Professionalism in Education

One of the proposed solutions offered by Diane Ravitch in her book Reign of Error is the professionalization of education:
SOLUTION NO. 8 Insist that teachers, principals, and superintendents be professional educators.
This solution requires a dramatic change in the attitude and culture of the entire society. Take, for example, a recent protest rally held by students, teachers and alumni of Quezon City Science High School (The following are copied from the Facebook page of the Quezon City Public School Teachers Association (QCPSTA)):

Quezon City Science High School Protest

Students, teachers, alumni filed charges, demanding the removal of corrupt Q.C high school principal

Teachers, students, and alumni of the Quezon City Science High School (QCSHS) held a protest today in front of the Dept. of Education's NCR Regional Office (DepEd NCR) to call for the ouster of QCSHS's principal, Zenaida P. Sadsad. Formal charges of corruption were filed to DepEd NCR against Sadsad for leaking the answers to QCSHS's Entrance Examination in exchange for money.

There are two things that allow for cheating, if indeed true, to occur: opportunity and motive. Without an entrance examination, there is nothing to sell, there is no opportunity. These probably are of much smaller scale than stealing billions in pork barrel funds. There maybe circumstances that make it tempting for a principal to devise a scheme to make additional money. After all, educators in public schools in the Philippines do not receive salaries that fit the responsibilities they shoulder. 

Addressing problems in education requires society to regard the teaching profession in its rightful place. It requires treating education properly. First, the obvious thing is that basic education should be "an education for all". More precisely, quality basic education must be provided to all. With this in mind, opportunities for cheating are reduced for it is not excellence that is measured, but equity. Second, one must reflect on how professional work differs from blue-collar work.  ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) provides a good list showing the characteristics that distinguish professional from blue-collar work:
  • Professionals are expected to attack nonroutine problems and to do so creatively.
  • Professionals are expected to consider a variety of perspectives when making decisions.
  • Professionals play a significant role in producing the knowledge and insights that move their profession forward.
  • Professionals hold themselves accountable for using best practices.
Professionalism does demand good salaries. Standards in teaching colleges can be set to a higher bar. Teaching exams can be made more difficult. Continuing teacher education can be imposed. But professionalism requires much more than these. It requires trust and respect. Teachers who are dictated exactly on what they should do inside the classroom are not being treated as professionals. We do not treat engineers, doctors and lawyers in the same way. Ravitch's solution number 8 is indeed a great challenge for it requires all of us to change.