Teachers are a key element of addressing the ongoing education crisis in Asia and the Pacific. Fully supporting educators now will pay off generously over the long term.
The global learning crisis is actually a teaching crisis. The quality of teachers has the greatest impact on improving student learning outcomes. Most developing countries in Asia and the Pacific face major challenges in recruiting the best candidates for a long-term teaching career.
New models of teacher education are needed in developing countries to enhance their competencies. For instance, if the learning level is poor, greater control of how teaching practices are applied is important, while greater teacher autonomy is needed where the quality of learning is already improving.
Another related challenge in many teacher education programs is how to update and innovate practices to sustain higher level of learning to motivate teachers and students.
Transformational teacher education reform requires collaborative efforts, resources, and expertise of governments and universities. This is particularly important at a time when the focus is shifting from face to face mass education to personalized blended learning with the goal of developing self-directed lifelong learners.
The role of teachers is changing. They serve as facilitators for learners who are lagging behind as well as for highly motivated, well performing students. In this environment, teachers are not the only source of knowledge; rather, teachers should be able to say, ‘I don’t know’ to certain questions, and work with the students to find answers.
It is crucial for developing countries to ensure rigorous university-based teacher development programs by drawing on best practices from successful countries.
To realize this goal, it is important for governments to prepare a pool of students who have a solid secondary education followed by good performance in college and an interest in teaching. Policy-makers also need to focus their attention on hiring and training teachers from under-represented groups, such as ethnic minorities.
Teacher education should be developed as a whole, and not based on short-term project needs. Teachers should be able to gain higher academic degrees through well-developed university programs. Policies and incentives supporting career paths and teacher professional development programs should be articulated in a framework which defines the regulations, structure, and resources required to be a successful teacher.
It is crucial for developing countries to ensure rigorous university-based teacher development programs by drawing on best practices from successful countries. More emphasis should also be placed on screening, training and mentoring the most promising teachers to become teacher trainers, educators, and supervisors. They should have a very wide teaching experience, deep subject knowledge, and demonstrated mastery and understanding of effective pedagogical practices.
Governments need to ensure that the best teachers are not only recruited and trained, but also deployed to the areas where they are most needed. Adequate compensation, bonus pay, good housing, and support in the form of professional development and career opportunities should be used to encourage trained teachers to accept positions in rural or disadvantaged areas. Selection of teachers through a transparent and rigorous process combined with local recruitment with good incentive packages can also ensure that quality teachers reach children in remote areas.
Developing effective teachers during their careers is the key to driving learning outcomes. Teachers should be supported in a systematic way from all the levels of the education system, including school principals, supervisors, and managers at all levels of an education system.
In-service teacher education should be updated regularly. It should develop skills, including preparing lesson plans and conducting continuous formative assessment to track and support lagging students. Teachers should be able to grow professionally to become better educators.
New innovative approaches are needed. While blended learning approaches may help to scale up teacher development programs, the key will be to ensure that they incorporate knowledge about what works. It must allow teacher trainees to practice, receive feedback on their practice, and constantly engage into practice in order to gradually develop more effective pedagogy.
There is a risk that the learning crisis induced by the pandemic will worsen due to protracted learning losses. Since teachers are the key players to address this issue, they will require different types of support, especially in pre-service and in-service teacher education. Fully supporting teachers now will pay off generously over the long term.