As we celebrate World Teachers’ Day, the Education Commission is forever reminded that achieving a Learning Generation hinges upon those at the heart of any quality education – teachers. Late last month, the Commission released its report, The Learning Generation: Investing in education for a changing world. Framed along four transformations in performance, innovation, inclusion and finance, the agenda for action engages with teachers and seeks to acknowledge their instrumental role in unleashing the largest expansion of educational opportunity in modern history.
One Commission recommendation focuses on a diversified and strengthened education workforce. In practice, such a system is characterized by the systemic professionalization of both teaching and non-teaching roles within education. Such a shift extends far beyond being paid a livable wage. Teachers need to be better leveraged ultimately spending more time in the classroom teaching and less time engaged in non-teaching activities. The need for diversification cannot be overstated. In Chile, one doctor is supported by 4.5 support staff while one teacher can call upon 0.3 aides.
A shift toward an education workforce demands that governments increase their investment in the recruitment, training and retention of teachers. In time, such an investment will yield more teachers with expanded qualifications, all of which will work toward the benefit of the student. As we seek to secure a Learning Generation, teachers will also witness their roles developed beyond today’s scope. With respect to innovation, the classroom has remained largely unchanged from its historical forebears. So as education financing is expanded, as we hope it will be, and classrooms are hardwired to equip society’s youngest with the skills for yet unimagined industries, teachers will have to adapt to these shifts and opportunities.
As a research partner, Education International (EI) played a central role in helping the Commission identify necessary education reforms. In a news story timed to coincide with the Commission report launch, Education International noted seven areas where the Commission report endeavors to support the needs of teachers. From expanding the resources available to teachers, to empowering them to drive innovation, both EI and the Commission see a need to listen to the profession and use teachers’ guidance as a roadmap for many education reforms. Commenting on the report launch, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen said:
“EI is very pleased that the importance of teachers, and the central role of teacher unions in creating quality education, has finally been recognised. 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.”
The Commission report calls for the establishment of an international expert group on the expansion and redesign of the workforce. Following the example of the health sector, the Commission recommends the establishment of a year-long taskforce which would bring together teachers, policymakers, and researchers to develop specific proposals for the redesign of professional roles within education, and for addressing their recruitment, training, deployment, and development needs. Over the next year, we hope to see this recommendation, and the many others featured in our report, taken forward by high-level actors in the international community.
World Teachers’ Day is a moment to celebrate teachers for all they do. And it is also a moment to consider how we can best equip those at the frontlines of an education so as to ensure our vision of a world at school, what the Education Commission calls a “Learning Generation,” is realized.