THE UNESCO director general Irina Bokova, in a speech celebrating the 50th anniversary of World Teachers Day, which was celebrated every October 5 marking the adoption of the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers in 1994, said, ‘Nothing can substitute a good teacher. Teachers are front-line change-makers, for human rights and dignity, for crafting new ways of living together in societies that are transforming and are increasingly diverse.’ The theme for this year’s day is ‘Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status.’
The recommendation provides a guideline for member-states to facilitate rights and responsibilities of teachers and international standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, teaching and learning conditions. It also contains many recommendations for teachers’ participation in educational decisions through consultation and negotiation with educational authorities.
Subsequently, UNESCO general conference in 1997 adopted recommendations concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel. These two sets of recommendations have been considered an important set of guidelines to promote teachers’ status in the interest of quality education.
In ensuring a better coordination, UNESCO's institutional partners for World Teachers Day include (i) International Task Force on Teachers for Education for All, (ii) International Labour Organisation, (iii) Education International, (iv) UNDP, and (v) UNICEF. However, irrespective of formal engagement with UNESCO, everyone can help by (i) celebrating the profession, (ii) generating awareness about teacher issues, and (iii) ensuring that teacher respect is part of the values and practices. They can also take the opportunity of the day to discuss, compare, learn, argue, share and improve the teaching learning conditions.
In Bangladesh, the Campaign for Popular Education as the national coalition for education, has been coordinating the major events around World Teachers Day since 2007 involving about 15 teachers’ associations and numbers of civil society organisation where the Dhaka office of UNESCO is the strategic partner, among others.
The SDG4 call for an inclusive and equitable quality education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all is critical to achieving all global development goals and targets. It requires strong societies, well-educated citizens and a well-trained workforce. Valuing teachers in terms of investment in recruiting, supporting, and empowering teachers is essential for achieving these goals.
Quality teachers are increasingly recognised as the most important factors in children’s learning that included improving educational attainment levels, increasing the ability of young people to participate in society and today’s knowledge economies, boosting productivity and prosperity among others. Quality teaching can change a child’s life through capability enhancement and helping children to overcome enormous challenges and to prepare them for better life and brighter futures. Especial attention is required for the people from the marginalised segment of society, developing economy and countries affected by armed conflicts and climate change.
The third means of SDG4 implementation is to ensure that all learners are taught by qualified teachers through a substantial increase in the supply of qualified teachers. To track the country-level progress, seven issues were emphasised that include (i) proportion of teachers in (a) pre-primary education, (b) primary education, (c) lower secondary education, and (d) upper secondary education who have received at least the minimum organised teacher training (eg pedagogical training) pre-service or in-service required for teaching at the relevant level in a given country, by sex; (ii) pupil-trained teacher ratio by education level; (iii) percentage of teachers qualified according to national standards, by level and type of institution; (iv) pupil-qualified teacher ratio by level of education; (v) average teacher salary relative to other professions requiring a comparable level of qualification; (vi) teacher attrition rate by education level; and (vii) percentage of teachers who received in-service training in the past 12 months by type of training.
A large number of teachers are undervalued and disempowered across the world. There is an increasing shortage of quality teachers, unequal distribution of trained teachers, and inadequate or non-existent national standards for the teaching profession. These are all key contributing factors to wide equity gaps in access and learning. The poorest regions, schools and early grade children are often the most affected. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics estimates that to achieve universal primary education by 2020 countries will need to recruit a total of 10.9 million primary teachers.
There are 1,064,703 teachers (41 per cent female) engaged in 162,512 educational institutions, form primary to tertiary, across Bangladesh to teach 36,802,187 students of which 18,448,452 are girls (DPE, 2015 and BANBEIS 2016). The student-teacher ratio varies across level and type of institutions. The enrolment data shows a huge system loss as a large number of student drop out in primary and secondary level. The statistics show that the gross enrolment ratio in primary education in 2015 has reached 109.2 per cent and net enrolment rate 97.7 per cent. Bat at the secondary level these reduced to 55.84 per cent and 50.27 per cent which would be one of the key concerns about achieving SDG4.
There are only 215 teacher education institutions that included PTIs, TTC, TTTC, VTTI, Physical Education College, HSTTI and Bangladesh Madrassah Teacher training Institute, providing services for 34,734 learners (11,766 female) by 2,679 teachers (558 female). This sector has been growing slowly as the total number of institutions was 68 in 1995, 143 in 2003 and 215 in 2015. Among 215 institutions, 38 per cent were government and 62 per cent were privately managed. Among all teachers 20.83 per cent were female. The percentages show variation between types of institutions. Gender parity index for all types of institution was only 26 per cent. Teacher-student ratio was 1:13 in the teacher education subsector. However, there is a lack of both statistics and research on the quality of teacher’s education in Bangladesh.
The objectives of World Teachers Day 2016 included (i) celebrating and highlighting the contribution of teachers towards education and students; (ii) discussing issues in and prospects for the development and professionalisation of teachers in line with the global urge for quality education and quality teaching; (iii) discussing vital aspects of education and education and educators involving the parents/ guardians; and (iv) upholding appropriate financing in education through increased revenue collection and ensuring tax justice as appeal to the international community to value, support, and empower teachers of the world.
It flagged up issues related to the quality of learning, teaching-learning environment, teacher’s competency, recruitment, deployment, professional development and compensation for decent livelihood related issues among others. The inequality that exists in the national pay scale also has some adverse effects on the process of valuing teacher and improving their status.
