Unions Around the World Defining the Teaching Profession
In conversations about Finland’s stunning success over the past decade, many education leaders look at what makes the system work so well – the high bar for entry into the teaching profession, the absence of standardized tests, the embedded professional development and support systems, to name just a few – and ask “Why can’t we do this in my country?” But what makes Finland even more unique is that education policy is largely free of politics. Whether it’s the status and prestige of teachers or the problem of educational inequity, these are matters on which politicians on the right and left agree.
But that’s Finland. Where does that leave so many other countries, including the United States, whose national conversation over education is tarnished by divisive, partisan politics and competing interests? How can public education advocates cut through the noise of grandstanding politicians and bad research and lead in transforming the teaching profession?
It’s time for the public to stop listening to those who have never been in front of a classroom and who espouse ideas that undermine public education, says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.
“You have to remember that many people who are talking about reform are not really talking about education, as in what’s really works for teachers and their students. Their interest is something else – privatization, for example. We know what works and we need to be out front.”
“The status quo is not acceptable,” Van Roekel said. “And we can change it. But the idea now is for educators to stop asking for permission.”
Van Roekel made these remarks on a panel of international teacher leaders at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning in New York City on Friday. The topic was how unions around the world are taking the initiative in defining the teacher profession as it faces serious challenges inside and outside the classroom. Joining Van Roekel was Mike Thiruman, president of the Singapore Teachers’ Union, Eva-Lis Sirén, president of the Swedish Teachers’ Union and Angelo Gavrielatos, president of the Australian Education Union. Linda Darling-Hammond, professor of education at Stanford University, moderated the panel, which followed the completion of the second annual International Summit on the Teaching Profession.