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There's a Twist at the End of This Blog About the Status of Teachers

There is a twist at the end of this blog—can you wait for it or do you need to scroll to the end now?

I spent World Teachers' Day at the UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) headquarters listening to and meeting international experts on education. The theme of this year's event was "take a stand for teachers." Here are some recommendations from UNESCO's very active education division on the status of teachers across the globe. These are a few choice excerpts from a longer report; my editorial notes are italicized.

Pay close attention and remember—there's a twist!

On preparation for the profession:

Admission to teacher preparation should be based on the completion of appropriate secondary education, and the evidence of the possession of personal qualities likely to help the persons concerned to become worthy members of the profession.


Adequate grants or financial assistance should be available to students preparing for teaching to enable them to follow the courses provided and to live decently; as far as possible, the competent authorities should seek to establish a system of free teacher-preparation institutions.

Teacher prep needs a high bar for entry and then full subsidization to ensure top-quality recruits.

On employment and career:

Stability of employment and security of tenure in the profession are essential in the interests of education as well as in that of the teacher and should be safeguarded even when changes in the organization or within a school system are made.


The organization and structure of an education service, including that of individual schools, should provide adequate opportunities for and recognition of responsibilities to be exercised by individual teachers, on the condition that those responsibilities are not detrimental to the quality or regularity of their teaching work.

Authorities and schools should recognize the value of part-time service given, in case of need, by qualified teachers who for some reason cannot give full-time service.

Hybrid roles, career lattices, and tenure are assets and valued highly.

On the rights and responsibilities of teachers:

The teaching profession should enjoy academic freedom in the discharge of professional duties. Since teachers are particularly qualified to judge the teaching aids and methods most suitable for their pupils, they should be given the essential role in the choice and the adoption of teaching material, the selection of textbooks and the application of teaching methods, within the framework of approved programmes, and with the assistance of the educational authorities.


Any systems of inspection or supervision should be designed to encourage and help teachers in the performance of their professional tasks and should be such as not to diminish the freedom, initiative, and responsibility of teachers.

It's an important vision: teacher evaluation as a tool for improvement, not for fear and compliance.

On teachers' salaries:

Among the various factors which affect the status of teachers, particular importance should be attached to salary ...

'Nuff said.

These recommendations are rock-solid and top-performing OECD nations (Finland, Singapore, Korea) are already all over them.

Are you ready for the twist?

These recommendations were made in 1966! Yes—46 years ago in a joint report from UNESCO and ILO (International Labour Organization). Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States; Barack Obama had just turned 5.

In many ways, the U.S. has made extraordinary progress in education since the mid-1960s. We have many pockets of excellence. Other nations study us. Yet overall, we lag in comparisons with other OECD countries—ones who got the memo in 1966 that elevating the status of teachers is the keystone to educational and societal uplift.

Mini-twist #2: World Teachers' Day is celebrated on October 5 because that is the birthday of this watershed report.

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