Fifth grade teacher teaching students using tablet computers in library

World Teachers’ Day: Take a Stand for Education

28 Sep 2016 by Isabel Ticlo
“Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well.”—Aristotle.

It is recognized that teaching plays a vital role in society as the one profession that creates all other professions. In addition to implementing education goals, teachers are responsible for molding and shaping future generations based on knowledge, values and ethics. Unfortunately, poor training, low status, shortages and wage cuts are chipping away at this necessary and noble vocation.

As such, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed Oct. 5 as World Teachers’ Day to celebrate our hard working school staff and shine light on the issues limiting their potential.

Celebrating world teachers’ day

World Teachers’ Day was established in 1994 to honor the special intergovernmental conference held on Oct. 5 1966 by UNESCO in Paris. At this momentous event, the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation was adopted, setting forth the rights and responsibilities of teachers as well as guidelines around recruitment, employment and learning conditions to help foster education growth.

Today, the holiday is observed in more than 100 countries and commemorated at multiple events hosted by organizations such as: The Australian Education Union, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, the All India Secondary Teachers’ Federation, the Japan Teachers’ Union, The Teachers Council (New Zealand), the National Union of Teachers (United Kingdom) and the National Education Association (United States).

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics estimates that to achieve universal primary education by 2020, countries need to recruit a total of 12.6 million primary teachers. This may seem like a daunting task, but it’s not the first time there has been a call for more educators.

Early ages of teaching in America

From colonial times to the early 19th century, most schools were run by churches. Oftentimes, the schoolmasters were young men who were working to obtain a career in the law or the church. In rural areas, farmers or innkeepers took on the roles of educators and mentors for their small communities.

It wasn’t until the 1820s-1830s, otherwise known as the Common School Era, that the surplus of schools and lack of staffing opened the door for women to take charge in the classroom. The Common School equated that of our public schools today and provided free education for all children, regardless of their religion or social class. It was a revolutionary time — a big step toward universal learning and women in the workplace.

Although reformers argued that women were nurturing, moral and maternal by nature, they also made it clear that women only needed to be paid a third of what men received. In the 1800s, American women took the pay cut and fulfilled the need for educators because it was the first time in history that they were able to secure a greater knowledge base and sense of public usefulness. In 2015, female school teachers still earned less than their male counterparts with an average weekly earnings of $957 U.S. dollars compared to $1,077 U.S. dollars. With no historical movement to cushion the loss, female teachers today are less likely to accept the low paying jobs.

Gender wage gap infographic

Adversities facing teachers today

Granted, there are exceptions to the trend of underpaid teachers where educators are properly compensated for their work. For example, teachers in Luxembourg receive starting salaries of $79,000 in equivalent to U.S. dollars, earning 30% more than any other teacher in the world. On the flip side, teachers in Estonia reach a limited maximum salary of $17,000 a year. But these teachers are spending the same amount of time creating lesson plans, prepping, hosting study sessions, helping with extracurricular activities and grading assignments.

Since the 2000s, the supply of teachers has started to diminish worldwide as candidates find better benefits and pay elsewhere. Unfortunately, this shortage has not stopped the continual increase in classroom sizes. As a result, nations were faced with limited teachers struggling to apply their full potential to large classes. For example, in Sweden, the number of upper secondary teachers has decreased from a peak of 40,627 for the 2008-2009 school year to 34,329 for the 2015-2016 school year. This signifies the growing need for reform worldwide.

Number of teachers in upper secondary school in Sweden from 2007 to 2016 infographic

Teachers and technology

Extensively, enrollment in teacher preparation programs have declined by more than 30 percent since 2008. How can teachers free up their time so that they can further their development and better deliver on their lessons? The answer is simple: integrate technology in the classroom.

In the U.S., many teachers believe that technology will help them improve learning, but only 16% of teachers award their schools an ‘A’ grade for proper integration. Additionally, 48% of teachers find that the technology they do have available for use is outdated.

When you think about how many hours teachers spend grading assignments and reviewing projects —33% of their time to be exact — you can’t help but wonder how technology could speed up the process and create more opportunities for personalized learning plans.

With the right technology, teachers can implement digital tools to help expand learning beyond the walls of the classroom. 24/7 access to resources promotes independent study, accelerating learning and linking teachers to students through professional content. Devices such as tablets and smartboards facilitate interest in tech-savvy students, enhancing engagement and feelings of relevancy. Plus, the addition of hybrid classrooms offer flexibility that was impossible just ten years ago.

Of course, with greater accessibility comes security risks. It’s important to make sure schools receive quality, secure and dependable technology products and solutions to protect students and staff. Therefore, as we kick off World Teachers’ Day, don’t forget to celebrate the educators who inspire you and click here to learn more about how schools can boost learning and achieve a more modern, holistic approach to education by implementing the right devices.