From The Chair (Photo: Matthew Plexman)

Many countries are seeing an increase in primary school enrolment. In countries like Afghanistan, the jump is substantial — from 1 million to 7 million between 2001 and 2010, and the proportion of girls rising from virtually zero to 37 per cent.

After decades of tumult and since the Taliban regime was toppled in 2001, the country is dealing with a supply of students that far exceed the pool of teachers — and most teachers only have the equivalent of a high school education or did not complete their postsecondary studies.

Afghan educators are looking at ways to rebuild and improve their education system. One of their objectives is to establish a system for certifying teachers and accrediting teacher training institutions.

And where do they turn to get the help they need? They reach out to countries like Canada, more specifically to the College, which is the country’s only self-regulatory organization for teachers. We recently met with senior directors within the Teacher Education Directorate in Afghanistan who spent time at the College to learn our role in certifying teachers and accrediting teacher education programs.

Whether they are teachers, principals, administrators, researchers or parliamentarians, delegations from all over the world visit the College to share and gather information on a range of education issues related to accreditation, certification and professional practice. Over the years, the College has hosted delegations, developed and nurtured relationships with individuals, schools and organizations from various countries throughout the world — in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and other places. These delegations travel to Ontario to meet with education leaders to examine best practices in education and student success.

What do they want to know specifically?

Representatives from Japan recently visited the College because they were exploring the development of principal qualifications and wanted to know how we teach English as a Second Language. They were interested in creating programs on how to teach Japanese as a second language as they said they were welcoming an influx of immigrants — mainly from South America — who move to Japan to work and send their kids to schools.

A delegation from the Netherlands wanted to learn about our public register Find a Teacher — why we created one and how people reacted to it. Swedish parliamentarians wanted to know about our role as a self-regulatory body and were interested in our relationships with stakeholders. Municipal politicians and members of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions were also at the College to learn about teacher education and certification, support for teachers’ professional learning, and the ways in which teachers understand students’ educational needs.

Chile had specific questions about our discipline procedures and Denmark was keen to understand more about the respectful culture within the teaching profession in Ontario.

Whether they are representing Mexico, Kuwait or China, education leaders also want to know how we look at credentials of applicants from outside the country and how we set standards for the teaching profession. The education system or the curriculum might be different country to country, but the common glue for any teacher in any country is our children — they are a precious commodity in any culture.

In today’s knowledge-based global economy, countries have strong incentives to provide higher levels of education and training to as many of their citizens as possible. We hope that the good practices we share will assist education leaders in different parts of the world in their efforts to improve education.

Liz Papadopoulos, OCT