Education International
Education International

International Summit on the Teaching Profession

published 25 March 2011 updated 13 April 2011

The release of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in December showed that U.S. students were ranked average in reading and science, and below average in maths. While the findings were not a great surprise they did generate a rush of media coverage about how the nation’s students were falling behind higher-performing nations. The U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, called the report a “wake-up call.”

But a wake up call to what? Some cited the numbers as a call to accelerate so-called ’reforms’ that scapegoat teachers and rely, at best, on faulty data around what would best serve student learning.

One clear finding from the PISA report (and the McKinsey Global Education Study that analysed the performances of 20 school systems around the world) was that students tend to succeed when schools and communities support teachers through collaboration and professional development.

Qualified teachers for students

OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurría, said: “High-performing systems make the teaching profession attractive and they support and train their teachers.” The PISA report noted that the collaboration between teacher unions and government has been critical to the success of Finland and other high-performing countries in recent years.

These best practices will be in the spotlight at the unprecedented International Summit on the Teaching Profession, convening on 16-17 March in New York. Key stakeholders from around the world – including education ministers, teacher unions and top educators – will trade strategies and share success stories.

Developing quality teaching

The NEA and AFT will co-host the event with EI, the U.S. Department of Education and OECD in the first step of on-going international dialogue on developing a strong and effective teaching force.

NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel, said “This is a historic event. For two days, we’ll have leading education experts from around the world in one room, sharing proven and effective strategies on recruiting, training and empowering great teachers.”

Van Roekel and other education leaders in the United States believe a frank exchange of ideas with representatives from the highest-performing nations will help teachers move ahead with their own efforts to boost student achievement and transform schools.

Secretary Duncan agrees that the United States can benefit: “This summit is an opportunity to learn from one another the best methods to address our common challenges: supporting and strengthening teachers and boosting student skills needed for success in today's knowledge economy."

Involving teachers in reforms

EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, stresses that teachers must be treated as equal partners with governments in any effort to build education reforms: “The summit is unique for teachers and their unions globally to consider the future of their profession. Qualified teachers are vital to the health and success of all our societies. Their input and status are vital to advancing the fight to achieve high quality education for all.”

For more information please visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

By Tim Walker, National Education Association (NEA), USA

This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 37, April 2011.