There has been much talk about teacher professionalism of late. This is often spoken of in the same breath as “21st century skills”. What has professionalism got to do with acquiring 21st century skills? And what does it mean for teachers?
If you are teaching today, you cannot escape the reality of the “21st century”. This information-rich, technology-based world requires different skills and competencies.
But to develop future-ready students for tomorrow requires future-ready teachers today. Thus the need for teachers to remain on top of the game, to be equipped with these skills in order to impart them.
For teachers in Singapore, these “21st century skills” are clearly outlined in Curriculum 2015 (Ng, 2008). C2015 presents a vision of “an education system geared to the needs of the 21st century” (MOE, 2009).
Governments around the world are concerned with building an education system that is relevant to 21st century realities. In a report on teacher education for 21st century schools, it was noted that:
The challenges of the current context require a rethink of the notions of teacher professionalism…. We suggest that this requires of teachers, individually and of the profession as a whole, a strengthened or redefined professionalism, possessing specific 21st century characteristics that are crucial enablers for teachers to continue to do intelligent and demanding work in the classrooms. (International Alliance of Leading Education Institutes, 2008, p. 22, emphasis added)
Redefined professionalism basically means that we recognize teachers as bona fide professionals and their work as complex and demanding. It suggests that we accord due honour to members of the profession, as we would do to any other profession.
However, with the recognition also comes the expectation that every teacher will conduct himself or herself as a professional. This includes a commitment to continuous learning in order to enhance student outcomes and strengthen their professional identity.
This brings the discussion back to teacher professional development, a key focus of the recent MOE Work Plan Seminar.
“We need to build capacity for teachers themselves to take the lead in professional upgrading,” said Education Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen. It is a “quest for professional excellence” that is expected of every teacher. (Ng, 2009)
What does this mean in practical terms? In light of this discussion, we can ask ourselves the following questions:
- What does it mean for me, as a teacher, to be seen as a professional?
- What do I need to grow as a professional?
- What am I willing to do to develop myself as a teaching professional?
Or perhaps it is time to redefine our raison d’être – our “reason for being” in the teaching profession in the first place.
International Alliance of Leading Education Institutes. (2008). Transforming teacher education: Redefined professionals for 21st century schools. Singapore: National Institute of Education. (Available from the International Alliance Web site: http://www.intlalliance.org/reports.html)
Ministry of Education. (2009). About us. Retrieved October 1, 2009, from http://www.moe.gov.sg/about
Ng, E. H. (2008, September 25). [Speech by Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence, at the MOE Work Plan Seminar 2008.] Retrieved October 1, 2009, from http://www.moe.gov.sg/media/speeches/2008/09/25/speech-by-dr-ng-eng-hen-at-the-moe-work-plan-seminar-2008.php
Ng, E. H. (2009, September 17). Teachers – the heart of quality education. [Speech by Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence, at the MOE Work Plan Seminar 2009.] Retrieved October 1, 2009, from http://www.moe.gov.sg/media/speeches/2009/09/17/work-plan-seminar.php