Teachers are at the centre of all educational endeavours. The critical issues of the competences and skills that teachers need to address the much desired concerns of quality, equality, relevance and inclusion at the heart of the philosophy of Education for all.
We judge teacher competence not by quality per se but by student outcomes in public examinations. This has resulted in teachers neglecting quality interactions and learning outcomes in favour of prescriptive teaching and teaching to the test. Teacher education and training too focuses on providing these skills. Education is reduced to delivering a plan made by someone else and somewhere else.
There has been a shift in meaning of quality pedagogy, curriculum and aim of education in recent years. Teacher education too now needs to undergo a transformation and build skills whereby both the teacher and students become partners in co-construction of knowledge with each being accountable for the teaching learning process. The problems to be surmounted include an undersupply of teachers, inadequate institutional capacity, gap in teacher educators, out dated curricula and sub-standard educational materials.
Professional development and what it requires Professional teachers in today’s context are those who are flexible, reflective, imaginative, creative, innovative and with an enquiring mind. They work in diverse classroom that requires them to examine their own values and beliefs. They also have to engage with the social context of learning, with subject knowledge and understand multiple childhoods.
To create such a teacher demands a totally new approach not just a simple change of programme. The new teacher should have the necessary values, attitudes, skills, knowledge and understanding to ensure the sustainable learning and full participation of every learners in class. For this they need to - value learner diversity, support all learners, give learner a sense of belonging and create a network of professional development.
The teacher education programmes should inculcate these competences and skills. All of the above require change in policies and implementation plans that take the teacher on board. For example, in terms of recruitment of teachers, there should be a sustained cadre of professionally qualified teachers and do away with the two streams of teachers – regular and part-timer. In-service training framework also needs to be redesigned and linked to teacher career paths. This must be accompanied by other concerns such as teacher’s morale, prestige/ status, career/ professional mobility, salary/ technical allowances and other social amenities to reduce attrition from the profession and increase commitment.