By Scott Sterling
On October 5th, the world gathers together to celebrate and give attention to teachers.
World Teachers’ Day is an initiative from UNESCO that began in 1994. Although its primary purpose is to celebrate the teaching profession and its impact on the world’s children, it is also a time to discuss the issues surrounding teaching, such as preparation, training, and employment issues.
The main event of the day happens in Paris, where leaders gather in conference and awards are given for outstanding teaching and advocacy, culminating in UNESCO’s Hamdan prize. The award celebrates the improvement of the teaching profession on a worldwide level and amounts to a $300,000 prize to be split among three winners.
Yet you don’t have to go to Paris to participate. There are more than 100 other events worldwide that have been registered on the official site, everything from parties to serious conferences.
Although individual countries have their own ideas for teacher recognition (including May’s Teacher Appreciation Week in the US), World Teachers’ Day is the best opportunity for the world to get together and recognize that teachers are helping to create global citizens who are expected to contribute to issues across the globe.
This year’s World Teachers’ Day comes at a critical time for education around the world. 72 million primary school-aged children have no access to education and more than 700 million adults are illiterate. These deficits are caused by both economic and cultural situations, but hopefully with enough time and awareness can be remedied. To accomplish UNESCO’s goal of universal primary education by 2020, 12.6 million teachers will need to be recruited worldwide.
The stakes are high; in low-income countries, every year of school attended equates to a 10% increase in income over the course of a lifetime.
Although the US does its best to make education available to all students, American teachers still face challenges that should be acknowledged. Budgets are only nominally increasing since the recent economic downtown. Students enter school without family support and parental involvement. Changing educational standards make preparing students for success a moving target.
The issues facing teachers may be different around the world and vary in complexity, but it’s important to acknowledge World Teachers’ Day and bring everyone together to recognize and discuss a universal profession that is key to worldwide development.