Successful implementation of education policy relies on teacher involvement

  • 04 Apr 2016
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Educators from over 30 countries have linked the promotion of education as public good to teacher autonomy, political commitment by governments and the recognition of education unions as agents of change.

The EI Conference of affiliates in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries, organised by Education International (EI), brought more than 150 international delegates from OECD member countries for a two-day seminar to Rome, the Italian capital.

The participants were welcomed to Rome by the EI Italian affiliates who said that they were grateful for the opportunity to host the Conference and contribute to EI’s policy development work. They reminded participants that this was the second time that they had hosted the EI OECD affiliates conference.  Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary, in his introduction to the Conference, highlighted the importance of including teachers and education unions in policy dialogue in order for it to be successful. Framing the policy developments in the light of the current international political, economic and social context, from the post-crisis economy to the refugee influx, van Leeuwen regretted that, too often, Governments do not consult the stakeholders directly involved in education when drafting changes in policy or implementing commitments made at national or international level: “Governments may say one thing in an international meeting but do something completely different back home.”

In this regard, he warned of the increasing tendency on the part of governments to neglect education by leaving it in the hands of edu-businesses and for-profit corporations. He emphasised that, despite the OECD’s evidence that shows that the market in education has a negative impact on student outcomes and deepens inequality, “some governments remain steadfast in their attempts to dismantle their public school systems. We are already seeing the effects of this agenda with the break-up of traditional school systems, particularly in some low-income countries. We see the emergence and spread of privately managed, corporate owned, and in many instances, for-profit schools.” He cited the recent examples ofsuch developments in  the Philippines and Kenya, while in Liberia “the authorities are about to hand over all primary and secondary schools to a for profit corporation”.

Pressing challenges for education systems

The conference is focus sing on two closely related working topics. While, on the second day, Tuesday, it will analyse the effects of the commercialisation and privatisation on education, on the first day delegates discussed the current state of education policy and the options for evidence-based action in order to bring the voice of educators into the decision-making arena.

Professor Dennis Shirley from the Boston Lynch School of Education framed the debate with a keynote address on the values that should shape public education systems and make them successful. He contrasted them with governments who wished to introduce reforms that substituted the ethos of the public service with narrow, high stakes measures of performance and a leading role for the private sector. He underlined the importance of a “reinvigorated professionalism with human capital, social capital and decisional capital, knowledge, peer networks and autonomy”.

During a session on the Sustainable Development Goals which will benchmark development policy until 2030, delegates learned first-hand from EI’s leadership how educators had been involved in drawing up the goals and could now influence this important international agenda. President Susan Hopgood underlined the challenges posed by this new agenda for education, stressing that the 17 new goals will “have to be integrated into national implementation plans in order to be effective”, highlighting also that the new Goals had implications for all governments, and that educators, in particular, shouldn’t “let governments get away with developing education policy responses without [their] involvement”.

Where next for TALIS?

As the only international survey that includes the voice of teachers in education and has a significant impact on education policy development, the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) was given a special focus in the Conference’s first day of work. John Bangs, Senior Consultant to EI, reminded participants that TALIS reflects teachers’ and principals’ views on areas which affect their professional lives, and has provided a significant backdrop of evidence to the International Summits of the Teaching Profession. With two surveys now published (TALIS 2008and TALIS 2013), significant conclusions, include the finding that teachers’ sense of self-confidence and efficacy are as crucial to children’s educational success as are good standards of pay and compensation.

Karine Tremblay, senior analyst in the TALIS team of the OECD, presented the developments and challenges facing the survey, with a special focus on what will be contained in the third edition of the study, which will include the responses of over forty countries. 

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