Teacher Professionalism

Too often in education there’s an inconsistency that’s a little hard to explain. On the one hand, most are quick to state as a truism that the key to better quality of education for every child is the teacher. However, these words don’t tend to be backed with adequate and effective action to raise the professionalism of teachers.

That the professionalism needs to be higher is the case, backed by recent research by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – the same body that runs the PISA tests), and not limited to teachers in any one country or part of the world.

I believe we can put some of the blame on the fixed industrial model that plagues education. When the teachers are seen as interchangeable widgets in an industrial process or production line, this is not a conducive mindset to think positively about how to enhance the skills levels, attitude, motivation and purpose of the individual teacher.

This article shares the key findings from the recent OECD research. I think it’s appropriate that they haven’t tried to simplify or suggest that there is one simple solution that can be applied every where. Professionalism is a sophisticated set of standards, expectations and common norms that all members buy in to. This isn’t about lessening autonomy or scope for creativity. In fact, commitment to continuous improvement, innovation and contribution of new and innovative ideas to the profession are important components of what it should man to be a professional teacher.

The Journal – OECD – Teacher Professionalism Needs Improvement Worldwide

When looking at the findings, I can see them from the perspective of teachers in the Indian private school system. Teachers do get pre-service training whilst in-service development is often rather ad hoc. However, we know that the quality and standards of that pre-service development are woefully inadequate. Talk of major overhaul of the B.Ed syllabus has gone on for years with little meaningful change. Worse, vat numbers of the colleges given licence to run B.Ed courses are sub-standard money-making operations with lack of consistency, standards or awareness of international best practices. For this reason, I’ve often seen that better results can be achieved taking teachers without the B.Ed who have more worldly professional experience, training them on the job and merely requiring them to get the B.Ed within 3 years to satisfy the rules and requirements.

The fifth of the observations is an interesting one, that I’ve seen in practice. There tends to be more professional development available to teachers working with younger children than for those in secondary and higher secondary. This often comes because of perceptions from both sides (the teachers and management) that for those teachers, niceties like theory or science of learning are mere flim-flam and that their job is to know the syllabus material and to target all of their time and energies on putting as much of it as possible in to the pupils’ heads long enough for it to stick to produce the best possible results in competitive examinations. People who are merely dispensers of gobbits of knowledge don’t require much professional development! In fact, its sometimes seen as a distraction and a waste of their time.

The four recommendations make a lot of sense and are quite strongly in aligment with ideas that I’ve been developing lately in looking at the whole ‘end to end’ process of recruiting and developing professional educators who rise above the average.

Acknowledging that the pre-service training available to them isn’t all it might be, we have to go further to counteract this negative effect. High impact induction, proper mentoring and buddying systems and setting them on the right path as lifelong learners are critical factors, after recruiting for attitude, EQ, child-centricity and commitment to the role. Talent with the sciope to grow in to leadership roles should be identified early and nurtured. This isn’t always easy in single stand-alone schools. Groups can do it. otherwise, schools should learn to collaborate more in this area, perhaps where they are not in direct competition.

Then, the teacher professional networking can be taken to higher levels. Today, teachers have the scope to network with fellow professionals anywhere in the world. Within schools, we need a culture where teachers don’t feel threatened by each other’s presence in their classrooms and we need to be training teahers in action research – especially in countries where there is little or no education research coming out of universities.

In short, if we start to really act like we mean it when we say that teachers are the key to raising the bar, there is much we can do. That work needs to start now.

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One Response

  1. Hi Mark,
    There is no doubt that training teachers is the key to raising the standards in education. Realizing this need we have taken a small step towards training teachers in schools. I would like to share with you some of the efforts taken in this regards. I plan to visit the U.A.E. during April/May 2016 and would like to meet you if possible. Can I have your contact details please?

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