On 5 October 1966 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) held an intergovernmental conference in Paris concerning the status of teachers across the world. The outcome was the politically persuasive (but sadly not legally binding) UNESCO/ILO* Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers, outlining the minimal acceptable standards in key areas such as professionalism, cooperation in policy issues, teacher-training, professional freedom, rights, responsibilities, hours of work, salaries and teacher shortages; the premise being to raise awareness and support for issues facing teachers worldwide.
Now and since 5 October 1994, to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the recommendation, World Teacher’s Day is celebrated and recognised in more than 100 countries. Most national governments would claim to support the values and principles set out in the Recommendation, though are not legally obliged to follow them and often fail to do so by making unacceptable demands on education professionals or being too quick to point the finger of blame at teachers themselves when education policies do not make the grade.
The motto of this year’s World Teacher’s Day is “Take a stand for teachers!” with the emphasis being on raising awareness and mobilising international public support for the pivotal role that all teachers have in inspiring future generations and therefore ultimately on shaping the future of nations as well as citizens of our global society. It is essential that we recognise the invaluable contribution that teachers make to the provision of education at all levels, whether state or privately funded, from early years institutions right through to adult education colleges and distance learning or home-schooling organisations such as Oxford Open Learning. In a developed nation such as our own, where primary and secondary education remains free and accessible to all and is of a relatively high standard, it is incredible that teachers often go unappreciated, undervalued and do not receive the respect they deserve for the positive difference they make day-in day-out in the lives of young people, our society’s future.
As Irina Bokova (Director General of UNESCO) states “Teachers… ultimately determine our collective ability to innovate, to invent, to find solutions for tomorrow. Nothing will ever replace a good teacher. Nothing is more important than supporting them. ” Never a truer word was said, and if you are not sure whether you agree or not… just think where you would be now without that single teacher who inspired you to be who you are today, who gave you the confidence to achieve, who empowered you by showing you or making you realise your own potential. Moreover just think where our learners – young and old alike – our nation, our entire world in fact would be without teachers.
*The International Labour Organization