The new World Bank classroom performance tool does not pass the test

published 2 February 2019 updated 7 February 2019

Educators are voicing their concern over a new classroom observation tool from the World Bank which supposedly improves teaching practices.

Teach,“a new, easily-available classroom observation tool”, as promoted by the World Bank, was met with skepticism by educatorswhen launched in Washington earlier this week. Education International (EI), the global union of over 32 million teachers, educators and support personnel, has questioned thelegitimacyand usefulness of the tool.

Missing its target

According to the World Bank, Teach is an effective remedy to the“teaching crisis” which underpins theso-called “global learning crisis”. Teachis meant to improve teaching practices through assessing teachers’ work in low and middle income classrooms.

However, EIhighlightsmultiple problems with the tool. First and foremost, there was a lack of involvement of teachers in the creation of the tool,showing that the Bank continues to sideline teacher unions and ignore the Incheon declaration’scall for teachers’ full participation in developing education policy.

Further points of criticism include the tool’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to quality teaching that does not take into account contextual specificities;the general character of the tool as a potential surveillance mechanism rather than as a constructive formative input into the professional development of teachers’ skills and qualifications; the tool’s simplistic rubric which oversimplifies the many facets of quality education; and the questionable legitimacy of the World Bank as a financial institution to define quality pedagogy and influence teaching methods.

EI: Invest in teachers and their evaluators

David Edwards, EI General Secretary, emphasised that, though rightfully recognising teachers as vital for quality education, the Bank is taking the wrong approach to support teachers. He stressed that“in order to improve teacher quality the Bank should instead focus its efforts on increasing the attractiveness of the teaching profession through promoting improved working and employment conditions,quality initial education and continuous professional development, and professional autonomyfor teachers”.

He added that teacher evaluations should always be developed locally in collaboration with the profession and carried out by professionals. “Evaluators should know how to provide quality feedback to teachers so that teacher evaluation is formative and is used directly to improve teaching practices,” he stressed. On the contrary, observers using the Bank’s new tool do not have experience as teachers themselves and are trained for just 4 days.

Educators’ have their voices heard at the tool’s launch

Outrageously, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the Teach observation tool was launched with an event at the World Bank where economists talked amongst themselves about how to improve teaching, without any teachers present. Yet whilst the one-sided panel showered praise on the tool, moderator Justin Sandefur, from the Centre for Global Development, provocatively quoted from Edwards’s blog, bringing the critical voice of teachers into the room.

“Would a World Bank economist accept having their appraisal conducted by any random US citizen, untrained in economic?” he asked.

EI and teacher representatives around the world continue to push back against the World Bank’s unhelpful initiatives in education policy such as Teach and to demand a seat at the table when teacher policy is developed.

Read EI General Secretary’s blog critiquing the tool here and add your voice to the conversation about the tool at #successfulteachers