Worlds of Education

Education voices | Elevating the Teacher Profession: High-Level Panel Recommendations explained

published 27 February 2024 updated 28 February 2024
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Mike Thiruman, General Secretary of the Singapore Teachers' Union, embodies a profound dedication to teacher empowerment by enhancing working conditions, advocating for teacher agency, and fostering teacher wellness and growth. As a member of the High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession, convened by the United Nations, Thiruman's insights are crucial for understanding the evolving global education landscape. His deep commitment to promoting teacher professional growth and advancing school leadership underscores the importance of collective action and solidarity amongst educators.

This Q&A delves into the High-Level Panel Recommendations, launched on the 26 February in Johannesburg, South Africa. Thiruman offers his insights on the transformative potential of these recommendations for the teaching profession and their expected impact on enhancing teacher agency, wellness, and professional growth across Singapore and internationally. He highlights the central role of education unions in driving forward these critical changes.

Mike, reflecting on your role within the High-Level Panel, how did the discussions aim to address the challenges facing the teaching profession?

My experience in the Panel was deeply engaging, focusing on elevating the teaching profession. We explored strategies for securing sufficient public funding for teacher salaries and education infrastructure, key elements to address the critical issue of the global educator shortage. Emphasizing the need for a well-funded, equitable public education system, we aimed to lay the foundation for the profession’s advancement and sustainability.

How do the HLP Recommendations propose to raise the status of the teaching profession globally?

The HLP Recommendations call for a significant increase in public funding for education, earmarking a minimum of 6 per cent of GDP and 20 per cent of national budgets for this purpose. This financial commitment should aim at ensuring that teachers receive the support, compensation, and respect they deserve, therefore making the teaching profession more attractive, dignified and sustainable. This effort is crucial for attracting and retaining the educators our societies need.

What were some key areas the Panel explored?

The Panel focused on several key areas, emphasising the role of teachers as co-creators in shaping their profession and education policies. It highlighted the importance of ensuring they are well respected and can work with autonomy, fostering environments that support teacher agency and professional development.

What roles do social dialogue and collective bargaining play according to the Recommendations?

Social dialogue is essential for shaping and implementing effective education policies, as highlighted in the Recommendations. Similarly, collective bargaining is fundamental in defining and enhancing teachers´ working conditions. These Recommendations stress a unified effort among governments, education unions, and stakeholders to foster a collective approach, emphasising that improving teachers' working conditions and involving them in policy-making directly impact the quality of education.

How do the Recommendations address teacher well-being and technology in education?

The recommendations emphasise teacher well-being, both physical and mental, as crucial for quality education. Technology is seen as a tool to enhance, but never replace, the human interaction essential in education.

From Singapore's perspective, which Recommendation stands out to you the most?

Investing in teachers stands out because education fundamentally happens through them. Reflecting on this, an important realization comes to mind: we cannot have student well-being without teacher well-being, and we cannot nurture student agency without cultivating, and empowering, teacher agency. It implies the need for long-term public funding for well-qualified and supported teachers.

With the launch of these Recommendations, what message do you have for EI affiliates?

The role of teacher unions is central in advancing the Recommendations. It's crucial for unions to push for the establishment of national commissions or equivalent mechanisms. These bodies, inclusive of financial authorities, education unions, and other stakeholders, are tasked with a comprehensive assessment to address teacher shortages. They should analyse labor market trends, recruitment, retention, and the equitable distribution of qualified teachers, ensuring a well-supported teaching workforce. Coordinated action at the local, regional and global level is essential to ensure the implementation of these recommendations.

Lasty, what impact do you foresee these Recommendations having on the education landscape?

The High-Level Panel Recommendations are broad and deep, with the potential to significantly impact the global education landscape by promoting systemic changes that prioritise teacher support and professional development. Moreover, the call for teachers’ direct involvement in policy formulation underscores a shift towards a more collaborative and equitable approach to advancing the teaching profession for a sustainable future.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.