World Teachers’ Day Prompts Reflection on Teacher Quality

Last week, World Teachers’ Day was celebrated around the world, marking the 20th anniversary of its declaration by the Unesco General Conference in 1994. In Cambodia, the annual Teachers Day celebrations were initiated by Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen in 1997 to acknowledge the important contributions of teachers in the country’s efforts to expand education opportunities for all.

This year, World Teachers’ Day in Cambodia was celebrated by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports with the participation of teachers as well as national and international development partners on October 3 at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia, linking the international theme “Invest in the future, invest in teachers” with the national theme “Teachers and Education Quality.”

The Teachers’ Day celebrations provide a platform for all of us to acknowledge the important role of teachers in society and thank them for their enormous contribution to learning and social development. The presentation from the principal of Wat Bo Primary School provided us an example of the hard work of teachers and education personnel in creating an excellent learning environment for their students.

The celebrations also provided an opportunity to reflect on the current issues and challenges for teachers and express our solidarity with their quest to enable conditions for fulfilling their duties and responsibilities as well as their quest for improved quality of life.

During the last decade, we have witnessed significant progress and achievements in the education sector in Cambodia to achieve the “Education for All” goals. Sustained economic growth and increasing potential to attract foreign direct investment in Cambodia are evidence of the country’s investment in expanding education opportunities for its people. This expansion of educational opportunities wouldn’t have been possible without the dedicated efforts of our teachers.

As we celebrate this progress, we also need to acknowledge the persistent challenges the world is facing regarding teachers.

One of the critical challenges is the shortage of qualified and trained teachers. Unesco’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report for 2013 to 2014, “Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality for All,” reveals that the world is facing a global learning crisis, as one in four young people in poor countries is unable to read a single sentence and warns that without attracting and adequately training enough teachers, the learning crisis will last for several generations and hit the disadvantaged hardest.

“Teachers have the future of this generation in their hands,” Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova noted, adding, “No education system is better than its teachers” to highlight the importance of improving the quality of teacher education and support systems.

In Cambodia too, we have these challenges and it will require significant efforts to improve the overall situation of teachers. The national theme “Teachers and Education Quality” emphasizes the importance of the role of teachers. Through the ongoing education sector reforms, and particularly through the Teacher Policy and the Teacher Policy Action Plan, we are working on addressing the issues, which makes us optimistic for our future in which the status and conditions of teachers in Cambodia will be improved and upgraded in the coming years. In this regard, the recent examination reform has also enhanced teachers’ honor and prestige.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports is working on upgrading teacher qualifications to be in line with Asean standards by creating opportunities to attract qualified and motivated people to become teachers, providing training and professional support, as well as revising incentives and benefits.

Teachers are already experiencing benefits from these reforms, such as a salary increase and a system that transfers their pay into their individual bank accounts.

Furthermore, efforts are underway to continuously improve teacher support through strengthening the capacities of school directors in school management and leadership, as well as the capacities of Teacher Training Centers to respond to the need for teachers to upgrade their qualifications by 2020.

While we strive to seek the best support mechanisms for teachers, it is equally important, in turn, for teachers to be accountable to their students and communities. The enthusiastic support and participation of teachers in the recent examination reforms are commendable. We encourage the teachers and their professional associations to implement Teacher Codes of Conduct, which are based on the highest ethical and professional standards, and to be oriented around the goal of teaching all students effectively and equally. We are confident that all our teachers are aware that the future of our new generation depends on them.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and its international partners reiterate our commitment to continue the efforts to ensure that every girl and boy in Cambodia is benefiting from good quality teaching and learning through a qualified, trained and well supported teacher.

Hang Chuon Naron is Cambodia’s minister of education. Anne Lemaistre is the head of office for Unesco in Cambodia.

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