Interview with Edem Adubra, Chief of the Section for Teacher Policy and Development, UNESCO
What is the planned UNESCO Teacher Strategy?
In a snapshot, the planned strategy is a mapping tool and a roadmap for our future interventions with regard to teachers.
Since 1966, the International Labour Organisation and UNESCO have published the Recommendations concerning the Status of Teachers. Later on, in 1997, UNESCO issued the Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher Education Personnel. These normative instruments provide a framework for guiding countries and education stakeholders on teachers' roles and responsibilities and how to address them. But with the expansion of access to education in recent years, there is an increasing need for recruiting larger and larger numbers of teachers.
Policies and programmes for the training, recruitment, deployment, career development and living/working conditions of teachers need to be developed. These policies must be adapted to national and global contexts characterized by new knowledge, innovative technologies, socioeconomic constraints, environmental changes, etc. Learners are also from diverse backgrounds with different learning needs. With these changes, new roles are being ascribed to teachers who are responsible for facilitating the acquisition of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values required in future citizens, leaders and workers.
As lead agency for education within the UN family and coordinating the Education for All (EFA) movement globally, UNESCO must have a strategy to tackle these changing roles of teachers and provide the sort of guidance and leadership that its Member States, its partners and stakeholders expect. For instance, 9.1 million teachers are needed (7.2 million new teachers to replace teachers leaving the post and 1.9 million additional teacher posts) to reach Universal Primary Education by 2015. How do we work to address this huge demand?
Wasn't TTISSA created to address exactly these issues?
Exactly. The slow pace of achieving the EFA goals in the first few years following Dakar 2000 Forum had led African Member States to ask UNESCO to support the region in addressing the teacher need. UNESCO responded by creating the Teacher Training Initiative for Sub-Saharan Africa (TTISSA). As an initiative aiming to comprehensively address teacher issues from the quantitative and qualitative points of view, it focused in its pilot phase on 17 countries.
The conceptualization of TTISSA included the development of a logical framework and the implementation of a variety of activities in the various pilot countries. The mid-term evaluation of TTISSA revealed the relevance of the framework but also highlighted the dispersion of the interventions, which didn't allow the initiative to have significant impact in the beneficiary countries. Though several technical and financial partners were also involved, there was also a clear limitation of financial resources to meet the demands.
All in all, very positive lessons have been learnt from the experience, and the focus is now on supporting countries to develop comprehensive teacher policies. This line of action is being pursued with the decentralization of TTISSA to the Regional Bureau for Education in Africa (BREDA) to allow for more synergy with regional frameworks. A diversification of partnerships and enhanced involvement of the Member States are also contributing to reorienting TTISSA for more impact.
This regional experience has greatly informed the development of the UNESCO Strategy, which has a global scope. The UNESCO teacher strategy will take into consideration global trends while attending to regional and local realities.
At the organizational level and within the UNESCO Education Sector, the ongoing reform processes offer the opportunity to revisit the way we cover teachers, which are such a vital thematic component of the education programme. So, to summarize, the strategy is a mapping tool and a roadmap for our future interventions with regards to teachers.
What stage is UNESCO at with the development of its Teacher Strategy?
The approach we have adopted in preparing the strategy is first, to take stock of major activities and initiatives that UNESCO's entities have supported in all regions in recent years, analyse the outcomes and identify gaps and emerging trends. We have completed this stocktaking exercise and have five reports, including one on each of the UNESCO Regions and one on Headquarters and Institutes activities.
We are reviewing the reports and from the analysis, we will be able to define what teacher-related activities fall under UNESCO's five functions (convenor of international cooperation, capacity builder, clearing house, laboratory of ideas and standard setter) and deserve to be prioritized; what resources (technical, financial and institutional) need to be mobilized; and how to coordinate and harmonize distribution of roles within the UNESCO family. We are also making sure that this strategy is well articulated with the overall Education Sector Strategy that is being developed. Additionally, it's worth mentioning that the Division for Basic to Higher Education and Learning is also coordinating the development of a General Education Quality Diagnosis/Analysis and Monitoring Framework. Teachers being a central quality parameter, these initiatives cannot be developed in parallel. We're making sure that the right synergy is infused in the processes and are reflected in the outputs as well.
Does the UNESCO Teacher Strategy require much internal coordination?
Consistency between mandate, structure and resources, relevance to context and foresight should be the first attributes of a good strategy. In fact, several units (including the institutes) have been implementing activities related to teachers, but not always in a coordinated manner. Our governing bodies, Member States and partners are asking UNESCO to focus and deliver in a more strategic manner. The UNESCO Strategy on Teachers aims, exactly, to contribute to achieve this.
What and who is the strategy for?
The UNESCO Strategy on Teachers is being developed to serve a threefold purpose: firstly, to develop a shared vision and understanding among all relevant UNESCO entities of issues that need to be addressed when designing and implementing teacher-related interventions; secondly, to use the strategy as a reference framework for the identification, the planning, the implementation and the monitoring and evaluation of UNESCO's teacher-related activities, ensuring alignment with its mandate, enhanced coordination among its various entities, and appropriate utilization of its resources (human, technical and financial); and to guide international collaboration and partnership through better targeted and harmonized support to teacher-related initiatives at global, regional and national levels, according to each partner's comparative advantage and the needs of beneficiary parties.
How does UNESCO's role compare with the role of the International Task Force on Teachers for EFA?
The global awareness of the need to address teacher issues was highlighted at the 8th High -Level Group meeting on EFA in 2008, which endorsed the creation of the International Task Force on Teachers for EFA. Halfway to the target of 2015, the creation of this global alliance of intergovernmental organizations, development agencies, Member States, and international NGOs working on teacher issues was a positive development, as it gives momentum to, and underscores the need to join efforts to aggressively tackle the teacher gaps: financial, capacity and policy gaps, which represent a threat to the achievement of EFA and all MDG goals.
As part of its function as catalyst of international cooperation, UNESCO has played an instrumental part in the setting up of this global alliance and hosts its secretariat, funded by a few donors to execute a work plan which includes: ensuring the coordination of partners, organization of policy fora and pursuing advocacy for teachers. It has also undertaken studies and aims to provide in-country support to the countries most likely to miss out on the EFA goal.
UNESCO participates in the Task Force's activities. But as a UN-mandated agency for Education, accountable to its Member States, it needs to have its own clear vision about teachers and plan resources for supporting policy formulation and capacity development to meet Member States' demands.
What is your hope for the UNESCO Teacher Strategy?
When the Teacher Strategy is completed, my hope, as the Chief of the Section for Teacher Policy and Development, is that it will reinforce UNESCO's capacity to plan, implement, monitor and report on its teacher-related programmes, with visible results and impact, and that this will strengthen the trust and confidence that Member States and other education partners have in UNESCO.