Education experts from around the globe say educators need to be more highly respected, rewarded and supported for reform to succeed.
Teachers 'must be given more money and esteem'
ABU DHABI // The key to reforming education is to give teachers better pay and more prestige.
That was the unanimous view of experts who gathered in the capital yesterday for the Transforming Education Summit.
The three-day summit, hosted by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), has brought together 150 specialists from around the world to discuss the future of education.
The former British prime minister Gordon Brown told the summit that enhancing the quality of teachers and leaders was key.
But Andy Hargreaves, a professor of education at Boston College, said governments would not attract quality teachers if they "don't take the bad pay off the table".
Prof Hargreaves said teachers also needed to be supported in a challenging environment with incentives and development opportunities.
Bertel Haarder, first deputy speaker of Denmark's parliament and a former minister for education and research, said raising the profile of the profession was key.
"Our teachers have good salaries but there are other factors that need to be addressed as well," Mr Haarder said. "Parents often blame teachers for everything and society at large does not show them respect."
Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, director general of Adec, admitted the teaching profession was not at the top of the career list for many Emiratis but that was something the council was working to reverse.
"Teacher salaries in our schools are on par with some of the best pay scales offered in other countries," Dr Al Khaili said. "But we still face the challenge of attracting the best.
"This is because we are competing with salaries offered in other government sectors."
Mr Haarder said teachers in Finland, where state schools consistently rank among the best in the world for education output, are said to be the most motivated and the country's teacher-training programme followed must be emulated.
"In Finland there is a lot of care taken to train educators," he said. "Their professors are often those who have taught in classrooms, not someone who has never been in a class."
Richard Shediac, senior vice president at the consultancy Booz & Company, said it was important to look at developing leadership qualities in the push for change.
"Now the trend is towards more collaborative rather than top-down education systems around the world," Mr Shediac said. "This is to provide more autonomy and flexibility at the lower levels."
He said the two could coexist but should ultimately give way for a group work model.
Mr Shediac also promoted the idea of public-private partnerships.
"It is important that [the private sector] is part of the dialogue, especially in the Mena region, to create job opportunities for the youth," he said.
Booz & Company will present the findings and recommendations from the conference at the end of the summit today.
"We want to articulate a set of clear priorities in education," Mr Shediac said.
"What works in one region may not in another but this can be a starting guide to build capability."