Thursday, March 12, 2015

Canada Welcomes the Teaching Profession

by J. Alan McIsaac
Vice-Chair, Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC)
Minister, Education and Early Childhood Development, Prince Edward Island

On March 29 and 30, Canada will play host to Implementing Highly Effective Teacher Policy and Practice – The 2015 International Summit on the Teaching Profession (ISTP 2015). The setting will be Banff, Alberta, the jewel of the Canadian Rockies and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The driving ethos of the summit is the centrality of teaching to education and, by extension, to social and economic development. Its aim is to promote the teaching profession worldwide: to improve its techniques, enhance its appeal, and raise its status as a rewarding career and a respected calling.

Canada is proud to further that aim. With hundreds of delegates from top education systems around the world, ISTP 2015 will provide a wealth of opportunities for generating new ideas and promoting new initiatives. That is one of the surest ways of leading the profession to an even brighter future.

Best practices from the best systems 

The delegates to ISTP 2015 come from across the globe. They represent a remarkable variety of languages and cultures. They come from societies of differing degrees of economic development. Yet, they all share one thing in common: they speak for excellence. 

The systems represented are among the highest-performing in the world or are among those that have demonstrated the most rapid improvement — as measured by results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) an OECD flagship assessment programme.

ISTP has always focused on sharing best practices from around the world, and this year’s summit is no different. Education ministers and leaders of teachers’ unions and associations, along with individual teachers, students, and a variety of education stakeholders will have the opportunity to learn from each other’s challenges and successes by engaging in open and frank discussions on the many issues we all have in common. From national standards, to team teaching, to lesson study, the nuts and bolts of teaching will be on the table. 

Three themes: leadership, recognition and self-efficacy, innovation

The answers to those questions will be formulated within the context of three themes. 

The first is developing and promoting effective leadership. Participants will look at those elements that contribute significantly to a strong sense of leadership in school systems, including distributed leadership, opportunities for professional development, and instructional leadership for principals.

The second theme is supporting teacher recognition and strengthening teachers’ sense of effectiveness, or “self-efficacy.” Evidence from the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) suggests that the most successful education systems are those in which the value of the teaching profession is widely recognised by society. Teachers need to believe in themselves to be the best they can be. Yet, how do we get teachers to believe in themselves? This challenge touches on many aspects of the teaching profession, from managing a diverse classroom (a universal theme in teaching) to the need for mutual support, interpersonal relationships, and professional collaboration. It is an ongoing challenge, but one that participating jurisdictions are addressing in their own unique ways.      
   
The final theme is encouraging innovation in the 21st-century classroom, which touches on another universal theme in the profession: the challenge of disruptive technology. We are all — no matter what our culture or society — grappling with the changes brought about by information technology. Those changes are driving a need for innovation. 

This does not mean that innovation itself must always take a technological form. Teachers need to develop new ways to collaborate and communicate. Administrators need to implement new structures for feedback and evaluation. Ministries need to articulate new strategies that ensure coherence across systems in the face of considerable change. These all involve the human element of innovation and do not depend on keeping up with the latest advances in smart phones or tablets.

My colleagues from Canada’s 13 provinces and territories and our co-host, The Learning Partnership, are looking forward to welcoming delegates to ISTP 2015. We encourage you to you to bring your best ideas and your most challenging questions.

(And don’t forget a warm jacket! See you in March.)

Links:
The 2015 International Summit on the Teaching Profession (ISTP 2015)
ISTP Summit Background report: Schools for 21st-Century Learners: Strong leaders, confident teachers, innovative approaches by Andreas Schleicher, Director, OECD Directorate for Education and Skills
Join a public webinar on 27 March, 17:00 CET with Andreas Schleicher, Director of the OECD Education and Skills Directorate. Password to register OECDEDU.
Follow on Twitter #ISTP2015
Photo credit: Council of Ministers of Education, Canada




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