I feel honoured and privileged indeed to be given another opportunity to speak to you on the occasion of this year’s World Teachers’ Day, organised by SINTA.
May I take this opportunity to thank the World Teachers Day 2013 Organising Committee for inviting me to mark this important day for teachers, not only in the Solomon Islands but throughout the world.
Thank you, James Lalawa and your committee, for the invitation.
To me ‘World Teachers Day’ provides an opportunity for teachers to reflect on their roles as teachers and celebrate their achievements.
It is also a day when stakeholders of our education system, especially communities, education authorities, the Ministry of Education, and our government leaders (Provincial and National) can reflect on the work of teachers and work together to address the many challenges faced by teachers in our school system, and improve the quality of teaching and learning experienced by students in our school system.
The theme for this year’s World Teachers Day, which is: A call for Teachers to take the lead in quality education is a very important one, as far as the achievement of quality educational outcome is concerned.
This theme effectively calls on teachers to reflect on their own teaching practices and to take practical steps to make improvements where necessary, to ensure they provide quality learning opportunities for their pupils and students in their respective schools.
Based on the theme of this year’s world teachers’ day I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all teachers in Solomon Islands take the lead in ensuring quality education for Solomon Islands Children and youths.
Like in any education setting, every child in Solomon Islands has the right to quality education.
Why? Because they are the future leaders of their families, communities, and our beloved country Solomon Islands.
Teachers, may I remind you that when you decided to become a teacher sometimes ago, you have made a commitment to provide each child in your classroom the quality of education they deserve.
In other words, you have a moral obligation to ensure each child in your class receive the kind of education they deserve, for the sake of their future.
I believe you already have a fair idea of how you should take leadership in providing quality education in your classrooms.
In fact, the onus is on each and every one of you to ensure you provide the best learning opportunities for your pupils and students.
For you (teachers) to ensure quality education for the students you teach you need to:
- have strong content knowledge of the subjects you teach. This includes understanding the curriculum of your subject. You cannot teach your subjects effectively, unless you have sound understanding or knowledge of your subject/s, and the school curriculum.
- prepare well in advance for your lessons. This should include a bit of research on the topic you teach each day, and time to think strategically about the teaching strategies that will bring about positive learning outcomes in your students.
- prepare teaching resources to aid you in your teaching, and assist students’ learning. Students need the appropriate stimulus to make them think creatively and solve problems.
- employ a variety of teaching strategies that suits your students’ interest and matches their abilities.
- assess you students’ learning, provide them feedback on time, and assist them to improve in their weak areas.
- be punctual for classes, and commit adequate time to improving your lessons.
Teaching is not as easy a career as some might think, if a teacher is to provide quality education.
It requires time, effort, money, and commitment.
It is common knowledge that quality teaching leads to quality learning and positive learning outcomes by students.
Therefore, a quality teacher benefits an entire class, year after year, and when those better-educated students become parents they will likely demand a good education for their children, further strengthening the educational system in general. This is certainly true for girls and women.
So, what do we mean by quality education?
In fact, quality education is a difficult concept to qualify.
However, according to various educationists there are two principles that characterise or define quality in education: the first identifies learners' cognitive development as the major explicit objective of all education systems.
That is the development of knowledge in each learner.
The second emphasises education's role in promoting values and attitudes of responsible citizenship, and in nurturing creative and emotional development.
This is to do with development of positive attitudes and values that leads to good citizens who value each other’s differences and can live in peace and harmony with one another despite their cultural differences.
In essence, quality education determines how much and how well children learn and the extent to which their education translates into a range of personal, social, and developmental benefits.
Therefore, how you as teachers approach your teaching roles determine what happens in the classroom and subsequently the quality of the learning outcomes that students achieve.
That is why teachers are called upon this World Teachers’ Day to take a lead in providing quality education in our school system.
While teachers are directly responsible for how they teach in the classroom, other contextual factors can also affect how they approach their teaching roles.
There are six policy issues which can directly have an impact on the quality of teaching and learning in any school system:
- Relevancy of educational goals. We need to have a relevant or balanced set of educational aims describing what learners should learn and why; the development of cognitive, creative and social skills and values; respect for human rights, the environment, peace and tolerance, and cultural diversity. If these are already part of our educational goals then we are fine.
