International Teacher’s Day or World Teachers’ Day is celebrated on 5th October to recognize the rights and responsibilities of teachers. The commemoration of this day was initiated by ILO/UNESCO to come up with recommendations about the status of teachers. This year, the theme for celebrating International Teachers’ Day 2020, is
“Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future”.
A joint statement was issued by from Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, Guy Ryder, Director-General, International Labour Organization, Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF, David Edwards, General Secretary, Education International on the occasion of World Teachers’ Day 2020:
“In this crisis, teachers have shown, as they have done so often, great leadership and innovation in ensuring that #LearningNeverStops, that no learner is left behind. Around the world, they have worked individually and collectively to find solutions and create new learning environments for their students to allow education to continue. Their role advising on school reopening plans and supporting students with the return to school is just as important.”
As international schoolteachers, we need to be aware of the guidelines issued by ILO/UNESCO because it reinforces the significant responsibilities that we share for shaping the future of the planet and the rights that we have when we work in diverse, transnational and demanding environments.
Let me summarise a few guidelines from the ILO/UNESCO charter which helps and aims to empower the profession of teaching.
“It should be recognized that advance in education depends largely on the qualifications and ability of the teaching staff in general and on the human, pedagogical and technical qualities of the individual teachers.” Since the very ancient times, society has been shaped by education philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Confucius to very recent theories of John Dewey, Lev Vygotsky, Paulo Friere…and the list goes on. The above guideline reinforces the role of educators or teachers in advancing teaching and learning. The more we learn the more we contribute towards reimagining the future. Hence keep learning, if you want to continue teaching.
“The status of teachers should be commensurate with the needs of education as assessed in the light of educational aims and objectives; it should be recognized that the proper status of teachers and due public regard for the profession of teaching are of major importance for the full realization of these aims and objectives.” This guideline, in particular, requires the most urgent attention: the proper status and due public regard for the teaching profession. This is hard to achieve as education is geared towards meeting the economic aim of society- to produce employable individuals. From the industrial era to the digital era, not much has changed, education institutions and policies globally have the common objective of producing skilled labour; in the industrial era it was producing mechanical labour and in the digital era it has changed to producing employable labour. In this whole confusion to meet the economic objectives or ethical objectives, the value of the educator or teacher has been undermined. There are only a few countries in the world that invest more in education than armament, hence the status of teachers has remained a huge challenge. Hence education institutions and governments have to invest in building teacher quality by investing in their social status. More the investments, better the returns.
“Working conditions for teachers should be such as will best promote effective learning and enable teachers to concentrate on their professional tasks.” The working condition of teachers has been talked about a lot in educational research done over the past decade. Though there is a huge disparity in the work environment of international schools and local schools, it can be said that a conscious effort has been made to change the classroom space into a positive learning environment. Classrooms in international schools are equipped with state of the art technology, modern gadgets and devices, and ergonomically designed furniture. This is sadly not the scenario in many local schools, hence a way forward for governments and policymakers would be to fund resources for schools and focus on the working condition of teachers. A happy teacher makes a happy classroom environment.
Further, the ILO/UNESCO recommendations also discuss the rights and responsibilities of teachers, here is an edited, easy to read version:
Responsibilities of teachers
- Teachers should be responsible for recognizing and achieving their professional excellence and competence
- Teachers should be involved in the process of creating professional standards relating to their performance
- Teachers should cooperate with authorities for the best interest of the child and society.
- Codes of ethics or of conduct should be established by the teachers’ organizations.
- Teachers should take part in extra-curricular activities for the benefit of pupils and adults.
- Teachers’ organizations should be consulted on matters as educational policy, school organization, and new developments in the education service.
- Participation of teachers to improve the quality of the education service, educational research, and the development and dissemination of new improved methods.
- Teachers should be part of professional learning networks.
- Teachers and administrative staff should seek to establish good relations with each other.
Rights of teachers
- The participation of teachers in social and public life for teacher’s personal development should be encouraged.
- Teachers should be free to exercise all civic rights generally enjoyed by citizens and should be eligible for public office.
- Teachers should have equal opportunities to be part of a public office
- Teacher and teachers’ organizations should be able to determine both salaries and working conditions through the process of negotiation between and the employers of teachers.
- Teachers should be assured that they can negotiate with their employers, either public or private.
- Appropriate joint machinery should be set up to deal with the settlement of disputes between the teachers and their employers arising out of terms and conditions of employment.
Finally, the theme for 2020: “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future” can only be realized if we as educators and teachers are aware of our rights and responsibilities. Learning will never stop, and this implies to both learners and teachers. Learning will continue in the face of any challenge that humankind faces or continues to face, hence as teachers it will always be essential to exercise our rights and fulfil our responsibilities.