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From the Secretary…

As in the past, WTD 2019 will celebrate teachers of all ages and at all levels of their career, with this year, a particular focus on “Young Teachers: The future of the profession”. The day provides the occasion to celebrate the teaching profession worldwide, to take stock of achievements, and to address some of the issues central for attracting and keeping the brightest minds and young talents in the profession. The IEU is acutely aware of the need to support early career teachers as they enter the profession and navigate the practical, pedagogical and political aspects of their chosen profession. University presentations, reduced membership rates and access to our suite of professional products are the start, but it will take current members talking up the value of belonging to their union to on-board the next generation for effective and sustainable collective support.

The early twenty-first century is not an easy time to be a teacher. While teachers were once highly respected professionals, valued, trusted and accepted as inspirational role models for young people, nowadays they too easily serve as scapegoats for the failures of education systems. Indeed, in societies that tend to glorify celebrities, we are more likely to see praise heaped on performing artists, sports personalities and social media influencers than on outstanding teachers.

With large percentages of teachers likely to retire from practice in the coming decade, a major concern is that not enough young candidates are coming in to the profession to replace them. As we commemorate World Teachers’ Day 2019, we must take time to look at the future of the profession and the role of young teachers in it – taking onboard the changing climate of education and schooling, the need to draw in and retain a new generation of dedicated educators, and to prepare them for the 21st century challenges.

While the factors cited for teacher dissatisfaction depend on context, common factors across countries include a mixture of poor work-life balance, scarce opportunities for professional development, low salaries, limited inputs to decision-making, feelings of being unsupported and unappreciated, attacks on teachers’ employment terms and conditions and constant pressures created by out-of-phase curricular and exam reforms.

Given the challenges for attracting, recruiting and keeping young people in the teaching profession, it is crucial that authorities consult with, and take into account the opinions of their youth, recent graduates and teacher training academy students on how to plan more dynamic recruitment and training strategies, and how to make the teaching profession more attractive overall.

Many young teachers have so much more pressure and demands on them than before. National education reforms increasingly focus on standards and learning outcomes and teachers are expected to keep up, sometimes at lightning speed. And what mechanisms are there to provide support and encouragement to novice and young teachers in a more systematic way? The protection of decent employment and work conditions are the basis for any mechanisms in place. To this end, engaging teacher unions and governments in social dialogue is important to protect young teachers’ working conditions and rights, and to communicate to government what young teachers need and how they can be supported. In rural and hard-to-reach areas, alternative models may be needed to accompany young teachers, generate a sense of support from the teaching community and advance career progression.

From the perspective of pedagogy, young teachers today need to know so much more than their subject areas. They are expected to be early adapters of new technologies and constantly innovating ways for their students to grasp information. Teacher surveys underline the importance of regular meetings with a teacher mentor or peer collaborator for educators to reflect on their practice. Access to relevant continuous professional development is another central pillar of pedagogical support.

Without a new generation of motivated teachers wanting to make a difference, the global commitment to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” is clearly under threat.

Glen Seidel