While the municipal teachers are still on strike and aim to have the teachers’ career track bill removed, the urgency and responsibility that we as a society should have to ensure that children in complicated and underprivileged conditions learn more and better, does not seem to be sufficiently present. The OECD reports that in the declarative the teachers of Chile value the practices and pedagogies for a 21st century education more than the average of teachers in the rest of the OECD, such as facilitating inquiry, solving daily problems, critical thinking, etc. However, in their practices they more frequently repeat routine activities, such as checking homework and delivering summaries. The first question that arises is how we can bring statements into practice and how a law, such as the one currently under discussion, would aim to do so.
Demanding more quality at the moment of finishing the Pedagogy major is one contribution that this bill makes. Universities cannot pass unnoticed in this tremendous responsibility. But it is in practice and in connecting with the classroom and the school in general, where a large part of what future teachers learn or do not learn to do well comes into play. The idea of requiring a mandatory on-the-ground practice year to train new teachers is a very good measure to create a quality floor while universities are readjusting to the requirements.
The bill also moves forward in recognizing and including the concept of induction. After studying international reforms and gathering our experience from Fundación Chile we have seen how this link in the chain is fundamental to assuring the future development of teachers, but also for retention of the best teachers. An enriching and anchoring experience, well accompanied by a mentor, could make it so that teachers in their first year assure and reinforce practices that will mark the rest of their career. Today we know that good teachers leave the system by their fifth year precisely because of their unsatisfactory experiences, and this measure aims at reverting this too. However, this measure is voluntary, which means we think it is opportune to make it mandatory for all.
Another thing to reinforce in the bill is that the teaching profession develops as a collective and not only as a result of individual performance. It is necessary to put the proper importance on peer learning and teamwork skills. Systems and countries that value the teacher’s role work on professional development with a sense of collectivity and not individuality. Because of this, the conditions that refer to teaching and non-teaching hours are fundamental to ensure the preparation, evaluation of team learning in teams of educators.
The most critical point is evaluation. Evidence shows that together with close, intensive and permanent support of the development of educators’ skills, it is necessary to evaluate them for their improvement. If we really want to elevate the teaching profession, it is not enough to improve compensation. We also have to ensure that the best teachers are in exactly the schools that need them the most. For that we need to know in an ongoing way who is moving forward and who is not, whether it is to give them more support, improve the collective practice and accompaniment, or to opt for their rightsizing.
This is why we think it is important to complement the instruments, apply them in different points of the formation and development of the career and emphasize the improvement and management of the information of said evaluations, as well as considering different contexts. A system that makes the real contribution and performance of educators invisible will have a hard time maintaining quality as a priority, and that is what the students of Chile ultimately require today.