What makes a great global teacher?

I see that the Varkey GEMS Foundation will be launching a competition to find the world’s greatest teacher. The competition is intended to recognise the importance of the teaching profession in the same way as the Nobel Prize recognises achievement in other fields. The prize is ‐ wait for it – a cool $1 million!

This news has got us talking here at Think Global about the role of ‘teacher status’ in helping to improve pupil attainment. The Foundation’s Global Teachers Status Index shows that the correlation between status and pupil attainment in exams is not straightforward. There must surely be a relationship between the respect that a society has for its teachers and the likelihood that parents will encourage their children to take education seriously, and to become teachers themselves.

The announcement of the competition has also got us thinking about what the characteristics are of a ‘great global teacher’. While school ‘performance indicators’ and ‘league tables’ might have some virtues in driving improvement, I think one of their big downsides is that they encourage everyone to measure the greatness of teachers solely according to how their students perform in these tables. That reduces the role of education – and thus of teachers – to the minimum level.

For us, education has a much higher purpose than just ensuring students pass their exams. And for that reason, we’ve produced our ‘global learning guidelines’ where we’ve tried to pin down what we believe to be the characteristics of an outstanding global learning teacher. Those characteristics include:

  • Interest in global challenges and engaging with the wider world. So they’ll be taking an interest and engaging themselves in issues like the Philippines typhoon, or the death of Nelson Mandela and what it means for the continent of Africa and beyond.
  • Seeking opportunities to embed global learning into teaching and learning. Whatever a teacher’s core subject specialism – maths, English, science, even physical education – there are ways that they can bring the subject to life for their students through linking it with real global issues.
  • Reflecting on their practice and developing their own understanding of global learning. An outstanding global learning teacher never stops learning. They lead by example – always looking for new perspectives, holding ‘truth’ lightly, and willing to alter their views in the light of new information.

We believe the greatest teacher in the world must show these global attributes. Wouldn’t it be great if the teacher who emerges is from a UK school, and shows these characteristics. Nominations anyone?

Photo of Tom Franklin

By Tom Franklin, CEO, Think Global

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