Teaching and teachers

How can education systems help teachers to cultivate student learning?

Not as easy as A, B, C

Teaching is not a straightforward task. For classroom teaching to be effective, many components need to line up. Lesson activities and textbooks need to be aligned with learning goals, which need to be accurately assessed in tests and exams. All of those components need to be compatible with students’ learning levels, needs, and contexts.

Competing expectations

Teachers are pivotal to children’s current and future well-being. But teachers occupy a difficult position. They face competing expectations from different sources:

  • top-down expectations from the education ministry, district officials, headteachers, and everyone in between
  • ground-level expectations from students, parents, and communities.

Some of these expectations help teachers’ work toward student learning. Other expectations detract from learning—such as targets for completing the curriculum whether or not children understand what is taught, or pressure to raise test scores even by rote memorisation or cheating.

So what should we do?

Education systems need to strike a careful balance. Given teachers’ tremendous responsibility, they must be held accountable for students’ learning. But given the complexity of their task, teachers also need the training, instructional materials, and autonomy that would equip them to facilitate student learning—and stakeholders need to take a holistic, context-sensitive view of the quality of teaching.

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