WORLD Teachers' Day is a chance to say thank you to educators making a difference to the lives of students across the globe, while highlighting issues affecting the profession.
The theme of UNESCO's 2011 day of celebration and a related discussion forum held at the organisation's Paris headquarters was Teachers for Gender Equality.
The forum raised some interesting points for debate, including: the shortage of male teachers; lack of female representation in managerial roles; the declining status of the teaching profession; addressing gender issues through teacher training; the role of schools in challenging gender stereotypes; and eliminating stereotypes from learning materials and curriculum content.
A shortage of male teachers is one of the issues for concern that we can relate to in Australia.
According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, although male (full-time equivalent) teaching staff increased by 5 per cent between 2000 and 2010, that figure was 20 per cent for females, but the proportion of male teachers actually decreased by 9 per cent over the same period.
The proportion of male and female staff was closer in secondary schools — where 42 per cent of teachers were men in 2010 (down 8 per cent since 2000).
It's a bleaker picture at primary schools where men make up just 19 per cent of teaching staff (a drop of 11 per cent since 2000).
Australia is not alone. Latest UNESCO figures show women make up the majority of the teaching profession at primary school level — 62 per cent globally, but 86 per cent in the US for example, and as high as 99 per cent in some countries.
So, why are men shunning the profession? A statement released through UNESCO to mark this year's World Teachers' Day says "conditions of service, pay and status have deteriorated" as the profession has become increasingly feminised.
The suggestion is that men are drawn to other careers because they can earn more money, enjoy better working conditions and command more respect.
If we want to promote gender equality and ensure there are enough male role models in schools we need to face the facts and address the imbalance.
Bye Bligh speech
THE decision to remove Anna Bligh's 'We Are Queenslanders' flood speech from the state's curriculum raises many interesting questions about the trust we place in teachers.
The speech was added to Grade 7 English draft content by one group of teachers, and removed after concerns were raised by another group of teachers. Bligh had the final say, deciding it wasn't appropriate for serving politicians to be the subject of curriculum content.
The opposition Liberal National Party says getting children to study the speeches of a serving leader "is brainwashing by any other name" and even likened it to something Chairman Mao might have done.
I know lots of people who agree with the decision to withdraw Bligh's speech, but maybe we should consider if we're giving teachers enough credit here.
I'm guessing those who included it in the draft felt it would be a relevant learning tool and something that would engage students in discussion.
Brainwashing assumes teachers will be pushing a particular viewpoint rather than presenting the facts and opening it up to discussion and debate. It also assumes that students will not be able to form their own views.
Are we saying that some learning opportunities are out of bounds in the classroom because those people are politicians still in the public eye?
Is it any different to the various MPs who visit BER openings and give a speech to students at a school assembly? Or Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard high-fiving primary school students on the sports oval or in the classroom on the election campaign trail?
Oz designs up there
IT'S wonderful to see Australian schools getting world recognition for their approach to building design and architecture.
Congratulations to Brisbane Grammar School and the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School for making it into the OECD compendium.
The publication is a great chance to have a look at the design direction being taken by other nations.
With Australia's current focus on promoting healthy lifestyles in schools, we might just see something similar to the Fuji Kindergarten roof deck — where teachers estimate that some of the older students are clocking up five kilometres a day — springing up across the country.