“Professional Development of Teachers” on the path of a fundamental reform in Education

 

 

Speech by Prime Minister Edi Rama at the meeting on the topic “Professional Development of Education” held with teachers at the “Red” school in Tirana:

 

Good evening everyone!

Many thanks for your hospitality!

I thank the principal who welcomed us out in the cold, and all of you who are here in this important moment as we talk about another step forward in trying to complete a process, which is neither easy nor short, of a reform which you remember very well how and when started.

Undoubtedly, what we have done is very important, but everything we have done and can do in order to improve infrastructure, texts, students’ access to education, would remain incomplete and would not lead us to the desired outcomes, if we did not consistently improve what is most important, that is, the knowledge and ability of teachers to live up to their task. Of course, at this point, I believe that teachers in Albania, in extremely dramatic conditions, have done their utmost, but if they are not helped and if they are not involved in a sustainable education system, it is impossible for them to follow the pace of time and meet the needs that time brings.

I have said it also another time and maybe it might sound like a repetition to somebody, but I’ve been impressed by the fair proportion between the amount of training hours big companies make in a year and their growth as a company.

It is amazing to see some graphics trying to explain or show how big companies have been in the same position at a given moment, and after three years they are in different positions – some of them are above and some below, – and actually it is not at all strange that this coincides with the investment companies make to train people.

In this respect, considering what was said here, but also all the information we have seen in the past, we need to go through and cultivate an entire field in order to fill in the gaps of the past in relation to continuing training of teachers.

I believe very much that this path in this overall reform of education as a whole, but especially in terms of pre-university education, would have been impossible if it had not been done together with the teachers. You remember very well that when we started to try and make a selection of the textbooks, we organized a questionnaire and asked teachers across the country to make an assessment with regard to the textbooks. The elimination of the first 600 textbooks was decided based on the completely negative assessments teachers gave on those textbooks. You remember very well that text would multiply, neither based on the system’s internal demand and the teachers’ needs, nor based on a consultation with teachers but based simply on a twisted logic of an internal market created to produce and sell as many books as possible, usually very poorly translated copies of books taken here and there, regardless of the domestic methodology of an integrated system, and regardless of the many elementary parameters it has to meet.

On the other hand, you are witnessing how much the water of all inflows in education was troubled, if we compared it with water, due to the total fall of each dam in relation to the ability, in relation to the merits, in relation to their formation, to the point that thousands of people entered the system although they didn’t have the appropriate education or used to teach outside their profile. Of course, one side of the coin was to clean this part of the system, but the other side of the coin was to ensure that the new inflows came through a path that was guaranteed by the competition and determined by merit. Thus we created the portal “Teachers for Albania” which is an instrument that has given clear results, and which we are improving because the experience has shown that there is still a need to improve, so that not only recruitment of full-time teachers, but all the remaining temporary contracts are done in an objective manner.

In parallel, we are preparing to reform the entire educational directorate system. We will no longer have this number of educational directorates. There will be only 4 across the country, divided into 4 regions according to a map that we have built based on the regions, not in the sense of administrative division but in the sense of economic and social development. The role of directorates as well as the role of education offices will change substantially. Directorates of educational offices will no longer be offices of appointments and dismissals; they don’t have to deal with that. The Education Directorate and the Education Offices will in fact be quality guarantors, in order to carry out the program of the ministry of education for all stakeholders in the field of education and interaction among them.

In addition, instead of being offices receiving teachers who need to be displaced from one place to another, and deal with teachers who want to be employed, they will be offices that will deal with the education program rather than with the teachers.

The portal will be objectified to the extent that human intervention will be unnecessary. It will be a database with all the test scores, the credits obtained by the teachers and every displacement or substitution after somebody retires, and everything will be done electronically. Of course, the portal will guarantee that if somebody says “no, I’m not ready to go there”, it will be somebody else’s turn, and so on. This will definitely guarantee that teachers will not be dismissed as long as they are on duty and do their duty.

Second, substitutions will be made based on merit and in view of quality. Of course, everything we do and will do for the teachers is incomplete if we do not radically change the profile and the leadership quality of school principals.

We have school principals who are a role model, but we have also school principals who actually have nothing to do with this specific position. School principals who are a political accident occurred some time ago and which teachers and students consider a monument of the past.

Actually, following a very simple test, 300 school principals were found below the average. To tell the truth, the average level among them is not the maximum we can expect for a certain average. But the same applies to teachers. I am convinced that if school principals undergo a normal training process on what school leaders should do, most of them can enhance their skills in a relatively short time.

