Teachers shine the proverbial light on society–and merit a better deal

05Oct 2019
The Guardian
Teachers shine the proverbial light on society–and merit a better deal

A teacher – also called a school teacher or, in some contexts, an educator – is a person who helps students to acquire knowledge or competence

In most countries, formal teaching of students is usually carried out by paid professional teachers. A teacher’s role may vary among cultures.

Teachers may provide instruction in literacy and numeracy, craftsmanship or vocational training, the arts, religion, civics, community roles, or life skills. Formal teaching tasks include preparing lessons according to agreed curricula, giving lessons, and assessing pupil progress.

A teacher’s professional duties may extend beyond formal teaching. Outside the classroom, teachers may accompany students on field trips, supervise study halls, help with the organisation of school functions, and serve as supervisors for extracurricular activities.

Teaching is a highly complex activity. This is, in part, because it is a social practice that takes place in a specific context including in terms of time, place, culture and socio-political-economic situations. It is therefore shaped by the values of that specific context.

Some of the factors that influence what is expected or required of teachers relate to history and tradition, social views about the purpose of education, and accepted theories about learning.

World Teachers Day, also known as International Teachers Day, is commemorated internationally each October 5. Established in 1994, it marks the signing of the 1966 UNESCO/ILO recommendation concerning the status of teachers, which is a standard-setting instrument that addresses the status and situations of teachers across the globe.

This recommendation outlines standards relating to education personnel policy, recruitment, and initial training as well as the continuing education of teachers, their employment and their working conditions.

World Teachers Day is primarily meant to focus on appreciating, assessing and improving the educators of the world and to provide an opportunity to consider issues related to teachers and teaching.

To celebrate the Day, the UNESCO and Education International mount a campaign each year to help give the world a better understanding of teachers and the role they play in the development of students and the larger society.

These agencies normally partner with the private sector such as media organisations towards achieving this purpose. The campaign focuses on different themes for every year.

For instance, ‘Empowering Teachers’ was the theme for 2017. This was the year the Day coincided with the 20th anniversary of the 1997 UNESCO recommendation concerning the status of higher-education teaching personnel.

This brought the sometimes-neglected area of teaching personnel in higher education institutions into the conversation about the status of teachers.

For 2018, UNESCO adopted the theme ‘The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher’. This coincided with the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and served as a reminder that the right to education cannot be realised without trained and qualified teachers.

UNESCO aptly argues that everyone can help by celebrating the profession, by generating awareness about issues related to teachers and by ensuring that respect for teachers is part of the natural order of things.

For instance, schools and students may prepare a special occasion for teachers on this Day. It’s not for nothing that more than 100 countries mark World Teachers Day, with each holding the celebrations in a manner it deems best but all aiming to appreciate the worth of the role that teachers play in society.

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