July 2012 – Teacher Evaluation Index

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats it children an their teachers” Nelson Mandela.

It is quite natural for companies and individuals that run education as a business to look for shot term returns, it is only the governments that can look at education from a long-term perspective so that the country reaps its benefits a few decades later. When governments start looking at education from a short-term benefit perspective or to satisfy political agendas it can lead to disastrous consequences for the country.

Very recently, I met Prof. Andy Hargreaves who is the Thomas More Brennan Chair, Lynch School of Education at Boston College and Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Educational Change at the Transforming Education Summit held in Abu-Dhabi recently. During the course of our conversation I was fascinated with his clarity and understanding of the educational domain. I am taking this opportunity to share with you a few of his thoughts and my impressions during our conversation.

People who believe teaching is ‘easy’ have no idea what teaching is. Teaching is one of the most serious professions there is on our planet, but somehow across the world people believe that if you have a love for children you can teach well. This has led to an entire generation of teachers who have learned on the job, the scary part is that they have learnt at the cost of some children!

One of the reasons why Finland is among the best educational systems is because teaching is the most sort after profession in that country. This says a lot about the social status of teachers and their self-esteem. It is not possible for any one college or university to change the mindset of it’s society towards teachers. To bring about a change in any aspect of society the leadership has to be inspiring, urgent, inclusive, galvanizing and repetitive.

To improve the quality of education we need to build on the Professional Capital of teachers which comprises  human capital, social capital (ability to learn from one another) and decisional capital (capacity to make judgements). In all professions and art forms an experience of 2,000 hours can be labeled as an amateur, less than that is still a rookie. To gain the status of maestro one takes about 10,0000 hours. This thumb rule holds good even in teaching, it is important that teachers keep track of their number of teaching hours.

The Teacher Evaluation Index of a modern teacher therefore will be a factor of

–      Hours of Teaching

–      Sharing of Learning

–      Technology Usage

I personally think that the quality of a school is largely determined by the cumulative factor of the sum total of its Teachers Evaluation Index!

June 2012 – Engage Parents too…

I attended the Transforming Education Summit 2012 recently in Abu Dhabi that attracted some of the world’s most accomplished political, business, philanthropic leaders, current and former ministers of education and education experts.

The high profile event hosted by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) aims to share lessons and successes learned, while providing hands-on insights into various leading education reforms. There was one thing common in what most panellists and speakers emphasised: the biggest challenge of education worldwide is creating good quality teachers and bringing parents in the learning fold.

Gordon Brown who is presently the Co-convenor of the Global Campaign for Education summed up the most important lessons learned by UK after having spent billions of dollars in educational transformation for over 2 decades in 4 points:

  • Teaching Reform: No infrastructure or technology can replace the good old teacher. If we cannot create teachers we cannot deliver quality in education
  • Head Teacher Reform: Educational institutions will not deliver unless they are guided by able leaders with a vision
  •  Curriculum Reform: The focus of learning should be to teach children ‘how to think’
  • Technology to ‘Enhance a Teacher’, and not technology to ‘Enhance Teaching’

“To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield”, from Ulysses, will be engraved as a permanent installation in the centre of the 2012 London Olympic Village. This, according to him should be the true meaning of education.

The former Finnish President, Tarja Halonin who led the country from 2000-2012 and was instrumental in making Finland one of the best educational systems in the world spoke too . Finland has been getting the highest score in the PISA rankings of OECD for almost a decade. She also emphasised the need to invest on Teacher Development and the biggest learning was that technology cannot replace, but only assist a teacher.  She concluded her very thought provoking address with a very interesting revelation. ‘Across the world statistics tell us that girls are doing better in education than boys if given an equal opportunity. This will have far reaching impact on the social and economic aspects of our society in future. This also means that our present education system is working well for girls? Why are we changing it? Our boys are not doing so well, so a change?’

Sergio Bitar, the former Education Minister of Chile and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Inter-American Dialogue highlighted 4 trends of education in future:

  • Early education for 0-5 year olds will become increasingly important, so parental engagement will increase
  • Life skills will be the key focus of education in future. Building character and making global citizens will be highly valued
  • Learning will be very personalised and learners will get to choose what and when to learn, technology will enable this in future
  • Higher education will get a big boost and will expand rapidly. Today, primary and secondary education is free in most parts of the world; in future, will higher education be free?

If we look closely at the first 3 trends, it means that one of the biggest future challenges for educators and government will be to engage parents in student outcomes.