Today is World Teachers Day. It is a day for teachers to speak their minds and describe the challenges and joys of their daily experiences in the classroom. It is also a day for policy makers to listen carefully to what teachers have to say, and take note of their suggestions for improvements in the future. To foster the links between teachers and policy makers, the EFA Global Monitoring Report has produced an Advocacy Toolkit for Teachers in partnership with Education International and the Teachers Taskforce for Education for All at UNESCO. This document underscores the importance of teachers playing an active role in the search for solutions to provide a quality education for all.
It is well-known that there is a huge teacher gap around the world. As was shown in the last EFA GMR, there is a chronic lack of trained teachers as well. Tomorrow, we will be releasing a new policy paper jointly with UIS showing the size and scope of the teacher shortage. This massive shortage of qualified teachers is taking its toll on the quality of education, contributing to the fact that 250 million children are not learning the basics, over half of whom are in school.
Policies and reforms to address the global learning crisis can only be effective if those responsible for implementing them are involved in shaping them. Yet policy-makers who aim to improve education quality rarely consult teachers or their unions. A survey in 10 countries showed that while all teachers thought it was vital to have influence on the direction of policy, only 23% felt they had any at all.
In some parts of the world teacher unions are critically important to educational quality and have broadly positive working relationships with government and local educational employers. Virtually all top performing countries on international educational measures have strong teacher unions that participate in setting the education reform agenda. The unions provide important feedback on the actual conditions of teaching and learning. Some are capable of fostering innovation and bringing needed new educational practices into being.
Supporting teachers in the classroom and engaging teacher unions have also been shown to strengthen policies aimed at improving learning among disadvantaged students. In Bolivia, for example, unions helped ensure that indigenous rights were written into the constitution. Their promotion of instruction in indigenous languages contributed to a decrease in illiteracy.
Overall, policy-makers need to engage more closely with teachers and teacher unions. It’s high time to foster these links. The new Advocacy Toolkit contains fourteen simple steps for teachers to consider in lobbying their governments. If you’re a teacher, try it out, and keep us in touch, either by email, or on twitter. We’re happy to support where we can.
Are you a teacher? Take part in our online questionnaire to help inform the EFA GMR 2015