Education International and Oxfam Novib from the Netherlands have embarked on a joint pilot project on teacher training in developing countries. The Education for All targets and the education-related Millennium Development Goals, to which EI is committed, cannot be achieved without adequate numbers of properly trained and qualified teachers.
Over 18 million teachers are needed worldwide to meet the Universal Primary Education goal by 2015. Yet more than half way to the target date, many countries, especially in the developing world, continue to face critical shortages of qualified teachers. Many countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, for example, have resorted to hiring unqualified, contract, community, volunteer or para-teachers. These teachers are usually paid less than regular teachers and do not get pensions or other benefits normally given to regular teachers. Many countries resort to the recruitment of unqualified teachers in order to cut education budgets, usually at the instigation of international financial institutions such as the World Bank and/or the International Monetary Fund. The recruitment of unqualified teachers has resulted in the de-professionalisation of teaching. The practice has negatively affected the quality of education. Badly trained, underpaid and poorly motivated teachers are unlikely to teach effectively. There is overwhelming evidence that teachers matter. Quality education depends on quality teachers. These are teachers who have undergone sufficient and appropriate pre-service training, have been inducted into the teaching profession and continue to receive professional development and support. Education International is committed to promoting the right to quality education for all people in the world, and to this end, to pursuing the establishment of public or publicly-funded education systems of good quality. That is the reason why EI has decided to embark on a pilot teacher training project, in partnership with Oxfam Novib. The proposed initiative, known as the Quality-Ed Project (Quality Educators Project), is designed to complement public authorities’ efforts by helping to develop and provide training programmes, especially for unqualified teachers who work in both formal and non-formal schools. The Quality-Ed Project seeks to reclaim the teaching profession and to bridge the gap between formal and non-formal education. The envisaged training would involve governments, local teacher education institutions, and other stakeholders in the country and result in recognised certification. Feasibility studies are currently being carried out in seven countries: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Peru and Uganda. Specific pilot projects will be implemented in some of these countries. The pilot projects will seek to develop joint initiatives between the national authorities, the teachers’ unions that are members of Education International, and civil society organisations working with Oxfam Novib. The goal will be to bridge the gap between qualified and unqualified teachers through adequate training programmes. The final list of the countries that will participate during the pilot phase of the project will be determined in the autumn by the Project’s Steering Group on the basis of the results of the feasibility studies. Clearly this project comes at an opportune time. The theme for this year’s World Teachers’ Day commemoration on the 5th of October is “Teachers matter!” “Teachers’ unions should use the occasion of World Teachers’ Day to highlight the importance of the teacher and to call for the training and recruitment of adequate numbers of qualified teachers,” said Fred van Leeuwen, EI General Secretary. “Teachers need appropriate and sufficient teaching resources, continuous professional development and adequate salaries to carry out their important work effectively.” By Dennis Sinyolo This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 27, September 2008.