Importance of a Quality and Relevant Education

“It is about universal access, but it must also be about the quality of education”

In São Tomé and Príncipe, one of the most common and easiest ways to get around are motorcycle taxis. We can find them in almost every corner of cities, towns, and villages, and the trips, short or long, easily become a moment of conversation and sharing of ideas and relief. On one of these trips, after the normal working hours for the people of São Tomé, we met Baía. The trip didn’t take more than 8 minutes, but we learned that, in addition to being a motorcyclist, he is also an English teacher at the Liceu Nacional. He told us that he earns the equivalent of €250 a month – I want to make it clear that nowhere in the world €250 can be considered a fair salary for a teacher – and that, therefore, after the school day is over, he picks up his motorbike and continues into the night working as a biker. Before we reached our destination, he still had time to tell us that he got his “accreditation” in English a few years ago, after a few months’ course at a hotel on the island, and that since then he has never had any extra training in the area. In a constantly updating world, a teacher like Baía has not been able to update his knowledge because he needs a second job to help pay the bills.

The history of humanity and the evolution of technology have already given us sufficient proof of the importance of universal access to education, but stories like Baía’s make us reflect on the importance of the quality of education given to future generations. According to Jutta Urpilainen, an EU commissioner for international partnerships, and Prof. Anyang Agbor, an AU commissioner for education, science, technology & innovation, “It is estimated that about 17-million teachers will be needed in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 to achieve universal primary and secondary education (…)” – which means nearly 2 million new teachers a year! But what if we can have fewer teachers, but more motivated and innovative, at the same time that we are able to offer an education of excellence, which gives students the necessary skills to overcome the challenges of the future? The incorporation of technology in teaching methods and the expansion of hybrid models, more flexible and personalized, allow more students to have access to quality teaching. At the same time, we can provide teachers/learning coaches with better conditions, both personal and professional, to carry out their work in an inspiring and creative way. The Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25) has already identified as two of its main strategic goals to revitalize the teaching profession to ensure quality and relevance at all levels and harness the capacity of ICT to improve access, quality, and management of education and training systems. To fulfill these objectives, new solutions will be needed, adapted to the different realities of each of the African nations. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, education mechanisms will be much more effective if they are adapted to the present and future needs of the communities where students and teachers/learning coaches are located.

We have in our hands a unique opportunity to be able to provide any child with a consolidated, empowering education that allows them to pursue their individual passions. The hybrid models bring with them greater flexibility in education, the digital and the on-site mix to create the ideal environment to explore each student’s individual potential. But even with all the technology available, socialization will always remain one of the most fundamental aspects of our development as global citizens, the exchange of ideas and perspectives will continue to guide the development of society. Therefore, while responding to the educational needs of the future, we need to create ways to also empower teachers/learning coaches, offering them personal and professional conditions that enhance their value and status in society and communities. These are the people who dedicate their lives to foster curiosity and open horizons for future generations, we need them to be motivated and motivating, to be examples of nonconformity, to seek innovation and bring new knowledge every day to the classroom.

Only in this way will we be able to ensure that stories like Baía’s are repeated less and less. We need all Baías to be able to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to the work and to the responsibility that is to transmit knowledge to the students with whom they work daily. All of this is necessary for us to be able to deliver quality education to future generations

Original Piece

Image credit: UNICEF Philippines/2016/Alanah Torralba

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