Early stage teachers

Early-stage teachers and researchers

Introduction

Who are they?

Early-stage teachers are known by different names in different countries. In some countries, they are called “newly-qualified teachers” or “new teachers”, whereas in Europe they are commonly referred to as “young-teachers”. The variation in names helps reveal differences on how actors in the education system regard the needs of the group: whether they are fresh out of school or whether they have had prior professional experience in the field of teaching.

Education International has adopted the term “early-stage teachers” for this group of teachers . Early-stage teachers are newly-qualified or certified teachers who have completed their required pre-service training and are in their first years of service. The term seeks to accommodate all national differences and situations. While it is true that many early-stage teachers are young, it also includes individuals who enter the teaching profession late and face the same challenges as their younger peers.

What are their needs?

According to data released by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics on World Teachers’ Day in 2011, two million new teaching positions are needed each year in order to meet the goal of Universal Primary Education by 2015, a goal which was not met. Accounting for an attrition rate of 5% per year, the total number of primary teachers needed climbs to 5.4 million per year. However, early-stage teachers continue to leave the profession after their first few years. In the United States, 150,000 new teachers are trained each year, yet half of them quit within their first five years of teaching. Such high turnover rates mean that there will not be enough qualified and experienced teachers to take over for the ones that retire. The result is increased class sizes and a decreased quality of education. The quality of education will continue to decrease if schools hire unqualified teachers to fill the gap rather than addressing the problem at its root.

At global level, the requirement for new, well-trained professional teachers is enormous. According to “Education 2030: Inchon Declaration and Framework for Action for the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4” the needs are great, both in terms of quantity and quality, The Declaration states:

By 2030, 3.2 million more teachers are required to achieve universal primary education, and 5.1 million more will be needed to achieve universal lower secondary education. Plus, teachers leaving the profession between 2015 and 2030 will need to be replaced. In addition, in one-third of the countries with data, less than 75% of primary school teachers are trained to national standards. Past decisions to lower standards during shortages have contributed to a growing trend of classrooms being staffed by unprepared non-professionals.”

The causes of high turnover rate among early-stage teachers vary across countries, but some reasons include:

Low level of attractiveness of the profession: the status of the teaching profession (for guidance on status of teachers, see ILO/UNESCO Recommendation on the Status of Teachers) needs to be raised in order to attract the best and the brightest. Adequate remuneration and possibilities for both horizontal and vertical career developments within the school system must be offered. The working environment needs to be safe and healthy, providing the necessary resources needed for these teachers to fulfil their professional duties. Teachers should be consulted on all school and education policies and their opinions must be taken into consideration. These factors would contribute to increasing the attractiveness of the teaching profession and thus lowering the turnover rate.

Insufficient Support and Assistance: Many early-stage teachers look for help and do not find any within the immediate work environment. Insufficient pre-service training may account for such needs but teaching is a profession in which one learns on the job. Early-stage teachers sometimes need advice and school authorities should not reprimand or turn down such requests.

Insufficient work-life balance: Early-stage teachers are often overwhelmed by the realities of the profession. Teaching is a tough job that becomes increasingly harder when teachers are asked to take on more administrative and managerial tasks rather than concentrating on the core duties of their profession, which is to teach. Teachers also often bring their work home, which consumes much of their personal time. Education authorities should work to ensure a healthy-wok life balance for all teachers.

Lack of adequate in-service training: Teaching is a continually-evolving profession. Given the ever-increasing use of new information and communication technologies along with new discoveries being made and new events happening every day, teachers need to be encouraged to be proactive in the development of education. As such, teachers need to have the opportunity to take part in a wide range of courses to upgrade their knowledge and skills in order to discover new ways to improve learning and the teaching process.

Work-related stress

Teachers, including early-stage teachers, due to the above and other reasons, are often frustrated and victims of stress. Pressures to achieve what are often narrowly defined and measurable goals along with other factors lead to de-professionalisation. That causes teachers, including experienced ones, to leave the profession. Considerable work has been done on work-related stress by EI’s European regional organisation, ETUCE.

How and why do education unions support early-stage teachers?

Education unions organize early-stage teachers differently in different countries because of the way a teacher enters the profession, the way schools are organized, or simply based on the sector of education (primary, secondary, higher) that the union organizes.

In general, unions group early-stage teachers into two groups: pre-service personnel and in-service personnel. Pre-service personnel consist of student teachers or teacher trainees. In-service personnel are those who are in their first year of service or teachers who are a maximum of 35 years old.

Some examples of ways in which education unions offer support to early-stage teachers are:

  • Initiation guide

  • Periodicals such as magazines and bulletins

  • Social activities and training courses

  • Online networking (website, blog, Facebook page or other social networks)

  • Helplines

  • Mentorship programs

  • Assistance in job search 

Education unions play an important role in increasing the retention rate of early-stage teachers. This includes through defending the profession and the status of teachers. The strength and future of teacher trade unionism will require the membership and active participation of new members.This requires the meaningful involvement of early-stage teachers in all decision-making processes and the preparation of young union leaders.

What is Education International doing to support early-stage teachers?

As the global union federation representing all education workers, we at EI consider early-stage teachers a crucial element of our work with member organizations.

In 2011, the World Congress passed the Resolution on Recruitment and Organizing, which recognizes early-stage teachers as a “key group in determining the future of children and students in education, the future of teacher unions and of the entire teaching profession.” The document “recommends that member organizations make it a priority to recruit early-stage teachers and researchers, to identify the issues affecting them, to meet their needs and equip them with knowledge of their rights and train them to assume leadership positions within the trade unions.”

In 2012, a mapping exercise was carried out to collect information about the situation of early-stage teachers and researchers in all countries and union policies/strategies in organizing them. 

As part of its advocacy work with other international organizations such as the OECD and UNESCO, EI highlights the needs of early-stage teachers and researchers and submits country examples where the low retention rate among early-stage teachers corresponds to low PISA results.

Policy

EI policy on early-stage teachers is determined by resolutions passed by the World Congress since 2007. These resolutions stress the critical role that early-stage teachers play in the development and progression of quality publicly-funded education and emphasizes ways to ensure that early-stage teachers continue in the profession. The EI World Congresses have passed the following resolutions with regarding to early-stage teachers: “Resolution on Quality Education: Present and Future” (2007), “Resolution on Recruitment and Organizing” (2011), and “Resolution on Young and Early-Stage Teachers, Researchers, and Support-Personnel” (2015). For more information about these resolutions, click here.

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