In a short note a while ago, I tried to write on the relevance of education for promoting democracy in Ethiopia. For education to be a tool for promoting democracy teachers play a vital role.
During their working hours teachers are meeting small children to adults from preschool up to tertiary education. They are the ones who are providing knowledge about the past, the present and the future of Ethiopia and other parts of the world. In addition to parents it is through them the young generation learn the skills necessary for their day to day life as well as long term development of the country.
Teachers are not only transferring knowledge to their students. Teachers who are aware of their responsibility give space for their students for asking, commenting and coming up with solutions for problems. By allowing participation of their students, teachers make the young generation contribute to knowledge development. In addition, general knowledge, teachers need to understand the situation in their local community to be able to integrate it in to the education they are providing. Students need to recognize the reality of their life in their education.
A country like Ethiopia with the large population of school children and a possible shortage of teachers might have a problem to at once focus on quality instead of producing a large number of teachers. But the long-term strategy should be on having teachers with high motivation, social competence and necessary skills for exercising their profession.
The government should take the lead in up lifting the profession. This could be done by encouraging teachers who are already working by increasing their salary, improving their working environment and providing them with on the job training to improve their skills and update their knowledge in the field. It is also a government responsibility to give the necessary support and directives to teacher training institutions to recruit students with motivation and to give them a good quality education with the necessary skills to be good teachers.
Teacher training institutions are responsible for providing student teachers with the accumulated knowledge of the profession including the teaching and assessment skills.
It is important during their education student teachers are out in the field to observe the reality in schools. This will introduce them to their future working places as well as give them a picture of the problems schools are facing at present. These problems could be brought to teacher training institutions for further discussion – and hopefully finding possible solutions.
To improve the education system by strengthening the teacher profession needs measure from different actors. Teachers can play their part by occasionally making effort to improve their knowledge and skills by reading and participating in available courses to strengthen their professionality, government and teacher training institutions by working to provide the necessary material and other facilities to produce competent teachers. Parents and the general public need to show respect for the profession and give necessary support for teachers who are responsible for upbringing future skilled and democratic citizens.
Getahun Yacob Abraham (PhD).