaching In Ukraine (

As Emily Guille-Marrett, Chief Content Officer at Pickatale said in her address at the Westminster Education forum in December last year:

““We live in exciting times. Technology has so much to offer educators, students, and the world of education. Now is the time to lay the foundations and fully harness technology to raise attainment.”

Harnessing technology to raise attainment - Pickatale

Pickatale Originals on Sustainable Development Goals 4: Quality Education
Pickatale Originals on Sustainable Development Goals 4: Quality Education

Final thoughts

So, a big thank you to teachers, support staff, students, and parents across the world. Schools play a vital role in their local communities. Your ingenuity, big-heartedness, and unflagging endeavours do not go unnoticed. We salute you.

Written by Ben Masters, former English teacher in the independent sector for 22 years, and copywriter specialising in education and EdTech.

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