There are number of challenges documented by CAMPE under the CSEF and other initiatives that included (i) creating conducive policy environment to create teachers for providing global standard of education; (ii) emphasis on access to education instead of quality in terms of state investment in education; (iii) inadequate number of teachers manifested by unfavourable student-teacher ratio, lack of space and time to practice interactive teaching-learning methods, (iv) low contact hours for student teachers interaction and to enhance learning of the children due to double shift schools and distance of schools from teachers residence; (v) different type of schools at primary and secondary level and categories of teachers also vary by competency profile, recruitment and deployment which affects the performance of learners; (vi) mismatch between the 21st century demand for the young people and the capability (often refer to performance) of teachers as teachers work in a national context but need to produce global citizens through education which need to have a vision, knowledge and expertise on a global issues and standard; (vii) lack capacity both in terms of infrastructure and human resources for teacher education; (viii) inherent limitation of low absorption capacity of budget by the education and the primary and mass education ministry and associate division, directorate and bureau associated with these ministries; (ix) an increasing trend of privatisation of education and other forms of household cost of education leading to more inequality; (x) limitation in systematic engagement of teachers’ associations in policy and practice change discourse despite their strong mobilisation capacity; and (xi) lower voice of female teachers and research-based evidence in the teachers’ association-generated agenda, among others.
In improving the situation, emphasis is required on the right to education as envisaged by the national education policy along with revisiting the legal framework and increased attention of the policymakers on the rights, roles, obligation and status of teachers as summarised in the following paragraphs.
Right to education and implementation of national education policy: the full implementation of the National Education Policy 2010 for the fulfilment of state responsibilities in ensuring education for all citizens irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity and location is the key. In doing so, establishment of a permanent ‘national education commission’ as a statutory autonomous body, allocation of at least 4–6 per cent of the GDP or 15–20 per cent of the national budget for education along with effective use of resources. There should be establishment of new schools, expansion of existing facilities and recruit professionally trained teachers for achieving the target of teacher-student ratio at 1:30 at the primary level by 2018 as well as affirmative action for excluded areas such as villages where there is no school, particularly in hard-to-reach areas such as char, haor, tea gardens and hills. Emphasis is required on learning achievements instead of high-stake examinations and the development of a long-term (eg, a 10-year) framework of action based on new thinking on teachers. Initiatives are required to increase the capacity of the training institutions in terms of physical infrastructure, human resource and institutional capacity for effective teachers’ training which would help to improve the teacher’s capability while appropriate measures to gradually reduce teacher’s involvement in non-academic activities would help to sharpen their focus on their main duty and responsibilities.
Revisit legal framework: Enactment of a comprehensive education act is required to recognise basic education as a fundamental right, consider the licensing of teacher to a maintain minimum standard, revisit job description and terms of reference of education administration from school to ministry level for a better coordination and diagonal accountability. Expansion of education cadre linking with career development form primary to higher education is critical to achieve the education development goals. An increased and systematic participation of civil society and teachers’ association in policy formulation, implementation along with monitoring and evaluation is essential.
Increased attention of policymakers to rights, roles, obligation and status of teachers: The policymaker’s attention is required on a number of issues for valuing teachers that included (i) establishing a ‘teachers selection commission’ like the Public Service Commission aiming at merit-based teacher selection; (ii) formulation of a separate ‘pay commission’ for the teachers is required to ensure a decent pay along with other benefit package; (iii) strict measures are required to control sexual and physical harassment of female teachers and students and action should be taken in cases of moral degradation/professional misconduct by derailed teachers; (iv) a pool of teacher trainers need to be created for expansion and quality assurance in secondary0level including the technical, vocational and skills development programmes; (v) a pre-service teacher education programme can be part of the bachelor’s degree courses with education as a subject (there is no pre-service teacher education for primary education teaching although school teaching is the single largest field of employment of college graduates); (vi) education as a discipline can be started in selected degree colleges with a proper curriculum and faculty. The prospect of a general degree and some incentives (for example, stipends) to attract good students to the education course, even if they have to sign a five-year bond to serve as a teacher; (vii) plans shoud be revisited to recruit teachers committed to work with the most disadvantaged group of people, eg dalit, people with disabilities and children in brothel, tea garden, char, haor and appropriate measures can be taken for career development path for teachers, eg national education service corp to attract brilliant students to teaching profession; (viii) a policy directives could be developed to ensure increased participation of female teachers in the decision making process of teachers’ associations or unions; (ix) adequate measures could be taken to motivate teachers’ associations to participate in and contribute to policy discourse to enhance the quality of education and professional development of teachers to meet pre-determined quality standards; (x) awareness could be raised for the engagement of teachers, guardians, SMC members and community, besides other civil society actors, in ensuring Education 2030 agenda.
World Teachers Day has opened a window for teachers to raise their voice alongside all other activists involved in the right to education discourse. Ensuring quality education needs quality teachers to enhance capability of children and young adult to meet the 21st-century demand on the job market, irrespective of country of origin. Judicious investment in teachers will help in building global citizens to sustain development efforts. The government can create an enabling environment to ensure the right to education by providing the legal framework, addressing inequality, adequate planning and financing along with result-based monitoring and evaluation. A participatory process could ensure the improvement of teaching-learning condition which will ensure sustainable future.
KM Enamul Hoque is deputy director of the Campaign for Popular Education and national coordinator for the Civil Society Education Fund project.
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