On the other hand, it is very important that we objectify also the process of electing school principals, and eventually remove them from the hands of the parties. What has happened? Let’s say that we’ve saved 90% of the system from political interferences for teachers because, due to the portal, it has become very difficult to make selections, to interfere, and so on. But it has become easier for school principals. It has become much easier to be a school principal or vice principal, than to be a teacher. We haven’t heard only once: “OK then, if you can’t appoint him as a teacher, make him at least a school principal”.

Habitually, – those who need to keep this in mind more than everyone else, are the people who are elected, the MPs – who chooses a teacher, is not given the chance to have someone employed, but has the responsibility to give an opinion and to foster the employment of someone who can be either beneficial or deleterious to entire generations of students. It’s the same as with doctors.

We have encountered some difficulties in this regard, but we are very determined not to give up, and to tell the truth it has been easier than one might think, at least in terms of our parliamentary group, to find consensus with MPs that teachers cannot be touched. Actually, that is why the portal has resisted the storms of the tradition which used to displace teachers with no criteria.

But the part of temporary contracts and some other elements there, have created a space for abuse and this portal space will shut it down. But, when it comes to school principals, we have a mountain to climb because, if with regard to teachers some training efforts have been made in the past, although these efforts created a path that eventually could not bring success, with those private agencies and all those other stories, nothing has ever been done with regard to school principals. Never!

And for this reason, we will establish the school of school principals, which will similar to the school of public administration. Principals will be trained on an ongoing basis; they will be tested on an ongoing basis, and all those teachers who want to climb to the level of principals, will be given the opportunity to do so. Which means that being appointed as a principal is not enough for somebody to be in that position all his/her life, as is the case with teachers, but they will have to prove that they are the best in that area, otherwise they will be replaced by a teacher who is better than him or her. The replacement of these nearly 300 principals who have scored very poorly in the test, will be done by the teachers who have scored better. So, teachers with better scores will be given the chance to become principals. Immediately. Of course, somebody might not accept it, but the selection will be made at the highest level of teachers so that they can become school principals or vice principals.

I believe that even in this case, it takes a major effort in between words and deeds, but the important thing is that this is the right path. And I am glad that teachers want this, those who are truly dedicated and are not teachers by chance, but have become teachers because they have chosen this path and they want this with passion. We will do our best to ensure that the quality of the training is as good as possible, but at the same time I believe that the minister and the entire leading team of the ministry will be constantly attentive to get feedback from the teachers about trainings, to receive suggestions, make remarks, adjustments, depending on the impression that the teachers themselves will give in relation to what they get and in relation to what they would like to benefit from these trainings.

I increasingly believe that the fact that the minister is the first minister in 27 years who hasn’t had an impressive title, such as “Doctor of science” or “Professor”, but comes from the category of teachers, is the most important asset in this process, as she has shown that she has the sensitivity of this category a part of which she has been until recently. At the same time, she has managed to behave differently than she is required to, as a member of the community, having the privilege to manage the work of this community of teachers in a determined period.

This is an added value and this is a guarantee that ongoing dialogue among the ministry, the minister, other heads of the ministry and of the teachers’ community, will continue and will be in the function of the continuous improvement of the entire reform process. Because one thing is to make a reform on the paper by taking the best models, the Finnish one for example – for everybody is going after the Finnish model – and another thing is to behave like a Finn when you are consistent and faithful to what is written on paper, such as the Finns are, when they write it down and say, that’s the thing we will do.

Once again I express you my gratitude for everything you have done and do not formally, but because it is really worth appreciating, if we consider under what conditions and in what kind of mess the process of education reform has been made over the years, as it has happened that there were two National Education Strategies within a mandate of the same political force, only that there were two different ministers, and the system has been maintained only by the heroic passion of teachers, despite all kinds of difficulties and despite the extreme insecurity that was created because of the politics of insecurity.

That time has gone. What we should do is not just enjoy the fact that that time is gone, but together bring the new time we still have ahead, but which we have not fully made a part of the functioning of our education system. For this new time, the basis is the experience of teachers and their passion, otherwise the most beautiful reform on paper would have no chance to become reality.

I hope I have your understanding, if I ask you to applause not me, but the principal because it is the first time a host opens the door to so many people, does not say half a word, and still without saying half word she will now take me to the door together with you. She deserves another applause also for this.