On October 5 every year, we honour the teachers – the most important driving force of education and learning. The World Teachers Day celebration is an opportunity for all of us to say “thank you” to all the teachers for their selfless service and contribution to the individual learners, families, communities, country and to the world.
Teachers not only pass on knowledge to students and learners, but also help in shaping their social, economic, environmental and cultural perspectives necessary for a just and sustainable society.
Teachers indeed are the “pillars” of the four pillars of education and learning –“Learning to know, Learning to do, Learning to be and Learning to live together”.
This year the theme for World Teachers’ Day (WTD) is “Teachers for gender equality”. Although women comprise the bulk of the teaching force globally, gender inequality remains an issue, particularly at the higher education levels.
Even though measures to ensure gender equality are enshrined into the policies and constitutions of many states, there is a long way to go before these goals are realised.
Teachers play a critical role towards the achievement of the Education for All (EFA) goal on gender equity. There is growing evidence worldwide on the positive impact of female teachers in increasing girls’ enrolment.
In addition to increasing enrolment, the teachers are instrumental in improving retention, reducing drop-out and in significantly improving the learning achievements and student performance through inclusive learner friendly environments.
Despite such critical importance, globally there is a severe shortage of teachers. According to recent projections, it is estimated that more than 10.3 million teachers need to be recruited to meet the goal of universal education by 2015, the majority in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Cambodia recognises the importance of gender equality in education and has put in place a number of policies. The challenge is to ensure effective implementation of these policies.
As the country continues to strengthen its teaching force, there is a shortage of qualified teachers, particularly female teachers, at the secondary and tertiary levels and also for science and mathematics.
In addition, other key challenges include recruitment, deployment, upgrading teacher qualifications, teachers training and preparations, professional development and career advancement, salaries and benefits etc.
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MOEYS) has developed the Teacher Development Master Plan (2010–2014) as a tool for teacher development and framework for effective partnership. In addition, MOEYS with technical support from development partners’ is now developing a national teacher policy, which will guide teacher development and engagement in the coming decade.
Investing in teachers is investing in the future; hence sustained investment is required to maintain a well-trained and motivated teaching force. At a time when the global economic slowdown risks putting tight constraints on education budgets, it is critical that governments and the international community continue to support recruitment, training, professional development and better employment conditions for teachers.
Together, we must commit to improving the social and financial status of teachers so that teaching is valued by young people as a favourable and respected future profession.
In Cambodia this year Global Campaign for Education, in collaboration with the MOEYS with support from development partners including UNESCO, is organising a series of events throughout the country as well as hosting radio talk shows in order to discuss the importance of teachers – especially female teachers.
Teaching is a challenging profession. It requires commitment, motivation, adaptability and flexibility. Each day teachers face new challenges and difficulties, for which they need to find creative ways to overcome these challenges to ensure that teaching and learning continues uninterrupted even during the worst conditions, in difficult locations and with limited resources and materials.
Teachers have an enormous impact on our society and future citizens as they are role models for our children. On this World Teachers’ Day, let us join together in thanking teachers for their exceptional contribution to society and to reiterate our commitments for better support for them to further improve quality learning opportunities for all.
Anne Lemaistre is the UNESCO Representative in Cambodia at the UNESCO Phnom Penh Office.