Follow Us:

Invest in Teachers

(by UNESCO Bangkok, APEID/ICT in Education)

© Flickr/Allison Mickel

This year – 2015 – is significant. It marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the beginning of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will be adopted at the United Nations Summit in New York in September. As a build-up to the event, many working groups have been formed and meetings held to discuss and develop a new set of goals and corresponding targets for the next 15 years, of which Goal 4 concerns education. The Education for All (EFA) movement, which started in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990 has brought about impressive increases in the number of children attending schools. Unfortunately, 58 million children are still out of school, most of them being girls. Even for those who are in school, the quality of their education remains a serious concern.

As the next milestone to the EFA movement, at the World Education Forum in May in Incheon, Republic of Korea, participants issued a declaration on the future of education to finish the unmet EFA and MDG agendas through the Education 2030 Framework for Action. Making a case for the importance of teachers in the education system, Susan Hopgood, the President of Education International, said that “… in order to realize any education goals, students in every classroom must be guaranteed a well-trained, professionally-qualified, motivated and supported teacher.”[1]

It has been evidenced that in order to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for education by 2030, a total funding of USD 39 billion is needed annually.[2] Meanwhile, a background paper prepared for the recently concluded Oslo Summit on Education for Development affirmed that investing in teachers can transform education and help to deliver the post-2015 education agenda on equity and learning.[3]  How much of the education budget will be allocated to teacher education to increase teaching competencies, and how the allocation will be utilized are critical questions in the call for investing in teachers. Support is needed in multiple areas, including raising the status of the teaching profession to attract competent candidates, providing quality pre-service training and continuous professional development, improving working conditions, and enabling teachers to contribute more actively to all discourses on education policies, management, pedagogy and content, to name a few.

One particular area comes to mind. In the same period over the past 15 years, technological and infrastructural advancements have brought unprecedented growth in the ICT sector. Data from the International Telecommunication Union in 2015 reported 3.2 billion people with access to the Internet globally, out of which 2 billion are from developing countries. More astounding is the number of mobile cellular subscriptions: 7 billion in 2015, compared to 738 million in 2000.[4] The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative, which had spurred many governments to invest in low-cost computer devices, has lost out to increasingly affordable smartphones and tablets as the price of mobile technology continues to drop while the quality of devices and applications continues to rise. The day when everyone on the planet will be connected and have access to information anytime, anywhere is no longer a pipe dream.

It is very attractive for governments to invest in ICT, but will be this a wise use of their education budget? The initial enthusiasm for OLPC has been countered by criticisms for over-focusing on the deployment of the devices – which admittedly seems to be more “newsworthy” – than on content development or teacher training. In fact, several studies have convincingly argued that without changing the teaching practices, technology alone will not bring any significant difference in learning outcomes.[5]

The role of a teacher in the modern era has changed substantially with the explosion of technology. Consequently, teaching practices have to be updated – now and not tomorrow – to catch up with the IT-savvy Generation Z students. Clearly, investment in the technical hardware and software must be balanced by investment in human resources – the teachers.

In this regard, UNESCO has been assisting its Member States to train and support teachers to use technology more effectively and appropriately through various channels. The ICT Competency Framework for Teachers (ICT-CFT) is one such example.[6] This framework is a major reference for a 4-year project undertaken by UNESCO Bangkok to support Member States in the Asia-Pacific region in determining and developing the required ICT competencies for teachers that are clearly aligned with their policy vision, goals, and ICT in Education Master Plans. The project, supported by the Korean Funds-in-Trust, aims to contribute to the meaningful localization and adaptation of the ICT-CFT at the national level. Hopefully, the outcomes of the project will also influence the decisions on investment in education, particularly on the importance of investing in teachers.

As this newsletter aims to highlight the importance of teacher training, continuous professional development and support, this issue will feature some of the exemplary projects from the experiences of Singapore and Korea for pre- and in-service training. Additionally, the article about the benefits of Communities of Practice for teachers and the ways they can be formed is featured in order to underline the importance of enabling and supportive environments, while providing experiential suggestions to facilitating teacher engagement. The Projects section introduces CASIE 2015, a recent conference in Central Asia on empowering policy environments for teachers, UNESCO Resource Distribution and Training Centres (RDTCs), aimed at supporting and developing capacities in training teachers to use ICT effectively, and Malaysia Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), a good example of a national platform for teachers, students and parents, emphasize the importance of investing in teacher growth and quality tools for teaching and learning. In the News and Events section, two conferences are featured in the year 2016 in Singapore and UK on ICT. The Resources section offers some useful platforms for teachers, such as the UNESCO Portal for Teachers and the Intel Education Galaxy, while also providing some guiding frameworks for teachers developed by UNESCO, and Southeast Asian school heads by SEAMEO-INNOTECH. Finally, in the new publications, such international organizations as UNDESA, UNICEF, UNGEI, and OECD are featured on the themes of Millennium Development Goals, girls’ and women’s leadership and policy reform.

 

Contact info: Lay Cheng Tan, lc.tan@unesco.org; Auken Tungatarova, a.tungatarova@unesco.org

 


[1] UNESCO, 2015. World Education Forum adopts Declaration on the Future of Education. Press release. www.unesco.org/new/en/media-services/single-view/news/world_education_forum_adopts_declaration_on_the_future_of_education/.

[2] Oslo Summit on Education for Development, 2015. Chair’s Statement – The Oslo Declaration. www.osloeducationsummit.no/pop.cfm.

[3] EFA Global Monitoring Team, 2015. Investing in Teachers is Investing in Learning: A Prerequisite for the Transformative Power of Education. Background paper for the Oslo Summit on Education for Development. www.osloeducationsummit.no/pop.cfm.

[4] ITU, 2015. ICT Facts and Figures. www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Documents/facts/ICTFactsFigures2015.pdf

[5] Reeves, T. C., 2014. The Myth of Educational Reform Driven by Technology. www.unescobkk.org/education/ict/online-resources/databases/ict-in-education-database/item/article/the-myth-of-educational-reform-driven-by-technology/.

[6] UNESCO, 2011. UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers. unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002134/213475e.pdf.



29.07.2015