An innovative approach for teacher-led advocacy
One of ISSA’s founding members, Center for Educational Initiatives Step by Step, has developed some empowering ways for teachers to connect and inspire one another. A lack of support through professional development opportunities can lead many teachers to feel disempowered. While teachers in Bosnia and Herzegovina are often invited to the discussion about curriculum reforms, they are rarely challenged to take part in their own development and advocacy.
Dr. Radmila Rangelov Jusovic, Executive Director of COI Step by Step, discusses how the organization is changing these dynamics by increasing the positive recognition of teachers in the country and hosting a platform for teachers to encourage, collaborate and learn from one another.
Q: What is a critical issue related to ECD in your country which is not enough addressed currently? How do you address this in your work?
A: Projects in the country basically go to policy change – introducing new curriculum and so on. But there is never enough time or funds dedicated to teacher training. Many reforms fail on the practical level. We’ve developed a strategy around different approaches to tackle the teaching profession and to start a conversation around why teachers matter.
On the other hand, we work with thousands of teachers and maybe we’ve contributed a little to the culture of pacification of teachers. This idea that there are experts who know what to do and they will come train you instead of empowering teachers to start demanding what they need, to give them the feeling that they can lead the change.
There is a lot of false participation. This means bringing teachers to meetings without investing in knowledge and building skills of teachers. This is meaningless participation, this is false participation and this is really manipulation
Q: Who is involved in this work and why?
A: We invest in a number of teachers who have a willingness, motivation and capacity to be sufficiently involved in policies and change making. To be the NGO with the credibility to speak on behalf of the teachers we need them behind us – that gives us legitimacy. To give voice to teachers we started creating a community of teachers (Community of Innovative Teachers). We want to bring together all teachers who want to try something new or already have tried something new to join this community of teachers.
We’ve created ownership for teachers in regards to their own work and advocacy. Team 200+ is a team of trainers and mentors. Within our community of teachers, we’ve found this team of high level teachers who create a network space for other teachers to join them. They advocate with us.
Q: What is the Annual Teacher’s Award and how did it come about?
A: We decided there must be a good way to share the message that could also be interesting for the media as well, to raise awareness and to show the excellence practices teachers have created. We have five categories. These are preschool, lower primary, upper primary, secondary, as well as pedagogues, phycologist and others working with teachers.
We announce a call for applications sharing best practices. A committee of teachers reviews the applications. Now, this includes winners of the previous year. We also have three independent readers and very clear criteria on the meaning of innovation. The practices should be fully developed so that other teachers can use it as well. We upload these practices on the web platform. We also have videos about winners. Winners also get the chance to present at our regional conference.
Based on their practices, they develop short training programs. We train them how to be trainers. Our network around the country can benefit from these trainings. This helps us identify amazing teachers we didn’t know about and fosters a network among themselves. Ministries, school principals, local media (as well as national media) reacted to these awards. It changes the way we talk about education instead of criticizing or focusing on the negative we show the country what excellent teachers we have.
See some of the nominees and their inspiring practices here!
Photo Credit: ©Center for Educational Initiatives Step by Step