World Teachers’ Day – empowering teachers, building sustainable societies

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In the busyness of our day-to-day lives we don’t always have time to sit back and put things in perspective. The minutiae of everyday living overwhelms the big picture. But today I’d like us all to take the time to stop and think about that big picture.

Education and good teachers in particular are understood to be the key to creating sustainable societies, fit for the future. Each and every one of us has a role to play in preparing young people for a future in which there are no certainties.

It is important to remember the central role that teachers play in society at a time when negative views about education are presented in the press on a regular basis. Negativity can de-motivate us, so let’s remember today the exceptional work that is going on in schools and colleges across Scotland and beyond. The complexity of teaching is not something that is readily understood by those outwith the profession. The job of a teacher is challenging, without a doubt, but it’s hugely rewarding. The hard work and dedication of the profession to deliver high-quality learning and teaching, and make a difference to the lives of young people, day in day out, is not always recognised but it cannot be underestimated.

World Teachers’ Day is also a time to look beyond education in Scotland and think about teachers in other parts of the world. What we may consider to be basic necessities – electricity, technology, science equipment, textbooks – are lacking in many classrooms. However, the differences between our own education system and that of other countries, of course, extends well beyond resources. It is important to think about what we can learn from our colleagues in other countries, and what we have to offer them.

Despite the undoubted challenges of being a teacher today, I am always enthused by the passion displayed by our profession. This is a passion that we need to share and pass on to the next generation. Worldwide it is estimated there is a need to recruit 25.8 million school teachers if every child is to receive a primary education by 2030. The Scottish Government has launched a recruitment drive to encourage more people into the profession. We need to recruit and retain high-quality teachers in the profession; teachers who match up to the professional standards set out by GTC Scotland and who accept regulation as a key element of being a professional. We owe it to the students of the future, as well as future society, to do all we can to ensure that teaching is seen as an attractive and rewarding lifelong career.

However, not only do we need to recruit and retain more teachers, we need to ensure that they are equipped with the necessary skills they need to do their job properly, and that they are supported in their career-long development. Promoting professional learning, developing enquiring professionals and engaging in a meaningful way in Professional Update are all key elements of the infrastructure designed to do these things. All of us have an important role to play in building a stronger, self-sustaining profession that supports lifelong learning and teaching.