Education International
Education International

No shortcuts or substitutes for teachers

published 18 September 2016 updated 4 October 2016

The importance and need of qualified and well-supported teachers has been reinforced with the launch of the Education Commission Report, which puts teachers at the heart of quality education and calls for increased investment.

On the eve of the report’s release in New York City on 18 September, Education International (EI) has joined the Education Commission in releasing a statement to highlight the Commission’s clear recognition of how crucial qualified and well-supported teachers and education support staff are to getting all children into school and learning within a generation. Read the full report, Learning Generation: Investing in education for a changing world, here.

“EI is very pleased that the importance of teachers, and the central role of teacher unions in creating quality education, has finally been recognised,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “This report validates what we at EI have always known: that those best suited to shape education policy are teachers themselves, and that rigorous and sustained investment in public education and teachers is required to achieve all Sustainable Development Goals.”

Van Leeuwen applauds the Commission’s recommendation to provide greater support for the teaching profession, including increased funding for teachers and elevating the profession to its rightful place in transforming societies.

Together, EI and the Education Commission have highlighted the following seven key areas where the report supports and addresses the needs of teachers:

1. Adequate, sustainable, predictable and efficient resourcing

The number one prerogative to both tackling the shortage of teachers and ensuring they have the supports necessary to reach every student is increasing financing and ensuring that all financing is spent effectively and efficiently. Untrained and unqualified personnel may be cheaper in the short term but in the long term are a recipe for low achievement, higher inequity and making teaching a last option profession. There are no shortcuts   to building and sustaining a strong profession.

2. Qualified Teachers in a Mutually Reinforcing Ecosystem

A qualified, well-supported, well-paid teaching force is essential for the achievement of equitable quality education for all.  The Commission recommends diversifying the education workforce to help ensure that teachers can spend much more of their time in the classroom and teaching, that valuable teaching resource is deployed efficiently, and that children are supported by a wider range of professionals with distinct skills and roles. The whole school approach to education that provides teachers with the space and time needed to both teach and prepare for lessons, and that encompasses education support professionals is the right way forward.

3. Teachers trained and empowered to drive innovation

Innovation in the way education is delivered will be vital to rapidly expanding participation and learning in a sustainable way, and to ensuring that education keeps pace with the changing needs of learners and societies. Strengthening initial and ongoing teacher training and development; innovating in teachers’ roles and deployment; supporting teachers to improve their practice to reflect the best available evidence on what works; and enabling them to utilize the best new resources, technologies and methodologies, will be critical to ensuring that teachers can lead innovation at all levels of education.

4. Teacher Unions

Teacher unions bring positive approaches to education policy. Background research for the Commission shows that policy dialogue that includes teachers can result in more sustainable solutions. The Report’s examples in Uganda and Gambia clearly show this.

5. Listening to the Profession

Teachers and their organisations are viewed as valuable partners in education reform. By tapping into their hands-on, classroom expertise and experience, governments can make sure their efforts bring about positive change.

6. Professional Autonomy

Professional autonomy is key to success over the long-term, and to ensuring that education systems keep improving. This should include investing in strengthening educational leadership at all levels, and ensuring that well-trained teachers are able to adapt teaching and learning to the specific and changing needs of learners.

7. Better salaries and working conditions

Improving the salaries and working conditions of teachers and education staff is key to attracting the best candidates into the teaching profession and retaining qualified and experienced teachers.