Five ways to empower teachers and drive learning progress

On World Teachers’ Day, let’s have a look at what teachers need to be more effective in the classroom

Suwaiba Yunusa, 29, is the only female teacher at Janbulo Islamiyya Primary School located in Roni, Jigawa State, in Nigeria. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

Suwaiba Yunusa, 29, is the only female teacher at Janbulo Islamiyya Primary School located in Roni, Jigawa State, in Nigeria.

CREDIT: GPE/Kelley Lynch

Twenty-nine-year-old Suwaiba Yunusa is a teacher at Janbulo Islamiyya Primary School in Roni, Jigawa State, Nigeria. Being the only female teacher at the school has its share of challenges, one of them being the social taboo of joining male colleagues during lunch breaks, but it also gives her a big advantage. Being a woman allows Suwaiba to play a critical role in making sure more girls come to school and learn in a country where female teachers are scarce.

Knowing she is there makes parents more comfortable sending their girls to school. While cultural norms prevent her from working alongside her male colleagues, she and other female teachers like her can help girls one on one and address challenges related to menstruation, which would be inappropriate for a male teacher. But even more so, she is a role model for girls, giving them hope for what they can achieve with an education.

Although Suwaiba’s story is not unique in countries where both women and men must leap over many hurdles to provide quality education to their students, hers brings to light common difficulties that can be overcome. This is why the Global Partnership for Education and Education International are working to empower teachers around the world.

Teachers need more support to teach effectively

Today, on World Teacher’s Day, teachers and advocates around the world are uniting behind this year’s theme – “Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers”.

New estimates from UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics (UIS) show that more than 617 million children and youth around the world are not learning enough, even though 400 million of them attend school. Empowering teachers is key to improving learning outcomes – they are the frontline workers without whom quality learning cannot be achieved.

According to UIS, 69 million primary and secondary school teachers need to be recruited by 2030 to ensure all children have access to quality education. We need more teachers and we need to equip them with the skills and resources to teach effectively.

International support for teachers must increase

The Global Partnership for Education works closely with all key partners, including teachers’ organizations, to strengthen education systems. Education International, the world’s largest federation of teachers’ unions, representing 32.5 million teachers in 171 countries, is a member of the GPE Board and actively involved in shaping the partnership’s policy and programmatic decisions. In the eyes of both organizations, teachers are a critical voice in shaping policy as they are the closest to school-level realities.

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At the core of challenges facing teachers are the need for tools, time and trust. Teachers need the right tools and resources to do their jobs well; they need the time to properly prepare their lessons; and they need the trust of students, parents, school leadership, and governments to have the confidence to realize their own potential. Participating in GPE’s local education groups (LEGs) brings the teaching profession constituency to the table, as well as building mutual accountability around education plans.

The Global Partnership for Education highlights five ways in which supported systems are empowering teachers:

  1. Teacher education and development. As with any profession, qualified teachers need to be well-prepared to be effective. They must develop the skills to motivate children, manage a classroom, master essential subject areas and tend to the daily needs and progress of their students. Likewise, education administrators in individual schools and at the system level must also learn how to be education leaders by effectively building teams, budgeting scarce resources, monitor learning and supporting their teachers.
  2. That’s why nearly every GPE developing country partner prioritizes teacher development (93% of GPE grants have components that invest in teacher development). GPE support for teacher development has more than doubled in recent years, from around 98,000 teachers trained in 2014 to 238,000 in 2016.

  3. High-quality learning materials. To tap their students’ full potential, teachers need the right tools: books and learning materials that are up to date, built on proven pedagogical methods and written in a language students understand.
  4. To date, GPE has contributed to the distribution of more than 1.6 billion textbooks to partner developing countries. In Togo, for example, GPE supports the development of new curricula and the provision of textbooks and teacher guides in math and reading for the early grades across all primary schools.

  5. Adequate class sizes. Students understandably perform better in classes where there are fewer students and teachers are better able to teach at their level.  
  6. Many GPE developing country partners have successfully reduced pupil-teacher ratios. For example, Mozambique decreased the number of primary students per trained teacher from 96 to 61, Senegal from 79 to 45, and Nepal from 57 to 26.

  7. Better monitoring of learning outcomes. From the classroom to the system level, learning outcomes data is necessary to understand current levels of learning, which can help to address barriers for learning for particular groups.  Educators must be familiar with and use a range of formative strategies that help them tailor instruction.
  8. GPE’s operational and results-based funding models incentivize developing country partners to strengthen monitoring of learning outcomes, including data requirements. In Bangladesh, for example, GPE supports classroom-based assessments nationwide, as well as national learning assessments at system level. GPE has also developed the Assessment for Learning (A4L) initiative to further build capacity of national learning assessment systems.

  9. More time for planning and teaching. For many teachers, it’s a daily struggle to devote enough of the school day on activities that allow students to learn. Data from seven Sub-Saharan African countries show that out of an average of 5.5 hours of scheduled daily class time, teachers use only about half for instruction and are often required to carry-out bureaucratic tasks that cut into important planning time as well.

The GPE is now seeking to raise US$3.1 billion from 2018 through 2020 to support the education of 870 million children in 89 developing countries. This funding would ensure that 1.7 million teachers are trained, 23,800 classrooms built and 204 million textbooks are distributed. It will be critical for empowering teachers with the skills they need, building stronger education systems, and ultimately, delivering better learning outcomes.

Author(s)

Chief Executive Officer, Global Partnership for Education
Alice Albright is the Chief Executive Officer of the Global Partnership for Education. She has over 27 years of international experience in the private, non-profit and public sectors. Ms. Albright previously...
Fred van Leeuwen became EI General Secretary during the Constituent Congress of Education International in January 1993. He was since reelected by EI's World Congresses (July 1995, Harare; July 1998,...

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