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Strategy sessions I.8 > Teacher Education
 
World Education Forum
Dakar, Senegal 26-28 April 2000
 
Enabling teachers to enable learners
Issues Paper
 
Strategy Session I.8
 
Original : English
 
  "Teachers at all levels of the education system should be adequately trained, respected, remunerated, and able to participate in decisions affecting their professional lives and teaching environments." (Excerpt from strategy 5 of the "Draft Dakar Framework of Action)
 
1. Introduction
 
Education is largely a matter of a learning process that involves interaction between teacher and learner. When this process works well, real learning takes place. When teachers are enabled to do their job effectively, their students are enabled to learn effectively. What are the factors that affect this interaction ?
 

2. The status of teachers

 
Reports from teacher organisations are unanimous in stating that the status of teachers has declined, often drastically, in recent years. This decline is due both to material and non-material factors. It is clear that the vast majority of teachers believe that they do not receive the moral support and material recognition appropriate to their level of qualifications and responsibilities.
 

3. Class size

 
There is a trend in several countries to increase the number of students in each class. Class sizes have reached unacceptable levels in many developing countries. Many teacher organisations report class sizes exceeding 100 pupils. Obviously, learning suffers under such conditions. Smaller classes allow teachers to use more personalised instructional techniques and develop and apply new teaching methods. Furthermore, teachers with smaller classes report less stress and higher morale, and turnover rates among these teachers are also lower .
 
4. Increasing workload
 
There is strong empirical evidence that the workload of teaches has increased. Reports from a range of countries are striking. The number of teachers eligible for disability pensions has steadily increased. Teachers report problems with sleeping, marital problems and higher frequency of depression due to the job situation. Teachers generally are used to working hard for a good cause, but if their good will is exploited, the results can be counterproductive.
 
 
5. Professional freedom
 
There has to be a general trust in the competence and creativity of the teacher. How teaching is done in the classroom should never be prescribed by persons outside the classroom reality. This does not mean that education authorities should not encourage new teaching methods through in-service training, professional development and other means. It is important annecessary to propose different approaches and good models for teaching, but teaching methods should not be dictated to teachers.
 
6. The work environment
 
The working conditions of teachers are closely related to learning conditions for the students. A school environment that allows teachers to do a good job will automatically improve the learning conditions of the students.
 
There is an obvious and close relation between the infrastructure of the school system and the quality of education. In many countries investment in school equipment has been neglected during recent decades. It is essential to provide at least the basic teaching equipment and materials in each school. Studies have reported a consistent relationship between pupil achievement and the availability of books . An important investment to improve educational quality is to ensure that all students have at least one textbook.
 
Research has pointed to the importance of teacher motivation for effective learning. The obvious relation between motivation and good working conditions is thus a strong argument for improving the status and working conditions of teachers. Another factor affecting motivation is the ability to influence one's working conditions.
 
7. Teacher education and professional development
 
All too often, teachers begin their duties without proper or sufficient pedagogical and psychological training. Some studies of factors affecting the academic achievement of school children conclude that the influence of classroom variables, like the education of the teacher, is of greater importance in developing countries than in other countries . This is a powerful argument in favour of improving teacher education especially in developing countries.
 
Teaching is a life-long process of learning. Continuous professional development through in-service training to up-date the teacher's knowledge and teaching methods is of crucial importance in providing quality education. In several countries there has been a debate about the importance of in-service training. Sometimes it has even been argued that resources should better be shifted from pre-service to in-service training. Experience shows, however, that such reduced funding for pre-service training does not necessarily benefit in-service programmes . In-service training is most effective when based on pre-service education that has laid a good foundation.
 
Still today, in many parts of the world, persons with insufficient training are engaged as teachers. So long as the hiring of untrained teachers is used as a temporary and transitional solution, it can be tolerated. But governments coping with teacher shortages would be well advised to follow the guidelines contained in the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers:
 

142. In developing countries, where supply considerations may necessitate short-term intensive emergency preparation programmes for teachers, a fully professional, extensive programme should be available in order to produce corps of professionally prepared teachers competent to guide and direct the educational enterprise.

143. (1) Students admitted to training in short term, emergency programmes should be selected in terms of the standards applying to admission to the normal professional programme, or even higher ones, to ensure that they will be capable of subsequently completing the requirements of the full programme. (2) Arrangements and special facilities, including extra study leave on full pay, should enable such students to complete their qualifications in service.

 
8. Teachers' salaries
 
Another factor affecting teacher motivation and commitment to teaching is the financial remuneration. Real salary rates in low-income countries have deteriorated in recent years. In many countries salaries are not paid regularly, with delays often of several months. Consequently, many teachers are forced to look for other jobs in addition to teaching and some are driven to leave teaching altogether. According to reports from some African countries, it has become almost impossible to convince good students to choose a teaching career, as the prospects of job security and adequate income are too uncertain.
 
9. Negotiations and consultations
 
Government decisions regarding education are more likely to succeed when planned and implemented with the full participation of teachers and their organisations, since the teachers are directly concerned and have far-reaching knowledge and experience of classroom realities. No education reform can be fully effective without the agreement and active partnership of the personnel who will ultimately be responsible for implementation.
 
Education workers' organizations contribute to the policy-making process by representing their members' views. Negotiation and consultation with these organizations should be encouraged at all levels. Sufficient time, transparent procedures and effective communication with all interested parties are key factors in ensuring that consultations and negotiations achieve their objectives.
 
10. Improve the status of teachers and involve them and their organisations
 
Among the key strategies to improve the quality of education, governments can well begin by applying the principles contained in the joint ILO/UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers, approved by the Member States of both organizations. In brief, governments and their partners in education must ensure that teachers:
 

receive the moral and material recognition appropriate to their level of qualifications and responsibilities;

have a salary comparable with other professions requiring a similar level of qualifications and responsibility, making it possible for them to live with dignity on the salary from their work and not be forced to take on additional jobs;

have an adequate working environment, including the technology and resources necessary today for good teaching, as well as real protection in terms of occupational health and safety;

can do their work in adequately equipped school buildings, where the students have access to a school library, as well as on-line information services where possible;

receive a good initial teacher education at university level to prepare them for their work as teachers;

receive in-service training and professional development within the profession in order to keep in touch with new research findings in their subjects and to obtain continuous support for the improvement of their teaching methods;

be given professional and academic freedom to use the methods and classroom approaches that best meet the democratically decided objectives of the education system;

have the right to be consulted and to participate in the process of formulating education policies;

have the right to form and control their own representative organisations; and

have the right, through their organisations, to undertake comprehensive collective bargaining and, where necessary, industrial action.

 
For further discussion in the Strategy Session :
 
To enable teachers to enable learners,
 

- What is needed in the classroom? -

- What is needed in the school?

- What is needed in the education system?

- What can teachers themselves do?

- What can teachers' organisations do?

- What can government and education authorities do?

- What can intergovernmental organisations do?

- Are there other actors who can help to enable teachers to enable learners?

 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
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