We should all be more like China, says world’s best teacher – here’s why
Andria Zafirakou, an arts and textiles teacher at Alperton Community School in northwest London, was recently hailed the ‘world’s best teacher’ by the Varkey Foundation, an international-focused NGO that hosts the Global Teacher Prize every year.
Along with the accolade of world’s top teacher, Andria received a $1 million prize during a ceremony designed to recognise “an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession.”
In an interview with the Financial Times following, Andria shared a poignant piece of advice for any countries wanting to improve their education system: start treating teachers like China does.
As an article on Quartz explains, teachers have a huge impact on students’ lives. A wealth of studies highlight how teachers can help pupils to succeed academically, can bridge the gap between children of different socioeconomic status, and enhance pupil wellbeing.
The article cites a 2010 feature in The Atlantic, which recognises: ‘more than any other variable in education – more than schools or curriculum – teachers matter.’ It then references a 1997 study by University of Tennessee researchers, which confirmed that ‘the most important factor affecting student learning is the teacher.’
Yet, countries across the globe are suffering teacher shortages. Teacher pay is stagnating and wellbeing is dwindling; add to that mounting workload pressures, and it’s little wonder that record numbers of teachers are leaving the profession. Yet, at the same time, millions of children in low- and middle-income countries are receiving inadequate education. So what’s the solution?
Andria answered: “We need to value teachers more […] [We need to] pay them decently; give them time to improve. We need to be like China.”
Teaching in China
Reports suggest that China is one of the best countries in the world to teach. A 2013 study carried out by University of Sussex professor Peter Dolton and the Varkey Foundation uncovered that Chinese teachers gain the highest levels of public respect out of the 21 countries polled. Also, it was the only country where teachers were valued equal to doctors, as well as the country where parents were most likely to inspire their children to get into teaching.
Dolton said that Chinese and Asian culture both demonstrate a long history of treating teachers with reverence.
The article quite rightly concludes: ‘At the end of the day, the world needs strong teachers to address the global learning crisis. A simple step [in the right direction] would be treating the professional with more respect.’
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