Date: 3 Oct 2008
Speaker: Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma
Location: Marlborough House, London
Today we celebrate teachers, and Commonwealth teachers in particular.
But we do so in context, and we do so with steely determination, because my main theme today is a sobering one.
Indeed, it’s a theme of crisis.
The word ‘crisis’ is on all our lips.
Food crisis, fuel crisis, now a financial crisis. These are the front page stories. But we have an equally deep, yet silent crisis, which is not on any of the pages.
No less than 18 million teachers must be found if the Education for All Goals are to be achieved by 2015.
Some 13 million of these teachers are needed in the Commonwealth, in the developing countries of Africa and Asia, and in Small States.
The issues facing the teaching profession may not be as newsworthy as those in the financial sector, but they will impact on the quality of education – and thus on us all.
It was in 1966 that UNESCO and the International Labour Organization produced their Recommendations on the Status of Teachers.
These Recommendations provide a framework for ensuring an effective teaching force that is well-trained, well-motivated and accountable.
But over 40 years later, what do we find?
First, we find under-qualified teachers.
UNESCO gives us the stark fact that 80% of the teachers employed in developing countries can be classed as under-qualified.
Second, we find under-trained teachers.
Again, it is UNESCO which tells us that in ten sub-Saharan African countries, half of all teachers have less than 3 months of pre-service training.
Third, we find under-paid teachers.
The benchmark of average teacher salaries provided by the Bretton Woods institutions shows that teachers’ salaries in many countries have not kept pace with the standard of living world-wide.
So we seriously risk denying many of the children of the Commonwealth their right to quality education.
We have known since 2004 that in the Commonwealth, between 27 and 30 million children of primary school age are still unable to access education.
India, Pakistan and Nigeria alone account for nearly 20 million of that number.
Despite tremendous and commendable efforts by these member countries and by many other countries, millions of children will still be unable to access primary education by 2015.
And what is more, the quality of education provided to those who are fortunate to have access, is a real issue in countries where the challenge is more than one of numbers.
The challenges that member countries such as India, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Mozambique encounter in trying to match the diminishing supply of qualified new teachers are heightened by a diminishing stock of existing teachers.
One cause of this is migration.
In the Caribbean, we have Guyana reporting that it trains 300 teachers per year, only to lose more than that number from their existing stock, through recruitment and migration overseas.
So how has the Commonwealth responded, and what should it do next?
For a start, it can continue to lobby with regard to Government expenditure on the overall teacher wage bill.
In more practical terms, we have worked well with the Association for the Development of Education in Africa, ADEA, and its Working Group on the Teaching Profession.
We have helped it develop training materials for Head-teachers, School Inspectors and Teachers.
Recently, Ministries of Education in Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific Regions were introduced to multi-grade teacher training, as one obvious solution to the problem of teacher shortages in some of our member countries.
A Commonwealth-wide study has also been initiated to look at school leadership development programmes.
This is aimed at developing a future strategy for training school leaders in the Commonwealth.
Meanwhile we continue to work closely with key strategic partners like UNESCO, Education International and the ILO.
The aim is the development of a global strategy on teachers’ issues.
The Commonwealth Protocol on Teacher Recruitment is acknowledged as a major contribution in addressing the challenge of teacher migration.
It is acknowledged by the African Union, the Organization of American States, UNESCO, the International Labour Organization and Education International as a best practice in Migration and Development.
It has been used by countries such as Kenya as the basis for the negotiation of contracts in the managed recruitment of their teachers.
Commonwealth Heads of Government themselves acknowledged it in their Malta Meeting of 2005.
We are currently assessing the implementation of this Protocol by commissioning a review – this was requested by Commonwealth Ministers of Education, to be ready for when they next meet in Kuala Lumpur in June 2009.
To complement UNESCO’s Higher Education initiatives in Quality Assurance, we are also commissioning a study of teacher qualifications in all 53 countries.
The aim is to ensure that if and when qualified teachers do move across borders and overseas, then their qualifications must be recognized and accepted by the countries which recruit them.
Finally today, as we pay tribute to the teachers of the Commonwealth and indeed worldwide on World Teacher’s Day, we are launching three new Commonwealth publications on critical issues for teachers.
· Teaching and Learning of English in Secondary Schools in Zambia
· Teacher Deployment in Sub-Saharan African countries
· Gender, HIV-AIDS and the Status of Teachers in the Commonwealth
I commend each of these to you, and I invite you to study them closely, and to join us as advocates for their arguments.
In closing, I return to our overarching aims in educating the children of the Commonwealth.
These are the targets of Education for All; and they are the Millennium Development Goals which concern themselves with education.
My call is simple yet strong: I call on governments to recruit, where needed, more trained and qualified teachers.
I urge that every effort is made to address teachers’ salaries and their other conditions of service, to ensure that young and motivated people are attracted to the profession.
Today, World Teacher’s Day, we celebrate the Commonwealth teacher.
Today, we join our strategic partners in recognising the crucial role that teachers play in delivering quality education.
We pledge to work with our member countries to champion efforts to establish a motivated and effective teaching force.
I close by thanking every single Teacher of the Commonwealth for their contribution to our Youth, Education, Development, and to the very future of the Commonwealth.
I salute you – all Commonwealth Teachers – on World Teacher’s Day 2008! ENDS
Download the speech: World Teachers Day 2008