By Savanna Henderson, Humanitas Global
World Teachers’ Day is meant for celebrating and putting teachers on a pedestal. While the value of education is internationally recognized, the value of teachers rarely receives the same recognition. The details of Sustainable Development Goal four are to, “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Not mentioned, is the role and responsibility placed on teachers to provide such opportunities. Many teachers lack adequate training in certain topics, have to respond to crises, work without resources or use their own money to purchase them, and ultimately lack the tools and support needed to provide quality education to children. This culminates into this year’s theme for World Teachers’ Day, “Empowering teachers, building sustainable societies”.
The education ministry of Lebanon recently reported that they would begin providing school to Syrian refugees. The country’s schools could see an additional 200,000 children requiring extra classes to accommodate the growing student body. Not mentioned is the strain put on teachers to make accommodations for increased classes, student bodies, and lack of resources. As the sizes of classes grow, teachers often struggle to manage, supervise and engage or provide one-on-one help to their students. Imagine teaching math to a six year old while simultaneously teaching math to an eight year old; not only would they require separate lessons, but while one is receiving the lesson, the other needs to be kept busy with stimulating exercises to continue their learning. Now multiply that by ten and imagine what a teacher faces in a classroom of ten first graders and ten third graders. While teachers obviously choose their profession for a reason, they need to be acknowledged, supported and provided tools to provide the most effective teaching possible.
Speaking of resources, a vast majority of U.S. teachers spend their own money to provide school supplies to their students. This happens because of reduced education funding, a high population of students living in poverty or natural disasters that leave students in need of basic materials. One study found that the average teachers spend $500 of their own money a year on classroom supplies though some teachers can spend up to $6,000. Teachers are using their own money to buy books, games, art supplies, storage, paper, pencils and even food for students from food insecure households.
Adequate puberty education was recently explored in a previous blog entry as especially significant to girls’ education and completion of school. A UNESCO booklet closely examined the role of teachers in puberty education and found both male and female teachers are not prepared to discuss or teach puberty and menstruation with students. Globally, it was found that teachers will entirely omit or reduce puberty related material in the curriculum. This can occur because of local culture that embraces sensitivity around such topics or views it as taboo that results in a lack of training and preparation for teachers to educate students on the topic.
Education has been described as “the core of sustainable development and the most effective way to poverty eradication.” While there is truth to this statement, there must also be a focus on teachers and their role in developing sustainable societies without poverty. Teachers must be acknowledged, respected and empowered for the work they do. Most importantly, it is necessary to become aware of the contributions and sacrifices teachers make to ensure the needs of their students. More and improved tools, resources and support are necessary to provide a foundation for teachers to make SDG four a reality. Teachers must remain a priority beyond October 5 to support their contribution to society and ensure a quality education is available to all.