Taking a stand for teachers is taking a stand for public education

By Paul Taillefer
October 4, 2012

The last few years have been very difficult for teachers in Canada and around the world.

In Canada, we have witnessed continued threats to the integrity of our democratic organizations, threats to collective bargaining, and continued efforts to de-professionalize teaching.

The financial crisis has impacted public education as governments of all stripes try to balance the books, on the backs of teachers, under the banner of “austerity measures” which can only be characterized as an attack on the democratic principles that have made Canada a great country.

Education International, the voice of 30-million educators around the world, believes that in order to attain quality in education, governments must provide working conditions which support teaching and teachers. These conditions include smaller class sizes, more opportunities for professional growth and development, salaries which are comparable to those in other professions and high quality induction programs.

Furthermore, the OECD’s 2011 background report for the International Summit on the Teaching Profession, “Building a High-Quality Teaching Profession: Lessons From Around the World” stressed the importance of meaningful teacher engagement in the development and implementation of educational reform, which aims to enhance quality in education.

For its part, CTF believes that to ensure the quality of public education, policy decisions need to be informed by teachers’ professional knowledge and expertise instead of being informed by people with little or no background in public education.

Canadian students’ highly acclaimed success on international measures demonstrates that teachers play a major role in assuring our future in this global knowledge economy as it rests in the hands of public education and the practitioners who are the experts in teaching and learning.

However, the question remains: “Are teachers being properly supported in the monumental task with which they have been confided.”

Teachers need to educate many more students with varying learning needs and with mental health challenges against a backdrop of changing demographics such as student ethnicity or family structures.

They must contend with advances in knowledge that need to be reflected in school curricula in a learning environment where new media and technology are incorporated into the classrooms.

They must take into account changes in the labour market that affect what students need to know and what they must be able to do, as well as deal with changes in student and parent expectations.

Teachers must also try to mitigate the effects of poverty and other socio-economic factors.

This is no small feat. But despite the challenges they face in today’s globalized world, teachers and their organizations have consistently shown the way forward.

It is not about educating for the 21st century. It is about making the 21st century better for all humankind. Standing up for teachers is in effect standing up for public education.

Happy World Teachers’ Day!

Paul Taillefer is President of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation from 2011 to July 2013.

Canadian Teachers’ Federation
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Fax: 613-232-1886
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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 238,000 elementary and secondary school teachers across Canada.

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