Plight of contract teachers under international spotlight

published 4 July 2016 updated 6 July 2016

Social dialogue is a vital tool in improving the conditions of contract workers and all education staff, stressed Education International’s representative at a conference in Ethiopia on the use of contract teachers.

The conference was organised by the International Teachers Task Force for Education for All/UNESCO (TTF) and held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 20-22 June. The TTF reviewed the use of contract teachers in 25 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and revealed its findings to country consultants and education ministry officials from each of the participating countries at the conference.

Need for more qualified teachers

Edem Adubra, Head of the TTF, told participants that “ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all (by 2030) is the education target in the global sustainable development goals (SDG) framework”. Informed teacher policy making is essential for effective and sustainable implementation and the efficient management of the teacher stock, he said. Also, the teacher-related target identified as a ‘Means of Implementation’ in the education-related SDG target calls for an increase in the supply of qualified teachers and teacher training, he noted. In order to define the long-term need for trained teachers and the nature, scope, and levels of training to offer, it is important to take stock of the current situation, he continued.

The conference further highlighted that the global education community has underscored the right of all learners to be taught by qualified, professionally trained, motivated and well-supported teachers.

The recruitment of contract teachers is a worldwide practice for different reasons. It has varying implications in areas such as teaching and learning, teacher management, learning outcomes, and the social perception of the teaching profession. Indeed, contractual teachers have been used in high-income Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, for different reasons, Adubra said, insisting that the phenomenon has grown significantly in sub-Saharan Africa in particular.

Importance of social dialogue

Social dialogue is defined by the International Labour Organisation “as all types of negotiation, consultation or simply the exchange of information between representatives of governments, employers and workers on issues of common interest”, said Education International (EI) Dennis Sinyolo in his presentation on “Promoting social dialogue on teachers and teaching”.

Involvement of stakeholders

Stakeholder participation and voice in the policy making process is crucial for the success of education and teacher policies, he said. Sinyolo also cited examples of social dialogue mechanisms, such as local education groups, part of the policy dialogue mechanism of the Global Partnership for Education, and the International Summit on the Teaching Profession, an annual event bringing together education ministers and teacher union leaders from OECD and partner countries to discuss how to improve the status of the teaching profession, teacher quality, teaching and learning.

Dialogue topics

Recommending that governments, teacher organisations and other stakeholders engage in genuine dialogue about the professional status and working conditions of contract teachers and all teaching personnel, he concluded that such dialogue may focus on:

·         Teacher training and professional development

·         Teacher evaluation and feedback systems

·         Teacher support systems, leadership and governance

·         Salaries and working conditions

·         Teaching and learning tools and resources

·         Privatisation and commercialisation of education

Upskill and upgrade

Governments/teacher education institutions should provide upskilling and upgrading programmes (pre- and in-service training) for unqualified and underqualified contract teachers, Sinyolo said. These programmes would lead to certification, qualification and recognition. And they could develop, finance and implement comprehensive teacher policies to ensure that all learners are taught by qualified, motivated and well-supported teachers.

Human right

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Kishore Singh, underscored the need for governments to protect education as a human right and a public good. He argued that private provision of education undermines poor children’s right to quality education, and he raised serious concerns about the role of private schools in undermining teachers’ rights.

Singh also reiterated that the norms and principles that underlie the right to education are affected by the market forces associated with digital technologies. “It is of utmost importance that education be safeguarded against the forces of privatisation,” he said. Public authorities “should recognise that human contact in education is essential to the teaching and learning process” with the use of digital technologies being “considered as a means of education, not as a substitute for face- to-face education”, he added.

His latest report is available here

Parallel events

The conference on contract teachers was followed by two parallel events: the African Deans of Education Forum’s meeting, and an African Union Commission’s meeting on the implementation of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA) 2016-2025, on 23-24 June. The CESA will focus on 12 objectives, including the revitalisation of the teaching profession, a goal it hopes to accomplish working closely with EI and other stakeholders.