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Awareness Campaign on Professional Standards for Teachers and School Leaders Commences

From 28th May – 1st June the Teaching Service Commission (TSC), with funding support from the European Union, has implemented the first leg of a series of Advocacy and Awareness Building Meetings in the Bo and Kenema Districts. Using the motto” Better Teachers Stronger Nation,” the campaign will focus on the Bo, Kenema, Bombali and Port Loko districts.

The meetings have aimed at popularizing the new “National Professional Standards for Teachers and School Leaders”. The standards have been developed, to build and improve the competencies and performance of all teachers and school leaders nationwide. Launched in November 2017, the standards provide a new national benchmark against which all teachers currently in-service in all government assisted schools and teachers in private schools will be assessed. With over 35,000 teachers of varying quality spread around the country, the Commission will use the standards to determine four new categories of teachers, namely:  New, Proficient, Highly Accomplished and Distinguished Teachers.

On the 28th May, nearly 400parents, guardians, religious leaders, school officials civil society representatives and community based officials, met at the New Methodist Youth Centre, Bo, to discuss the professional standards presented by the Teaching Service Commission Awareness Campaign Team. The event was also used to inform and encourage all teachers to understand the role the standards will play in their professional training, development and performance.

Describing the value of the professional standards, Mrs. Sylvie Risch, TSC Director of Teacher Development and Performance, informed participants that the standards would focus on what teachers will be expected to know; how they meaningfully practice their profession and how they engage with students, school leaders, parents and community stakeholders. She went on to observe, that the new professional standards will distinguished between teachers that are competent and those that are yet to achieve the relevant competencies.

Speaking to participants at the event, Mr. John Swaray, the Bo Deputy District Education Officer said”The standards present a clear career path for each teacher and leader that wish to be competent and professional in their work.”

Community members in attendance accepted to serve as “Ambassadors” in their various communities, by spreading the word about the new professional standards for teachers, to parents and community leaders on their return.

On the 29th May, at the Njala University Bo campus, Dr. Adlyn Johnson, Dean of the School of Education, urged over 800 students attending the campus-based meetings, to take full advantage of the transformative potential that the new professional standards offer. She emphasized the fact that the standards would provide clarity on how each student would develop and perform as a teacher in the future. At the meeting, Dr. James Wile, EU Consultant to the Teaching Service Commission, observed that preparation for an evidenced–based approach to teacher assessment by students could start even during their final year in training. “Collecting evidence for the teachers “professional portfolio” can include various activities you currently undertake as you prepare to be teachers,” he observed.

During the trip, the team moved from Bo to the southern town of Koribondo. Community members in the town while appreciating the visit, wanted to know how the Commission would assess teachers with many years of experience and how teachers would be monitored. There was tremendous enthusiasm, with one young student courageously asking “What will the TSC do with teachers that fail to come to school? And how will the TSC deal with those that do not prepare their lessons and teach us the wrong thing?”

From the 31st May – 1st June , the team met University students and academics at the Eastern Polytechnic,Kenema. Opening the series of meetings, the Principal Prof. Mohamed T. Lahai described the professional standards as “a good and new development for the country, that will improve the performance of all teachers.” He went on to state that all individuals wanting to be teachers in Sierra Leone, would benefit from a thorough review of the professional standards.

Three community meetings were also held in Kenema and Tongo Field. Participants in Kenema were excited about the programme. Mrs. Rebbeca Moiwo, a Supervisor of Schools in sharing her impressions of the event observed that “..the awareness campaign has come at the right time, as it will motivate teachers and ensure against  lethargy.  They will recognize that they have to teach and become more committed to their distinguished profession.”

In summarizing all meetings, Awareness Campaign Chairman Prof. Joe Pemagbi underscored the challenges that implementing the new professional standards will pose. These would include the need for the necessary political will to implement the programme; transparency and prudent use of resources and a willingness to confront change.

The 3 person Teaching Service Commission Awareness Campaign Team is now in the Bombali and Port Loko Districts, on the second leg of the trip, till the 8th June, to meet students, and staff of the Makeni and Ernest Bai Koroma universities and community members in Makeni, Lunsar and Port Loko.

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