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10th International Policy Dialogue Forum

When: Monday, September 18, 2017 - 00:00 - Thursday, September 21, 2017 - 23:00
Lomé, Togo
  • Ministry of High Education and Research of Republic of Togo
  • International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Teaching: A Profession


To achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, the world will need to increase the supply of teachers, especially in developing countries and small island developing states. The latest statistics indicate that to attain universal primary education by 2020, it is predicted that countries will need to recruit a total of 10.9 million primary teachers. By 2030, the demand is expected to rise to 25.8 million teachers. But a quality education system is more than just an issue of supply and demand. This is why Target 4.c of SDG 4 makes a specific reference to the issue of quality: "By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers..."[emphasis added].

Indeed, the Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for Education 2030, adopted by Member States in May 2015 for implementing SDG 4, committed Member States to "ensure that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems" [emphasis added].

Since the adoption of the SDGs and the Framework for Action, the objective of the International Task Force on Teachers is to use the platform of its annual policy dialogue fora to unpack the meaning and implications of the teacher target to its members and partners. To this end, the 8th Policy Dialogue Forum in 2015 focussed the discussions on "Implementing the Teacher Target in the Sustainable Development Goals and Education 2030 Agenda", while the 9th Forum in 2016 addressed the theme of teacher motivation. Continuing along these lines, the theme for the 10th Forum, to be held in Lomé, Togo, is to unpack the concept of 'professionally qualified'.

What does 'professionally qualified' mean?

The issue of teacher quality pervades all discourses about improving education systems and students' learning outcomes. This is because for children to be adequately prepared for today's complex labour market -- and to live as responsible citizens in our diverse and inter-connected societies -- they need to develop the right knowledge and skills for the 21st century. A quality education today needs to go beyond skilling children in reading, math, and science. A quality education today needs teachers who can work with children to help them be creative and critical thinkers; children who can collaborate and communicate with people of diverse cultures; children who can be innovators while at the same time advocating for environmental and social justice. Today's world needs highly skilled professional teachers who can shape the future citizens of the world we want to live in.

The challenge arises as to how to implement, support, and monitor teacher quality. At a minimum, governments can regulate the minimum level of formal qualifications required to become a teacher. A 'qualification' is typically defined as the formal outcome (or award) of an accreditation or validation process that certifies that an individual has learned the knowledge, skills, and wider competences according to specific standards (OECD, 2010). For example, countries can establish that the minimum qualification required for becoming a teacher is a Bachelor's degree. The purpose is to ensure a common understanding of the minimum knowledge, skills, and other competences required for an individual to gain entry in the profession.

Formal qualifications, however, are just the first step in the process to becoming a teacher. Qualifications function in conjunction with teaching 'standards'. Broadly speaking, standards describe what teachers should know and be able to do, including desirable levels of performance at different stages of a teacher's career (Ingvarson, 2002). In this sense, standards can be used to define and measure teaching competence with respect to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are valued in a profession. In some countries, teaching standards are designed, monitored, and governed by professional teaching councils, with which teachers must register in order to obtain a licence to practice. Qualifications frameworks and standards of practice, therefore, are two mechanisms that governments or teacher organisations can implement to ensure quality teaching.

Teaching: a profession?

The 1966 UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers argues that "Teaching should be regarded as a profession: it is a form of public service which requires of teachers expert knowledge and specialized skills, acquired and maintained through rigorous and continuing study; it also calls for a sense of personal and corporate responsibility for the education and welfare of the pupils in their charge." However, some sociologists dispute this and argue that teaching is a semi-profession in comparison to other professions such as medicine or law. These scholars claim that teaching lacks three core characteristics that define a profession: (1) a profession is informed by a profession-specific, systematised, and scientific body of knowledge that informs the daily activities of practitioners; (2) practitioners of the profession undergo a lengthy period of higher education training and induction, and engage in continuous professional development; and (3) a profession has autonomy in connection with the right to exercise professional judgement and decision-making in practice and in governance over the profession (Guerriero, 2017).

