Over the years, especially during my lower primary days, my favourite teacher was the one that made any young child, less interested in home work stress. Needless to say, after multiple years of administrative experience and teacher evaluations, my perspective has changed. My current occupation as a student of education policy, and the experience that I have gained over the years has presented the opportunity to share what I have learned with current and future school leaders. This has also presented a ripe opportunity for deep-seated discourses with my fellow graduate students about the role of a teachers towards quality education
Teaching as a ‘task’ is not for the faint hearted, and one can hardly find a teacher who has grown to become something better than a mediocre. They are always at the forefront of competence assurance in any nation’s human resources. In other words, they do the bare least, required to influence the total change that various societies have craved for over the years. Some have received that change while others are yet to.
I must admit, I always thought that teachers are the least valued professionals across the world until I met this professor from the University of Henske, whose discourse on the teaching profession in the context of Finland, changed my attitude about the profession that I fondly love.
It is mind boggling seeing a college graduate in Finland lining up in queues of major Universities across the country craving for admittance in education colleges for this noble profession.
“The foundation of our country’s recent development is purely on the quality of our teachers,” said the academician.
He noted that teachers in Finland are highly regarded, and the marks for one to become a teacher are the highest. This is the total opposite of what happens in some countries more-so in the periphery where the cut-off points for teachers is almost the lowest. Could this be the reason our countries are still in the abyss of social economic development?
We need not to pelt this, teachers are not well motivated in many countries especially in the southern Sahara. The three years I spent at Makerere University, serve as an example to define my stand point over this motivation, and may be demotivation. My tenure in that epic of intellectualism was marred with several lecturers’ strikes in order to improve their conditions of living and until recently lecturers strikes in the same University had become something that required policy reviewing and recommendations.
Ray of Hope
Few months ago, Rwanda again lived up to its leadership’s creed. They realized that excellence has a clear connection with teaching and that teachers are the primary players in that chant. Few months ago, the Ministry of Education in partnership with other development partners such as USAID started a project of empowering teachers with the notion ‘teacher leadership’’.
By doing this, they got it right that teachers are at the frontline of education policies and are inevitably subjected to increasing demands in an ever evolving educational environment of change in the contemporary time. They realized that to meet the 21st century global skills, requires a well facilitated human labor-force.
In Singapore, the Ministry of Education envisioned the concept of ‘Thinking Schools, Learning Nation’ in 1997 to signify a nimble education system nurturing a future generation capable of facing challenges of the 21st century. On its glue was the 2003 call for Innovation and Enterprise in schools.
As we shout out loud Singapore as a model in this, it has taken them ages to achieve this but their primary objective since ages ago was capacitating teachers in all aspects. Teachers work tirelessly to create a challenging yet nurturing environment for their students. Great mentors need protection and be able to grow in their professional engagements. Imagine they are able to harness different opinions and ideas from students across all divides with different culture and attitudes hence a worthwhile environment for learning.
This happens to be in tandem with the countries that desire to create a sense of community and belonging hence inspiring creative reasoning and performance among the country’s human resources. Such is what defines a graduate of a well facilitated teacher, he owns the class without inconveniencing students, creates an enabling collaborative environment for learning, a component that is still fresh in the teaching doctrines.
As Rwanda embarks on improving teacher professionalism among its teachers through ‘‘Teacher leadership training’, Singapore initiated the ‘teach less and learn more’ which was geared towards encouraging greater effectiveness and efficiency in quality teaching. Rwanda’s version of teacher leadership will therefore include facets of life-long learning in students.
As we look towards the implementation of teacher leadership program in Rwanda, there is need to consider these fundamental blue prints that is when quality education in our context will holistically be well defined. Education policy makers need to consider and emphasize on the aspect of flexibility and diversity not forgetting broad based education for the provision of greater choice and a more holistic approach to student development. Such continual improvements in education necessitate the development of teachers who learn as they teach, in particular, the senior teacher leaders are expected to be at the forefront of knowledge in their subject area and at the cutting edge of ongoing change.
The writer is a PhD student at Beijing Normal University