The relationship between student and teacher is central to the learning process. This deep interconnection and the centrality of the teacher to supporting and enabling student learning is what prompted the partnership between Education International and Open Society Foundations to launch a three-year seminar series on the Future of the Teaching Profession in Africa.
We were interested in the ways in which teachers could be made true partners and function as agents of change in the decisions that affect their abilities to effectively support student learning. In their daily work teachers essentially execute a series of professional judgments within complex and context-specific environments. They exercise professional judgement in deciding what to ask, how to pace things, and how to respond to the complexity of what is happening in the classroom in real time. Valuing this professional judgment requires us to include teachers’ perspectives in educational policy development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Listening to and including teachers’ perspectives in these processes requires deep and sustained engagement between governments and teachers through their representative organisations.
Much of the writing and research on teacher autonomy and teacher professionalism relates to Global North contexts. For us, the focus on Africa it was intentional to centre voices and experiences from the Global South. This led us to bring together teacher unions and governments from a number of countries in Africa to discuss a range of issues relating to the future of the teaching profession on the Continent.
This paper was prepared by Professor Yusuf Sayed and Eva Bulgrin as part of the input and the basis of the keynote address at the second seminar on the Future of the Teaching Profession in Africa, held in Cape Coast Ghana in October 2019. It is based on interviews with union leaders and officials from Ministries of Education. Sayed and Bulgrin provide a clear and uncompromising vision of how education can work and compares the approach across ten African countries. Curriculum, as Sayed and Bulgrin say, should not arrive like thunder. It should be developed around a consensus between teachers and their unions, academics with the relevant expertise, and government officials so that every student develops to their full potential. This can only happen when teachers are trusted and supported to grow 6 Education International their professionalism and sharpen their pedagogy to reach every child. This requires strong initial teacher education supported by regular Continuous Professional Learning and Development throughout a teacher’s career.
While this report was written before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the changes advocated here are necessary now more than ever. Curricula disconnected from teacher professionalism have no chance of navigating the ever-increasing range and scale of disruptions that disproportionately affect the African continent. From climate change to health, future education systems need to trust the professionalism and expertise of the frontline workers in education, the teaching professionals, to advise and to make the decisions necessary to keep students learning and engaged.
To do this teacher professionalism must be strengthened by ensuring teachers are in control of their standards, are supported by robust qualifications and are learning throughout their careers with good quality Continuous Professional Learning and Development and professional autonomy.
Foreword by David Edwards General Secretary Eduaction International and Hugh McLean Director: Education Support Program Open Society Foundations2020_EI-OSF_Research_EnhancingTeachingProfessionAfrica_ENG_FINAL