UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report signals role change for teachers worldwide

The 2017/18 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report (the GEM Report) was recently released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The GEM Report aims to inform education and aid policy through the analysis of challenges facing countries globally. While the primary audience of the GEM Report usually consists of decision-makers such as ministers, policymakers, parliamentarians and education planners, other groups such as teachers and non-government organisations may find some of the international trends and expectations relevant to their development of new school policies and communications for their school community.

Background to UNESCO

UNESCO is responsible for coordinating international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication. Its work strengthens the ties between nations and societies and mobilises the wider public so that each child and citizen:

  • has access to quality education; a basic human right and an indispensable prerequisite for sustainable development
  • may grow and live in a cultural environment rich in diversity and dialogue, where heritage serves as a bridge between generations and peoples
  • can fully benefit from scientific advances
  • can enjoy full freedom of expression; the basis of democracy, development and human dignity.

UNESCO has developed 17 global sustainable development goals, and, in their new agenda for Leading Education 2030, developed in September 2015, it was recognised that education, and particularly Sustainable Development Goal 4, was essential for the success of all 17 global sustainable development goals.

Of particular relevance to our School Governance education community is Sustainable Development Goal 4, which provides 10 targets to achieve the goal of inclusive and equitable quality education for all children worldwide.

Report background and previous report conclusions

The GEM Report is part of a series of reports, beginning with the Education for All Global Monitoring Report (delivered annually from 2002 to 2015) whose mandate is to monitor progress towards the education targets in the new Sustainable Development Goals framework. It was renamed and relaunched under the GEM Report title in 2016. Previous reports have covered such diverse topics as sustainable education (2016); armed conflict and education (2011); early childhood care and education (2007); literacy (2006) and gender equality in education (2003/2004).

Submissions are currently underway for the 2019 report on Migration and its effect on education worldwide.

Current report trends and analysis

This year’s report was titled Global Education Monitoring Report 2017Accountability in Education and examines different accountability mechanisms used to hold governments, schools, teachers, parents, the international community, and the private sector accountable for inclusive, equitable and quality education.

The GEM Report stressed that accountability through trust was essential in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 and highlighted the responsibility of government to provide universal education of good quality. But the GEM Report also warned that disproportionate blame on teachers or schools for systemic educational problems can have serious negative side effects such as: penalising poor countries and widening inequality, eroding teacher motivation, and narrowing the curriculum, therefore damaging learning in the process.

The GEM Report focused on the following key components for accountability in education including:

  • Government: accountable for a right to education, equitable resource allocation and evidence based inclusive planning
  • Schools: accountable for a safe and supportive learning environment, whole school improvement and a healthy place to learn
  • Teachers: accountable for high quality gender-equitable teaching, student well-being and a professional code of ethics
  • Parents: accountable for child attendance and participation in the child’s education
  • Students: accountable for good behaviour through school wide codes of conduct so there is no disruption of learning or teaching
  • Private Sector Organisations: accountable for school meals, learning materials and private tutoring as well as other contracted obligations.

As stated by a Sydney Morning Herald article, by holding all parties accountable for their part in the education puzzle, teachers are not being placed under inappropriate and unrealistic expectations in relation to student well-being, particularly student behaviour while not on school grounds, with some of the biggest accountability problems being encountered in cyber safety.

Lessons learnt from the international education space

The GEM Report calls on governments to:

  • design accountability for schools and teachers that is supportive and formative and avoids punitive mechanisms, especially those based on narrow performance measures
  • develop credible and efficient regulations with associated sanctions for all education providers, public and private, that ensure non-discrimination and quality of education
  • be transparent about the strengths and weaknesses of education systems, opening policy processes to broad and meaningful consultation and publishing a regular education monitoring report.

Craig D’cruz, National Education Consultant, CompliSpace, says that schools and teachers have been clearly held responsible for the attainment of student outcomes for many years but the express use of term accountable, makes this far more appropriate and valid. However, it is not just a government role to ensure that this happens. Although the Gem Report calls on governments to design accountability structures for schools and teachers, all non-government schools should be doing this as part of their cultural persona- to set and ensure that they meet performance indicators that show regular improvements in student learning outcomes and to show that their school is truly child safe and non-discriminatory.

Schools and school teachers have a moral and ethical responsibility to educate and care for children. It is a duty of care that cannot be abrogated, nor can it be taken lightly. In addition, the key components of the Gem Report state clearly that the education of children is a shared responsibility with parents and the students themselves. This is the crux of education in a school. The duty of care lies solely with the school but the accountability for the education of the children is shared between the teachers, the parents and the children themselves. It can be far too easy for parents to say that the education of their child is solely the responsibility of the school. Although this does happen, schools need to ensure that each child’s learning journey is safe, conducted in a supportive learning environment and the parents and the children must be consulted, involved and integrally involved in this journey or they will not own it.

Schools and teachers can take lessons from the GEM Report’s findings in accountability and make sure their school processes:

  • are transparent with good quality assurance frameworks
  • invite school communities and families to participate in the school policy process
  • foster safe learning environments
  • provide teachers with adequate support and training to fulfill their responsibilities.

In this way, schools, families, students, teachers and the greater school community can have a mutually beneficial relationship with everyone playing their part in the learning journey of every child, thus fulfilling the 10 targets to achieve the goal of inclusive and equitable quality education for all children worldwide.

About the Author

Lauren Osbich is a Legal Research Consultant and School Governance reporter. She can be contacted here.

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