Two weeks ago, I attended the United Kingdom Forum for International Education and Training (UKFIET) annual conference in Oxford. This gathering brought together a wealth of research on teachers, as well as new insights on how to support, develop and motivate the education workforce – recommendations guided by rigorously collected and very promising evidence.

The UKFIET gathering left me with two questions:

  • Given our increasing understanding about how children learn and their changing needs, labour market demands, and the potential of technology, are we sufficiently considering what the role of the teacher needs to look like come 2030?
  • Could we support and motivate teachers by releasing them from non-teaching duties, such as data collection and administration, and shifting some of these parallel responsibilities to a diversified education workforce?

In meeting with a colleague working on transforming the health worker training approach, I was reminded that education has a lot to learn from innovations in the health sector and how it has effectively professionalised support roles. For example, in Chile, every doctor is supported by 4.5 nursing and other health professionals offering support. And yet for every teacher, there are only 0.3 support staff (OECD-Talis data (2013); WHO data, (2015)).

This reminder is a helpful segue to hopeful action. The Education Commission is about to launch the Education Workforce Initiative which aims to:

  • Produce an Education Workforce Report for policy-makers to inform education workforce reform. This will be accomplished by highlighting evidence and lessons from in-depth case studies and promising innovations exploring how education workforce reform has been implemented. Lessons from other sectors, such as the health workforce, will be included.
  • Establish a high-level working group, chaired by Commissioner Ju-Ho Lee alongside representatives from Education International, governments open to reform, and education, health and technology experts from around the world. The group will develop an updated vision for the roles of the teacher and education support personnel within the education workforce. In parallel, the group will work with countries open to reform to co-develop workforce design options, reinforce existing intrinsic motivation and practice, and define and strengthen leadership at school in order to address specific country needs.

By establishing collaboration between experts and policy-makers through the Education Workforce Initiative, we hope to learn from promising case studies and catalyse new thinking to support policy-makers ready to make bold decisions to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their education workforce. In doing so, leaders will stand better equipped to meet the 21st Century needs of all learners.

Amy Bellinger is the Consultant, Strategic Initiatives at the Education Commission.