Teachers were acknowledged for being among the most powerful agents to change the world and shape a better future at a special one-day event held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.
The UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, Qian Tang, opened the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the International Labour Organisation (ILO)/UNESCO recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers by stating that “last year’s adoption of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning implies the need for increasing the supply of qualified teachers”.
Sixty-nine million teachers are needed in the next 15 years, he said, adding that there is a long way to go and quality, not just quantity, needing to be guaranteed.
He recognised the need to look at what teacher motivation means at different levels, and that research should inform policy. He also underlined the situation of teachers in crisis and emergency situations and the need to help those teachers by necessarily coordinating efforts.
Every day should be WTD
The Director of the UNESCO Division for Education 2030 Support and Coordination Jordan Naidoo read a joint message from UNESCO, ILO, UNICEF, and the United Nations Development Programme on the occasion of the day. He agreed that “we should make everyday a teachers’ day”.
He also deplored the shortage of secondary school teachers, which is larger than that of primary school teachers. Naidoo also defended the view that the teaching profession should be a first-choice career.
Dennis Sinyolo of Education International (EI) insisted that education systems must receive adequate financing, and least developed countries need external support. Donor countries must respect their official development assistance commitments, he said.
He also underlined that businesses should pay their fair share of taxes, saying this was a fundamental condition for ensuring adequate funding of education.
“Political will is at the core,” he concluded.
High-level panel reasserts that teachers are professionals
At the High?Level Panel, “50 years of ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers”, French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said: “We need to appreciate the teachers for their excellent and, at the same time, very difficult work.” Teaching is a profession, not a vocation, she noted. The profession is not attractive, while teacher training should not be limited to the academic elements, but requires practice, she acknowledged. And better working conditions and real career perspectives are needed.
Gilbert Houngbo, UNESCO Deputy Director General for Field Operations and Partnerships, said the Recommendation is more relevant today than 50 years ago. There is “no way to talk about SDGs without teachers”, he said. Better trained and motivated teachers require better remuneration, he conceded.
EI: Concern about de-professionalisation
EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen said: “The 1996 and 1997 Recommendations on the status of teachers are probably the best kept secret of the international community, because education ministers often ask what recommendations we are talking about.”
It is not just an issue of salary, he argued, as teachers are concerned that a de-professionalisation trend is making the teaching profession less attractive.
A profession is a group of people that determine their own standards, he insisted, highlighting the challenge whereby teachers are no longer determining their own standards.
Education International is developing international standards by teachers, van Leeuwen said, pointing out that “teachers must repossess their profession”, and not be “told what to do by consultants and self-proclaimed experts”.
To read the EI brochure about the 50th anniversary of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO recommendation on the status of teachers, click here.
EI affiliates worldwide celebrate educators
Meanwhile, globally, EI affiliates mobilised under the 2016 World Teachers’ Day (WTD) rallying theme: “Valuing teachers, Improving their Status”.
In Europe, the Portuguese Federaçao Nacional dos Professores chose the WTD theme as their priority work area for 2016-17. It led to two important initiatives strongly targeting the general public: a concert on 4 October in Lisbon, with eminent artists paying tribute to teachers, and a large conference on the important role of teachers and the challenges they face today, with well-known academics and political parties’ representatives, to be held on 7 October in Coimbra.
In Africa, members of the Uganda National Teachers Union, confronted by the privatisation of their school system, united in support of their public school system at an event attended by thousands to demand quality education for all.
In North America/Carribbean, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) announced that the Dominica Association of Teachers is the 2016 recipient of the CTF Norm Goble World Teachers’ Day Award. This is granted annually to a CTF partner organisation for its WTD activities. The Dominica Association of Teachers received the Award for its efforts to raise the status of the teaching profession and to highlight teachers as professionals in their country.