The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Wayne Campbell
“A good teacher can inspire hope; ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” – Brad Henry
We all have a favourite teacher. It is often said that teachers are the roadmap to the future; they are the bridge between the past and the present and as a result, teachers wield an enormous amount of power and influence. However, despite this the status of teachers worldwide remains on shaky grounds. Most societies pay scant regards to the welfare of teachers.
The measly sums teachers receive for remuneration is shameful given the importance of teachers to nation-building and character development. Unfortunately, the teaching profession continues to be seen as a stepping stone to better paying jobs.
At the end of the day each teacher has to look out for his/her best interest; no one else will. Most societies place less currency on the profession as compared to other more desirable professions such as medicine and law.
Additionally, the feminization of the profession over the years has resulted not only in less remuneration but has contributed to the loss of respect for teachers in general. On average, women make 80 cents for every dollar men earn for equal work. That figure is even less for women of colour and those with children.
This gendered reality of the teaching profession has negatively impacted student outcomes as the best and brightest minds in most societies continue to avoid this noble profession; regrettably this is not likely to change in the foreseen future. Then there are those who will argue that teaching is not a profession given that the Education Act still provides for pre-trained teachers up to six years. Jamaica’s Education Act Part V states; a person shall not teach or be employed as a teacher in a public educational institution unless he is registered as
(a) as a trained teacher;
(b) as a pre-trained teacher; or
(c) as an authorised teacher.
In other well-established professions, there is no such category as a pre-trained lawyer or a pre-trained doctor; thus the negative perception of teachers and the teaching profession. Notwithstanding societal perception of the teaching profession teachers have over the past nineteen months of the
COVID-19 pandemic risen to the demands of their students; many of whom have had to adapt to a blended approach to teaching and learning since the physical closure of schools.
This new normal has meant that teachers too have had to display a great deal of flexibility as they navigate and provide guidance to their students in this paradigm shift.
In this pandemic, teachers have shown, as they have done so often, great leadership and innovation in ensuring that education never stops, and that every child can learn, every child must learn.
The World Bank states that children’s learning has
suffered immensely. The World Bank added that because the education sector also provides health, nutrition, and psychosocial services, the overall welfare of children
has declined substantially.
Teachers have worked tirelessly and painstakingly to arrive at solutions and create new learning pathways for their students to facilitate education in this new dispensation.
Teachers have had to embrace the various forms of digital literacies which require the technical skills and social practices needed to effectively interact with digital technologies.
The role of the teacher is ever expanding; the teacher is not only that person who provides instruction, the role of the teacher has entered new domains such as that of mentor, and substitute parent. The teacher continues to go beyond and above the call of duty.
Historical overview of teaching
From time immemorial we have grappled with a number of questions; can teaching be taught? Do individuals learn to teach or are they endowed with an inherent gift for pedagogy? Joseph Axelrod describes two types of teaching as the didactic and the evocative modes.
The didactic model is transferring or passing on knowledge or teaching how to do something. Teachers often use lectures to inculcate knowledge after which students demonstrate they have learnt what was taught either by reciting or writing the material.
Unfortunately, this mode of teaching does not lend itself to critical thinking. On the other hand, the evocative or Socrates method places emphasis on the knowledge development of the student.
In this method the role of the teacher is to pull from students what they already know; given the student must assimilate and draw conclusions.
The oldest form of teaching which is still being utilized today is internship or observation. Greek philosopher Plato learnt to teach by sitting at the feet of Socrates. Socrates is arguably the most influential philosopher ever who is also considered father of Western Philosophy. Aristotle learnt the art of teaching from Plato.
Under the theme “Teachers at the heart of education recovery”, World Teachers’ Day or International Teachers Day is being celebrated.
World Teachers’ Day commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, which sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers,
and standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and
The Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel was adopted in 1997 to complement the 1966 Recommendation by covering teaching personnel in higher education.
World Teachers’ Day has been celebrated since 1994. This important day commemorates the adoption of the 1966 International Labour Organisation and the United Nations Educational, Scientific Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recommendations regarding the status of teachers.
With the COVID-19 pandemic teachers have had to firmly embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution. According to Professor Klaus Schwab the fourth industrial revolution is characterized by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.
Teachers as foundation
Our teachers are the real heroes and their commitment to the profession remains unquestionable, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers are the bedrock and foundation of the society.
Teachers have made and continue to make great sacrifices in this era of uncertainty that has caused the biggest education disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers have had to employ creative strategies in ensuring that no student is left behind during these unprecedented times.
Many teachers have used and continue to use their own resources to ensure that students have educational materials at their disposal at all times.
We have seen documented evidence all across the globe of teachers who have walked and or driven miles and miles to ensure that they are able to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots in order to connect with their students to ensure learning never stops.
We urge governments to work assiduously to transform the teaching profession to one of a first choice for young people especially against the report from United Nations Educational, Scientific Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) that declares that the world will need an additionally 69 million teachers in order to achieve the goal of providing universal primary and secondary education by 2030.
We advocate teachers to recommit and retool themselves in order to tackle the ever expanding and demanding tasks of the profession as we work together to address the learning loss and the inequalities within the global education system.
We pay homage to teachers in all areas of the world as they continue to give of their best as the education system recovers.
The international community celebrates the work of dedicated teachers around the world who continue to strive every day in the face of personal and collective adversities in ensuring that inclusive and equitable quality education is achieved in keeping with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals #4 which addresses quality education and the promotion of lifelong learning opportunities.
Can you imagine a world without teachers; a rather grim and frightening picture emerges? On this World Teachers’ Day October 5 express your gratitude to a teacher who has made a difference in your life or in the life of your children. Let us continue to support our teachers and the work that they do. Happy World Teachers’ Day!
In the words of Khalil Gibran, the teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. [email protected]