- Subject balance - how subjects are defined, how many are taught, and the time allocated to each in our school curriculum.
- Duration of school time. Positive correlations are noted between instruction time and student achievement at both primary and secondary levels. Between 850 and 1,000 effective hours (not necessarily official hours) of schooling per year is broadly agreed as a benchmark.
- Pedagogic approaches for better learning. Child-centred active pedagogy, cooperative learning and the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills need to be promoted in our school system. Teachers need to acquire the necessary pedagogical knowledge and skills that would enable them to bring the curriculum to life.
- Language policy. Since our curriculum materials are written in English we need to have a language policy for our schools that encourages the use of the English language for instruction and daily conversation between teachers and teachers, and teachers and students. Language of instruction is a policy choice affecting curriculum, content and pedagogy. A balance needs to be struck between enabling teachers and students to use local languages in learning and ensuring that they have adequate opportunities to learn and use global languages that are dominant in the curriculum. In our case it is English.
- Learning from assessment. We need to have assessment policy for our schools to ensure regular, reliable, timely assessment is a key to improving learning achievement. The goals are to give learners feedback and improve learning and teaching practices. Teachers need to be encouraged to use formative assessment as a complement to formal examinations.
Therefore, if we want to provide quality education for our pupils and students we need to:
- take time to reflect on our curriculum. Does our curriculum offer opportunities for the holistic development of individual pupils? Is it up to date?
- reflect on our School Syllabus. Do they promote a developmental approach and specify the learning outcomes in each subject with a clear learner-centred focus?
- work on further evaluating the learning outcomes that can be achieved within the given time frame in order to allow time for meaningful learning to take place and to avoid undue pressure on teachers and learners.
- Teachers need to reflect on their pedagogical practices and put greater emphasis on important knowledge and affective skills which cannot be easily assessed by written tests. Does our current school curriculum provide space for teaching that emphasise application of knowledge, analysis, synthesis and evaluation besides recall and simple understanding of concepts? Does it open up opportunities for activities and learning experiences where pupils or students develop personal and social skills and attitudes as they interact by sharing, discussing, acting responsibly, using different forms of communication and accepting diversity?
- Teachers need to explore the use of cross-curricular, problem-solving and thematic activities, which allow pupils to experience the association between different areas of knowledge, which can gradually lead to more interesting, enjoyable and meaningful teaching and learning experiences.
- If teachers are to be effective in their teaching roles and provide quality education for students they teach they need to be supported. Are we providing enough support for teachers in schools?
- Supportive conditions that will ensure effective teaching and learning opportunities in schools will include: allocating time for professional conversations and for teachers to self-reflect on their teaching practices and learn from their experiences, providing resources to support teaching and learning, and developing policies that support the provision of quality education in schools.
- Schools need to have strong leaders who are visionary and ensure teachers carry out their roles effectively, and provide quality education for their pupils and students.
- Although teachers are at the frontline of teaching in the classroom, school principals, in collaboration with school board chairpersons, and education authorities are responsible for setting clear visions, expectations, and standards for their schools.
- Essentially, school principals and school boards are responsible for the professional culture within a school, and the means by which a school can achieve specific standards and expectations. Thus, the quality of leadership that is prevalent in a school system determines the type of school culture experienced by teachers and students in schools.
- School principals in collaboration with school boards and education authorities need to ensure teachers are provided with the necessary teaching resources and learning opportunities in schools.
In conclusion, a school system that focuses on quality education allows teachers and students to develop and grow in school environments that are supportive and at the same time challenging, which nurture them to become confident, have positive self-esteem and willingness to strive forward yet at the same time feel a sense of responsibility towards each other’s learning and development.
Schools as Learning Communities need to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers, so that they can upgrade their knowledge and skills and become more effective in their teaching roles.
Schools as Learning Communities should focus and commit itself to the learning of its members.
In schools, this means a commitment to the learning of teachers and students.
I believe all our schools can be such places where teachers, pupils and students of different abilities can develop, learn and grow together.
Thank you all for your attention and Happy World Teacher’s Day, 2013.