Qualifications, standards, codes of conduct, and professional registration can, therefore, function to 'professionalize' teaching, and these mechanisms can be put in place to ensure that teachers are 'professionally qualified', perform as professionals, and are treated as such. A professionally-qualified teaching workforce can address two challenges in achieving SDG 4: First, a professionally-qualified teacher can ensure the public that the individual at the front of the classroom possesses the minimum required qualifications and competencies to facilitate quality learning. Second, teaching, as a profession, can improve the status of teaching, generally perceived to be a low-status profession. As a consequence of higher prestige, teaching can become an attractive career choice. With the projected teacher shortage impacting Africa the most, professionalizing teaching can support developing countries to meet the increasing teacher demand. While many advancements have been made in the last few decades to professionalize teaching in developed countries, progress in developing countries has been slow.

For this reason, the organizers of the 10th Policy Dialogue Forum have chosen the theme: "Teaching: A profession". In plenary and breakout sessions, discussions will be organized around the following four sub-themes:

  • A. Knowledge and Competencies: What does the research literature say about what knowledge, skills, and competencies are required for effective teaching? Do teacher education institutions revise their curricula to incorporate new research findings of effective teaching? What are the processes by which countries in different socio-economic and cultural contexts apply and recognize teaching qualifications? How are qualifications linked to professional standards? How can the aspirational value of teaching standards be captured? What ongoing professional learning is required of practising teachers to ensure they maintain currency and stay abreast of best practice?
  • B. Governance: Should countries implement governance mechanisms to ensure adherence to professional teaching standards; and if so, how? What roles can various stakeholders at each level of the governance system play? What should be the specific role of teacher organisations in developing and monitoring teaching standards? What are the cyclical requirements for review and approval of teacher education programs to ensure they maintain currency and are informed by best practice?
  • C. Values and Accountability: What fundamental values should govern the profession? How should professional teaching standards address accountability of the actors? How can the public interest in the teaching profession be accounted for in the process of developing values? What are the professional dispositions required for teaching, for example, a sense of empathy, an ability to work collegially?
  • D. Addressing Diversity: How should professional teaching standards be developed, implemented, and monitored to ensure inclusion and equity with respect to the diversity of teachers, learners, and teaching-learning processes? How can standards be developed so that they remain focused on the whole learner as well as the diversity of learners?

In addition, pre-forum sessions will be organized around the work of the Task Force's four thematic groups, which are:

  1. Inclusion and equity in teacher policies and practices;
  2. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and distance education for teacher development;
  3. Teacher management in crisis and emergency situations; and
  4. Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) teachers and facilitator.

These thematic groups have been working with the Task Force on an ad-hoc basis and meet regularly during the policy dialogue fora. The goal of the pre-forum sessions is to help the groups organize in a more systematic and institutional way to support the Task Force's program during the new phase of its strategic plan. The groups will examine challenges regarding the professionalization of the teaching workforce and set out possible steps for Task Force members to support national efforts in improving the quality of teaching. Within each thematic area, the objectives of the pre-forum sessions are to:

  • identify and discuss key policy issues to improve the professionalization of teachers;
  • identify existing initiatives and programs to build collaboration;
  • identify technical and financial partners to reach out to and include in follow up actions;
  • identify lead organizations and countries on specific areas of joint actions; and
  • suggest means of follow-up after the session.

The Forum will also host a series of exhibitions curated by Task Force members around the theme of professionalization of teaching. The exhibitions will take a wide variety of forms such as video documentaries, multimedia presentations, print and online publications, and galleries of prints and photography.

Who will participate in the forum?

Approximately 350 participants including delegates from Teacher Task Force Member States, representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, teachers and educators, teachers' union representatives, researchers, and policy makers will participate in plenary sessions and thematic working groups.

Expected outcomes

With the objective of the 10th Policy Dialogue Forum to strengthen exchanges on the professionalization of teaching by unpacking the meaning and implications of 'professionally qualified', the primary expected outcome will be to develop a global report on a core set of standards for the teaching profession. To that end, the expected outcomes of the group discussions, plenary sessions, and the exhibitions will be to:

  1. Discuss and agree on a common understanding of the current state of the professionalization of teaching and how to formalize teaching as a profession;
  2. Take stock of progress and share good practices on the overall theme and sub-themes in order to develop a global set of core standards for teaching; and
  3. Promote collaboration and networking among stakeholders on further research and advocacy at the national, regional, and global levels in order to inform the implementation and monitoring of SDG 4.c.

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