A week of "Strengthening Teacher Education Program (STEP)" training and forum has concluded, during which individuals with a shared vision and admiration for educational development gathered to discuss "how to produce tangible plans and implementations in response to nurturing more adept teachers."
As STEP (a program established by SEAMEO STEM-ED with Thai and international partners to foster more competent in-service and pre-service teachers) became more visible and coalesced with Indonesia and the Republic of Kazakhstan, Southeast Asian education standards started to see a glimpse of a promising future. A clearer path emerged as a result of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Thailand, Indonesia, and the Republic of Kazakhstan on 19 July 2023 at Avani Sukhumvit Bangkok Hotel. The MoU has bound SEAMEO STEM-ED, SEAMEO Regional Open Learning Centre (SEAMOLEC, Indonesia), and Caravan of Knowledge (Republic of Kazakhstan) together to ensure a shared commitment to educational reform.
Building the capability of teacher education faculty and teacher development personnel, preparing novices and in-service teachers to use essential core teaching practises, and implementing high-quality learning units are the foundational elements for realising our dreams of raising educational standards.
Why STEP and why pre-service and in-service teachers?
In Southeast Asia, the need for education is apparent, as recent research conducted by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reported that high percentages of Thai students were failing to reach proficiency in literacy and mathematics by age 15.
Consequently, the results of national assessments in grades 6, 9, and 12 confirm this conclusion. The Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM) programme, which assessed 5th graders in five SEAMEO countries in 2021, has found similar patterns of performance. However, only Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam have shown patterns of student performance in mathematics and science that approach or surpass the OECD average PISA score.
A similar occurrence in Southeast Asian countries of inadequate teacher practice and practicum underdevelopment can tarnish education as a whole. More importantly, inefficient pre-service and in-service teachers not only lead to poor student performance but also hinder the production of future talents.
SEAMEO STEM-ED, in this matter, hopes to secure a prosperous future for the next generation, believing that transforming education personnel will lead to a systematic change, and strengthening teacher education is the most probable cause to invest in.
Meanwhile, uncertainties in the 21st century and the digitized world are around the corner, and as the region continues to evolve and face both existing and unknown challenges, investing in the growth and enhancement of educators has become imperative.
How will this program push for a new wave of teachers?
In pursuit of building a new generation of competent and highly skilled teachers, a significant milestone that SEAMEO STEM-ED has pushed forward is through different MoUs (already signed with Thai universities and international organizations and universities), curricula development, and teacher skill development courses.
By preparing novices and in-service teachers to effectively implement essential core teaching practices and high-quality learning units, the STEP program delves into different key aspects such as capacity building, teacher empowerment, utilizing core practices and STEM learning units, improving instructional practices, and mentor training and advocacy for scaling up.
Regarding enhancing pre-service and in-service curricula, the STEP program will enable teachers to be well-equipped with the latest pedagogical approaches and instructional techniques, while reinforcing practicum experience for novice teachers, closely connecting theoretical knowledge with real-world classroom experiences. For novice teachers, this would allow them to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in education.
Core teaching practices are the backbone of the program, representing the foundational instructional techniques and strategies that were proven to be effective in facilitating student learning. These practices will be integrated and disseminated to teachers who enroll in the program. Furthermore, improving teacher instructional practices will involve providing teachers with opportunities for continuous professional development, workshops, and training sessions to hone their teaching skills.
SEAMEO STEM-ED and its partners believe that by improving instructional practises, instructors may create a more conducive learning environment and favourably improve student outcomes, ultimately eliciting changes in Southeast Asian education paradigms.