Teaching is learning twice

With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education, and the dedicated target 4.c recognizing teachers as key to achieving the Education 2030 Agenda, World Teachers’ Day has become the occasion to mark progress and reflect on ways to address the remaining challenges facing the teaching profession.

A teacher teaches through song during her class at the Kivukoni Primary School, Mpanda MC, Katavi inTanzania. August 2019. CREDIT: GPE/Kelley Lynch

This post is the tenth in a blog series published in 2019 in the context of a collaboration between the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

Held annually on October 5 since 1994, World Teachers’ Day commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers.

This Recommendation sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers and standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions. The Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel was adopted in 1997 to complement the 1966 Recommendation by covering teaching and research personnel in higher education.

With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education, and the dedicated target 4.c recognizing teachers as key to achieving the Education 2030 Agenda, World Teachers’ Day has become the occasion to mark progress and reflect on ways to address the remaining challenges facing the teaching profession.

Obstacles that hinder teachers’ performance

Teachers face a number of challenges, ranging from classroom experiences such as methods of teaching and of assessing teaching to student behavior, competence in using foreign languages as a medium of instruction and teaching all subjects regardless of whether one is competent in teaching them. Other problems include negative perceptions about the profession, few opportunities for in-service training and advancing one’s career, and poor working conditions.

Some teachers often decry the lack of time they are given to prepare, plan and execute all the tasks that are demanded of them, for example updating content presentations and documents, correcting older material, and adapting subjects to a new cohort of students.

In addition, many teachers feel that more and more is expected of them from their school’s (or district’s) administration. For example, some are asked to offer continuous support to students, to keep a line of communication open with parents, to give more personalized help to students who need more attention to succeed, and so on. While teachers do want to provide the best support to their students, they maintain that they don’t receive enough paid time to do so. Access to specialized personnel and more time outside of class are some of the suggested ways to improve support and meet those increasing expectations.

What solutions to these challenges?

Solutions to these challenges are easily identified:

  • Training of teachers can improve such that every student is able to speak fluently in a foreign languages (i.e. English or French). Performance in schools and consequently education standards as a whole, would improve
  • Teachers could acquire skills to handle student discipline and therefore reduce/abolish corporal punishment
  • Improved teaching would enable to provide education that is relevant to community needs, responding to concerns expressed by parents and family associations
  • Teaching facilities and conditions could be improve and contribute to the better standards of education
  • Better provision of education would be realized where subject teaching would be adopted as opposed to classroom teaching, especially in secondary education
  • Professional support would be provided by resource teachers working with committed teachers.

The role of the ADEA’s ICQN on Teaching and Learning

An Inter-Country Quality Node (ICQN) is a platform whose creation ADEA facilitates and is hosted by a champion country for exchange of experiences and a community of practice that brings together its country members around commonly-shared education and training challenges. These challenges are expressed in terms of thematic areas.

ICQNs bring together representatives of education ministries from different countries with education experts, thereby creating a network of actors around a central thematic issue. Countries learn from the experiences shared to improve their own education policies and practices.

Hosted and led by Rwanda, the ICQN on Teaching and Learning (ICQN-TL) is an intergovernmental forum for policy dialogue and collaborative action among African Ministers of Education and strategic development cooperation partners for advancing quality teaching and learning in their countries and in Africa.

The collaborative approach and networking will support the exchange of knowledge on concepts, research findings and capacity building to respond to the varying contexts in which teaching and learning programs are implemented.

The overall objective of the ICQN is to support ministers of education to take the lead in developing and implementing policies and strategies for effective teaching and learning in Africa. The ICQN focuses on teachers' professional development and other areas of learning related to the continuum of education (i.e. curriculum, teaching and learning materials and measurement of learning outcomes).

The year 2019 saw the ICQN-TL fully involved – thanks to its Books and Learning Material section – in a series of workshops on book and reading policies in Africa, a publishing collaborative for Nigeria, and a training on Bloom Publishing Software for national language writers in Burkina Faso among other activities at national levels. All these key continental and national events were part of the ongoing partnership between the Global Book Alliance (GBA) and ADEA, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

On this special day, we also would like to remind that teaching is learning twice. Indeed, it is key to invest in the teaching profession at all levels because “a good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination and instill a love for learning” as Brad Henry said in his famous quote.