The Oslo Summit on Education for Development, which starts on Monday, is part of the global relay race to bring education back to the top of the development agenda by the end of 2015. It is taking the baton from the World Education Forum in May, which outlined an ambitious global education agenda for the next fifteen years. Its conclusions will pass the baton to the third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa – hopefully with clear messages on how to scale up international cooperation in education financing.
There are four key areas being addressed at the Oslo Summit on Education – education financing, girls’ education, education in emergencies and quality of education. The EFA Global Monitoring Report was asked to provide the official background paper on quality of education. The paper shows that well –prepared and supported teachers and effective teaching are the key elements to achieving relevant learning outcomes.
Poor funding, insufficient targeting of resources to those most in need, and the unequal distribution of education inputs fuel what is sometimes called a learning crisis – the realization that millions of children do not acquire foundation skills even after spending several years in school. Ensuring that qualified, professionally trained, motivated, and well supported teachers are available for all learners is essential for addressing this challenge in poor and rich countries alike. Investing in teachers can transform education and will be crucial for the effective delivery of a post-2015 education agenda that focuses on equity and learning.
“The quality of an education system can exceed neither the quality of its teachers nor the quality of its teaching”
Building on the evidence of the EFA GMR 2013/4, Achieving quality for all, the paper has four key recommendations for governments looking to improve the quality of learning.
Develop a shared understanding
of what is necessary to ensure that all learners are taught by good teachers and served by effective teaching. This involves actions on various fronts: attracting good candidates, providing competitive pay structures, designing equitable deployment policies, building appropriate professional development and support structures, and providing the material means to match these expectations for quality. The process by which this shared understanding is reached is critical and needs to recognize that policies can only be effective if those responsible for implementing them are also involved in shaping them. Process and dialogue on quality issues are fundamental. A concrete result of such a process can be the development of a set of professional standards that reflect a national consensus. This will help build mutual responsibility and accountability, which will also be supported by the availability of better data.
Re-orient initial teacher education and continuous professional development programmes
to respond to challenging classroom conditions. In poorer countries, these programmes need to be more sensitive to the fact that many teachers lack essential skills. They must prepare teachers to identify learning needs, address equity considerations, implement a variety of appropriate teaching strategies, and provide feedback focused on improving learning outcomes. Programmes also need to be well funded through sustainable channels. Where governments genuinely lack the financial means to provide for good quality education, the need for long-term and predictable flows of external assistance cannot be over-emphasized.
focused on teaching effectiveness and learning. For many countries, preparing school leaders has been a low priority. Mechanisms are lacking to develop education leaders at the school level who can inspire, set high expectations for teaching and learning, and support a school environment where teachers are mentored. Governments need to create the next generation of education leaders to provide professional support to teachers, promote communities of practice and collaboration at the school level, and engage with parents and community leaders. This requires the development of programmes that nurture relevant leadership skills to accomplish these aims.
especially textbooks and supplementary reading books. The EFA Global Monitoring Report recently costed up the price of achieving new education targets, including ensuring a strong standard of quality. As part of this, governments need to invest significantly in teacher salaries, but they must also invest in non-salary costs, including teaching and learning materials. These materials must be developed in appropriate languages that support mother tongue instruction.
The Incheon Declaration underscored how central teachers are for learning: ‘We commit to quality education and to improving learning outcomes, which requires strengthening inputs, processes and evaluation of outcomes and mechanisms to measure progress. We will ensure that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems.’
The message from the Oslo Summit should be that investing in teachers, their preparation, support mechanisms, and the means of delivery in the classroom, is investing in learning. It is a prerequisite to allow the transformative power of education to occur.