More than fifty teacher unions and partner organisations’ representatives attended the launch of the EI/Oxfam Novib (Oxfam Netherlands) Quality Educator for All Programme on 17 May at EI’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, welcomed participants by explaining that “EI and Oxfam Novib have taken this initiative to help confront Education quality deficit in countries struggling to achieve the mother of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Education for All (EFA), by 2015.”
He reminded participants of EI and Oxfam Novib's past common initiatives, such as rebuilding schools in Indonesia post-tsunami and combatting child labour globally.
He acknowledged the tremendous progress made concerning students’ enrolment rates, but expressed the “growing concern for the quality of provided education, such as poor building, large classes, and limited or no class resources.”
Mr. Van Leeuwen also declared that teachers are “keys to quality education and so must themselves be quality educators.”
He shared his belief that “de-professionalisation is education unions' main challenge, with both unqualified teachers entering the profession as well as declining teacher autonomy and professional standards.”
“Unqualified teachers in classrooms undermine the teaching profession's credibility and status. I have no doubt that EI’s affiliates are the first guardians of the teaching profession. We all want to promote high professional standards.”
Commenting on teacher qualification and training, Mr. Van Leeuwen explained that “this responsibility stays with governments, not with teacher trade unions.”
He then gave the floor to Oxfam Novib International Director, Theo Bouma, who highlighted that “Oxfam Novib is a rights-based organisation,” which sees EI “as enabling people to enjoy their fundamental rights.”
He went on to say that his organisation “focuses on social development, ensuring marginalised groups, including girls, access to social services,” and takes a “long-life learning approach."
He stated that with millions of children still out of school, the risk is high not to achieve the EFA goals, a great concern for both Oxfam Novib and EI.
Mr. Bouma also declared that if school enrolment, drop-out rates, or retention rates are important issues, another major issue needs to be addressed: the challenge of teacher quality, from pupils’ point of view, but also from the teachers’ one.
He expressed the opinion, that through pilot projects, “we have come to see that it is possible to build a platform for organisations concerned by this issue to link with governments, to gather resources to bring a collective response.”
Oxfam Novib Project Leader, Liana Gertsch, later explained that “9,1 million teachers are currently needed to achieve EFA, but this is only the number of new teachers we need. In fact we need many more.” This figure does not take into account teachers already working and the training they received, or the fact that we need to retain teachers in the profession and fight teacher attrition.
She also acknowledged the teachers’ right as workers “to receive the qualifications they need to deliver quality education,” adding that “we need to address the issue of teacher deployment and retention within the equality framework.”
Ms. Gertsch expressed her firm conviction that “if we underfund education, we are shooting ourselves in the foot: in the long run, we will pay a far higher price for the future. Investing in education pays off over time to meet our EFA goals. There is also a multiplier effect, in that children beneficiating from quality education, as parent, and later grand-parents, will advocate for education.”
She mentioned two pilot projects in Mali and Uganda, which started in 2010, showing the need to raise awareness among the public at large about a teacher competence profile, hoping “this instrument will help teachers as pathway to strengthening their profession in general.”
EI Senior Advisor to the General Secretary, Gaston De la Haye, presented the findings of an international study on quality educators, and developed on the competence profile.
He explained that this international study aims at showing which competences teachers need to provide quality education, and understanding quality educators for all internationally.
He said competency profile is more of a “Northern” concept, one way of looking at teaching quality, for which no consensus exists, and for which a holistic approach prevails (compared to a behaviouristic one,) allowing flexibility to match the teacher’s career progress.
Mr. de la Haye also referred to the different case studies led on that topic in Latin America (Chile and Brazil), in Asia (India and Malaysia), and in Europe (Netherlands and Slovenia).
He finished his intervention by stating that “this study is a unique research developed by Oxfam and EI, because what you find in the document is not only the desk research and the concept development on quality educators, but also how people experienced it as unionists and teachers, in the daily practice.”
After these presentations, a panel discussion moderated by EI Senior Coordinator and member of the project group, Dennis Sinyolo, debated on Qualified and competent teachers for quality education: the necessary causality.
The full text of the study on Quality Educators launched at the event is available here.