Setting clear requirements for teachers. Attracting strong personnel in the teaching profession. Motivating them to work more effectively.
These are some of the policies and programmes that affect the effectiveness of teachers according to a new report. At the request of the government, Bulgarian teachers have been evaluated by the World Bank through the new SABER-Teachers facility. The SABER report was presented at the ‘Quality Education for Every Child in Bulgaria – Key Government Policies and School Practices’ conference, held on 14 and 15 November in Sofia. The document provides a snapshot of the main policies of teachers in Bulgaria and compares them with the policies of the best educational systems in the world. It analyses them and offers opportunities for strengthening them.
Attracting strong personnel to the teaching profession
A large percentage of teachers will retire in the next decade. It is important to develop a strategy aimed at new entrants into the profession through the introduction of more demanding requirements for admission of teachers in high schools, the report said. It is necessary to provide competitive salaries to teachers and to make the effectiveness of their work one of the criteria of promotion and career development, while reducing the influence of length of service on the requirements for promotion.
Among other recommendations for strengthening policies regarding the effectiveness of teachers mentioned in the report is the introduction of a mentoring programme to enable student teachers without formal teaching qualifications to work in schools while they are still in the process of obtaining a teacher’s certificate.
The World Bank report suggests eliminating the existing requirement that candidates have a university degree in the subject or discipline in which they will teach in school. For example, a teaching qualification should be aquired after the passing of a test on the subject, in order to verify the candidate’s knowledge. Talented candidates from other professions who have degrees in a given subject can be equally qualified to teach it, and so they too would be able to enter the profession, the report said.
To attract strong staff to the teaching profession, there is also a need to develop and implement a national communications strategy to raise the prestige of the profession, the report notes.
Evaluation of teaching and student performance
So far, existing systems for the evaluation of students’ achievements exist to take decisions based on educational policies, rather than on the learning process. So far, the work of teachers is evaluated every year, but this evaluation does not always reflect the actual results of their work. In order to improve this system, the report proposes:
- Setting standards for teachers to use in their evaluation;
- Ensuring that systems for assessing teachers reflect the quality of teaching and connect teacher assessment with student performance (through observations of teachers in class, conducting interviews with students and parents, etc.);
- Establishing a system of external evaluation of teachers (provided for in the new draft).
Motivating teachers for higher achievements
Currently teachers are motivated to receive an annual bonus to their salary if they have high scores in their work, but do not get the opportunity for career development. One of the proposals in the World Bank report is that the appraisal of teachers be tied to their remuneration and career opportunities. Another proposal is that a guarantee be given that they will receive recognition and reward for the time and effort they invest in activities related to the improvement of the teaching process, as well as encouraging highly effective teachers with more attractive incentives.
Capable school principals to guide teachers
Currently the work of headteachers is to oversee teachers and to assist them in their practice, and the results of their work are tied to their remuneration. They are not mentors and leaders of teachers, and could become more effective leaders if they assessed needs, i.e. the specific needs and problems that teachers face in their work. Another of the recommendations is to introduce a mandatory mentoring program as well as courses to enhance leadership skills and continuing professional development (which is provided for in the new draft).
The report says further that the views of students and teachers must carry significant weight in the evaluation of directors.
Set clear expectations for teachers
In accordance with this, there should be clear expectations in terms of the knowledge which students have to acquire and what teachers should do to reach this goal. Although the amount of time available to improve the learning process is limited, the thorough identification of pedagogically incorrect assignments by teachers is included in improving the learning process, as is their tranformation into official requirements, recommends the report. The coming recommendation is expected to be determined according to the percentage of time teachers spend teaching and the percentage of their time devoted to other necessary activities that will contribute to improve the learning process.
Preparation of teachers through training and practice
Beginner teachers in Bulgaria can gain practical teaching skills, but this is over a short period and is before they are expected to teach independently. The recommendation is for a longer period of practical experience before obtaining a teaching qualification and a requirement for new teachers to participate in induction programmes, receiving mentoring support from experienced colleagues.
Connecting teachers with students in need
It is necessary to develop a system to identify schools in difficulties relating to a shortage of teachers, and to provide incentives for teachers who work in difficult-to-fill schools.
Support for teachers to improve teaching practice
At the moment, teachers pay to participate in some professional development activities. Some possible measures to improve these opportunities include maintaining requirements for teachers in basic school education to take part in actions for professional development and regulating the frequency of this participation (which is provided for in the new draft), so as to focus on the quality and not the quantity of professional development activities. It is necessary to follow up on the effects of teacher participation in professional development activities and to ensure that schools have adequate funding for these activities.
Translator: Morgan James/volunteer