The Financial Express

World Teachers' Day 2019

The urge for a change

The urge for a change

World Teachers' Day is being observed globally today with the theme this year being: `Young Teachers: The Future of the Profession'. Every year UNESCO fixes a theme for the day in consonance with contemporary issues in education, particularly concerning teachers. This year also UNESCO, ILO, UNICEF, UNDP and Education International have issued a joint message highlighting the theme of the day which says, ``Without a new generation of motivated teachers, millions of learners will miss out, or continue to miss out, on their right to quality education. With teachers being underpaid and undervalued, attracting and retaining talent is a challenge. Attrition rates are rising rapidly worldwide, due in part to precarious employment and scarce opportunities for continuous professional development. Furthermore, there is a lack of resources for children with special education needs and disabilities, refugees and multilingual pupils.  Today, it is urgent to take action. The figures given by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) are quite worrying: the world needs almost 69 million new teachers to meet the Education 2030 Agenda. Global inequalities could directly increase, as 70% of sub-Saharan countries face acute shortages of teachers, rising to 90% at the secondary level. Such problems are even more prominent in rural and crisis-affected areas in developing countries. Teachers, particularly women, risk isolation and violence. The resulting influx of teachers to urban areas leaves rural schools short-staffed'.

The message further says, `With the theme "Young Teachers: The Future of the Profession," we recognise the critical importance of reaffirming the value of the teaching mission. We call upon governments to make teaching a profession of first choice for young people. We also invite teacher unions, private sector employers, school principals, parent-teacher associations, school management committees, education officials and teacher trainers to share their wisdom and experiences in promoting the emergence of a vibrant teaching force''.

The UNESCO headquarters published a Concept Note ahead of October 5 this year. To quote few lines from it: "Attracting young candidates to the teaching profession is a major challenge around the world and this is not just a supply-side issue. For many potential young candidates under the age of 30, the world of work is now a much different place. In years past, young school leavers and graduates may not have doubted teaching as their first career choice. Now, they are less convinced as they witness friends and peers attracted to higher paid jobs in more lucrative sectors at home and abroad. For those who do join the profession, the report on the 'Global Status of Teachers and the Teaching Profession' highlights the serious problem of attrition in many countries. As many as 71% of teachers' unions in the African region report high attrition rates, but industrialised countries are also affected. Complementary data from the United States, for example, based on a representative sample of 50,000 teachers, indicates that over 41% of teachers (primary and secondary education levels combined) leave the profession within five years of entry. While the factors cited for teacher dissatisfaction depend on context, common factors across countries include a mixture of poor work-life balance, scarce opportunities for professional development, low salaries, limited inputs to decision-making, feelings of being unsupported and unappreciated, attacks on teachers' employment terms and conditions and constant pressures created by out-of-phase curricular and exam reforms. Given the challenges for attracting, recruiting and keeping young people in the teaching profession, it is crucial that countries consult with, and take into account the opinions of their youth, recent graduates and teacher training academy students on how to plan more dynamic recruitment and training strategies, and how to make the teaching profession more attractive overall''.

In 1994, UNESCO proclaimed October 5 as World Teachers' Day, and decided to celebrate the great step made for teachers on this day in 1966, when a special intergovernmental conference convened by UNESCO in Paris made recommendations which the ILO adopted later. This is the background of ILO-UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. The 145-para recommendation sets forth the 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. Since its adoption, the Recommendation has been considered an important set of guidelines to promote teachers' status in the interest of quality education. However, as the recommendations did not cover the post-secondary teachers and education personal specifically, a special session of a joint ILO/UNESCO committee of experts was held in Paris between September 15 and 18, 1997, which approved and adopted the recommendation concerning the status of higher education teaching personnel as well. Taking in to account both the formulations together, the recommendation is immensely important due to its wide ranging significance and implications for educators in particular and education in general.

Four features of 1966 and 1997 Recommendations are: 1."Since education is a service of fundamental importance it should be recognized as a responsibility of the state." 2."Teachers' organizations should be recognized as a force which can contribute greatly to educational advancement and.. therefore should be associated with the determination of education policy." 3."Teachers' salaries should :..reflect the importance.. of the teaching function and hence the importance of teachers as well as the responsibilities...which fall upon them from the time of their entry.. 4."Teaching in higher education requires expert knowledge and specialized skills acquired and maintained through rigorous and lifelong study and research."

Observance of the day reflects the common features such as shortage of teachers, shrinking allocation in education and the burning question of erosion in the standard of education and quality of teaching in both the developed and the developing countries. However, Bangladesh has particular problems like lack of congenial atmosphere for the students, especially the girls students in and outside class room, continued disparity between rural and urban, government and non-government institutions and teachers, general and technical education etc.

It seems Changes are inevitable in teaching profession. The theme of World Teachers Day this year clearly endorses the reality. Not only UNESCO, it is high time all concerned with education realise that young blood needs to be injected into the lifeline of education. But as the maxim goes, there is easiness in saying but sometimes insurmountable impediments are there in performing. The provisions of the Recommendations of UNESCO-ILO, 1966 and 1997 concerning the status of teachers provide strength and inspiration to the teachers, for which World Teachers Day becomes very relevant. To the teachers in Bangladesh these two instruments continue to remain  as a source of hope and inspiration not only in dealing with the issues which confront them in discharging their professional obligations, but also influencing the authorities to adopt forward looking steps in education. The theme of the Day this year again adds more impetus to the urge for change in teaching as a profession.  

About a million teachers of Bangladesh earnestly crave for such a change in line with their brothers and sisters in teaching profession elsewhere in the world. It is expected that all concerned with education will echo with the very spirit of the theme of this year: `Young Teachers: The Future of the Profession.'

Professor Quazi Faruque Ahmed is the Coordinator, World Teachers Day National Observance Committee.
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