CTF’s International Program: Teachers’ Action for Learning

By Cassandra Hallett and Alex Davidson
March 7, 2014

Education International (EI)’s current theme,Unite for Quality Education, launched in conjunction with the 2013 World Teachers’ Day profoundly resonates for those of us at CTF’s International Program. Learning of EI’s thematic focus was like hearing an echo, a deep reverberating call to the work we have focused on for over 50 years. CTF has a long, proud history of extending its work nationally and internationally as a strong voice for teachers with an emphasis on quality, publicly funded Education for All. This work has typically included efforts to unite with other professionals, with civil society, and with communities to positively influence government education agendas and policies. It is no wonder, therefore, that we hear deep resonance in EI’s theme.

From the inception of the CTF International Program in 1962, when Canadians travelled to Africa to work with the Nigeria Union of Teachers, we have been uniting with national teacher organizations, the key partners in our work. In a true partnership, all partners are both beneficiaries and contributors, and this is especially the case in the quest for quality Education for All. For instance, in November, representatives of the Pan African Teachers’ Centre, the Caribbean Union of Teachers, and the African Women in Education Network came to Ottawa to assist CTF and its Members as we looked for the best strategies and approaches to strengthen quality education worldwide. The discussion was rich with understandings and insights that none of us could have had on our own, and our collaboration has been essential for the emergence of a revised CTF International Program. View this short video featuring representatives of these three partners who describe the value of our partnership.

As well as with teacher organizations, we also unite with practicing classroom teachers – professionals with the agency to make a tremendous difference in the lives of their students, the professionalism of their colleagues, the strength of their teacher organizations, and the quality of their national education systems. Canadian teachers who volunteer to work with CTF overseas invariably are humbled by the determination, commitment and enthusiasm of colleagues who live a world away. And it is difficult to experience a greater professional unity than the mutual inspiration that results when two teachers from different continents work together in practical ways to improve the quality of education. When CTF volunteers return to their classrooms, they often report a renewed commitment to and enthusiasm for their work. Everyone is a beneficiary.

Near the beginning of many CTF supported projects, our partners bring together local stakeholders. This may include local groups working in the areas of gender equality, non-violent conflict resolution, literacy acquisition and so forth. It may also include governments, agencies and services such as the Ministry of Education (MOE), police or local health providers. A variety of community leaders may be invited to explore needs, strategies and action plans. In the Caribbean, several National Teachers’ Organizations (NTOs) came together with MOE staff and University faculty to share promising practices and contribute to the development of in-service programs addressing a gap teachers in the region had identified – practical strategies for Inclusive Education. The Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) held community meetings which began a process for establishing and implementing action plans to improve education in the villages, and resulted in better trained teachers, more resources and better schools. Everyone contributed, and everyone benefitted.

The influx of millions more students into the publicly-funded education system in developing countries has been a shock to national school systems. Most teachers in the global south are now under or untrained. Literacy rates are terribly low. Too many girls are unsafe in school and do not complete their education. Inadequate education funding has resulted in extremely large class sizes. These and other related factors have naturally resulted in poor learning outcomes. Rather than looking at the core causes, there are many who have been quick to blame teachers and the public nature of the education system for this failure. The needs of teachers and the role of teacher organizations have been overlooked and children in schools are suffering as a result.

CTF’s International Program engages teachers, from home and abroad, in taking action for learning. We choose to collaborate and unite for quality education rather than merely despair or pass the buck. As we have stood united with other teacher organizations across Canada and throughout the world for over half a century, we have had opportunity to contribute to many of the advances that have been made, and we have benefitted from strong support of Members and partners alike. In 2014, with EI’s powerful theme sounding, we hear an equally strong call to continue to Unite for Quality Education.

Alex Davidson and et Cassandra Hallett are International program officers with the Canadian Teachers’ Federation

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Perspectives web magazine is published by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), a national alliance of provincial and territorial teacher organizations that represent over 273,000 elementary and secondary school teachers across Canada.

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