Education International has urged UNESCO and its member states to put teachers at the center of efforts to improve quality education for all in the new global education strategy at the Global Education for All Meeting in Muscat, Oman.
The EI delegation, which comprised EI Deputy General Secretary, David Edwards, Senior Coordinator, Education and Employment, Dennis Sinyolo and Professor Keith Lewin of Sussex University, stressed the critical role of teachers in ensuring equitable participation in quality education for all during . The delegation encouraged governments to invest in teachers, their initial education, continuous professional development, salaries, improvement of their conditions of service and support.
“The quality of a country’s education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. Similarly, the quality of a country’s teachers cannot exceed the quality of its education system,” said Edwards in his intervention at the Global Education for All Meeting (GEM). He went on to urge UNESCO to ensure that teachers are at the centre of the new education strategy to be adopted in 2015.
“The new education goals cannot be achieved without adequate financial investment. In that regard, we call on all governments to invest sufficient domestic resources in education and on donor countries to meet their commitments”, continued Edwards.
Investing in Quality Teachers Paramount
The central role of teachers was highlighted in the 2013/14 EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR), whose key findings were presented by Pauline Rose, Professor of Education at Cambridge University and former GMR Director. “There is a global learning crisis and this crisis can only be solved with the full participation of teachers and their unions”, said Rose. Rose went on to present four strategies for ensuring the best teachers for all students, which are: attracting the best candidates into the teaching profession; training them well; deploying them where they are most needed; and retaining them by paying them well.
To drum up support for a teacher target in the post-2015 education agenda, EI, the Global Campaign for Education and Open Society Foundations organised a parallel session on “Investing in Quality Teachers to Improve Quality Education”. Drawing on experiences and feedback from classroom teachers around the world through EI’s Teacher EFA Assessment, the session addressed the major bottlenecks and opportunities to expand both the quality and quantity of teachers needed to meet global education goals.
Sinyolo presented preliminary findings from the EFA Assessment and EI’s proposed target on teachers, which is:
“Governments ensure that every child is taught by professionally qualified, adequately and timely remunerated, well-supported teachers in class sizes of less than 30 by 2030”
Speaking at the parallel event, Roberto Aguilar, Minister of Education of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, shared his country’s experiences in working with teachers and their unions to improve education policy and practice. The Minister supported EI’s call for all children to be taught by qualified and well-supported teachers.
Plight of children in conflict situations highlighted
Speaking at the GEM, UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova, condemned the abduction of school girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria. She also highlighted the plight of Syrian refugee children in neighbouring countries. Bokova stressed that all children, regardless of personal characteristics or circumstances, should be accorded the right to education. “Education is the best long term investment a society can make in an inclusive and more sustainable future”, she rightfully concluded.
Ongoing process to define education goals
Following EI’s advocacy efforts, there was unanimous recognition of the importance of teachers and dialogue with teachers unions.
The GEM adopted a statement with a proposed future education goal and targets. The proposed targets will be further refined and submitted to the United Nations (UN) and the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development. These proposals will also inform a Framework for Action, which will be adopted in South Korea in May 2015.
The GEM was preceded by a meeting of the Steering Committee of the International Task Force on Teachers for EFA. The Steering Committee approved a new Action Plan which prioritised research and advocacy on teacher issues. EI is a member of both the Steering Committee of the International Task Force on Teachers for EFA and the EFA Steering Committee.