Dealing with teacher shortage crises the Cambridge way


Ruchira Gosh

by Sanath Nanayakkare

If teachers are happy in their own school environment and can see their growth path, they will stay longer, Ruchira Gosh, Regional Director, South Asia – Cambridge internal Examinations told The Island Financial Review, recently.

Ruchira made this comment in response to a question at a meeting with her after the Cambridge Principals Forum held in Colombo.

"This is an exciting time for our organisation in Sri Lanka with the demand for Cambridge qualifications increasing. Cambridge International Examinations is part of the University of Cambridge. We prepare school students for life, helping them develop an informed curiosity and a lasting passion for learning. Our international qualifications are recognised by the world’s best universities and employers. Yes, supporting students to develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in school, university and life is only possible with good teachers".

"Poaching of good teachers can happen as you say, but you cannot stop somebody's personal growth or curb their aspirations. At Cambridge International Schools we think providing opportunities for continuous professional development and a career growth path can go a long way in addressing this issue," Ruchira pointed out.

"Schools are now realising that quality comes at a cost and are thus willing to invest in teachers' professional development. The schools can see the benefits of investment early on and such schools are also increasing in number".

Asked whether she believed in weeding out 'bad' teachers, she said," I don't think it is a realistic solution when we are grappling with lack of teachers in the first place. The solution is to help teachers develop professionally and retain them to serve better".

"If all schools invest in their teachers' development, even when teachers move from one school to the other, there would be good teachers moving around. That will create a natural balance. That's the way forward, she noted.

Referring to Cambridge Global Perspectives (GP) – a new cross-curricula subject - Ruchira said," In fact, it focuses on developing skills, such as critical thinking, research skills, communication and creativity. We first offered it at Cambridge IGCSE and then extended it to O Level and Cambridge International AS & A Level. Now we are piloting the subject for students aged 5 to 14, so that schools can offer it at every state of the curriculum and broaden students’ learning. Schools worldwide are taking part in a two-year Cambridge Primary and Secondary 1 Global Perspectives pilot. We have received positive feedback from our pilot schools in Sri Lanka. For example; Gateway group schools have introduced GP at Cambridge Primary and Secondary 1 Level within the group".

"Global Perspectives provides excellent preparation for children in Cambridge Primary and Secondary 1 to progress to the next stage of education. It helps students to look outside their textbooks and cultivate the habit of research".

"GP also allows students to study the topic at hand in-depth, automatically increasing their awareness of environmental and social issues around them and considering them from a global viewpoint as well as a national one".

"Cambridge teachers are well supported to understand the Cambridge curriculum. We recognise that teaching is about developing the skills and abilities of every child, not just exam grades".

"We hold face-to-face training events in Sri Lanka every year, including workshops led by Cambridge trainers. We conduct over 1,200 training events every year around the world to provide teachers with the skills and knowledge they need to help their students succeed. We also offer online training courses".

"In today’s day and age, students aren’t just considering traditional professions such as engineering, medicine, law etc. The new generation is keen on unconventional careers such as digital marketing, travel and tourism etc. That is why introducing these subjects and courses gives Cambridge students a wide range of career choices to think about, not just locally in Sri Lanka but also internationally".

"We also put a significant amount of efforts in our travel and tourism courses in Sri Lanka as we know that it is one industry that drives a major part of Sri Lanka’s economy. Teaching Cambridge students these courses ensure smooth transition when applying for courses in universities in Sri Lanka and abroad as well".

"The Cambridge International AS ~& A Level curriculum develops transferable skills, like independent learning and research skills as well as problem solving skills which are necessary when you are studying at the university level. Moreover, our skills-based interdisciplinary subject - Cambridge Global Perspectives – lays emphasis on the development of skills rather than the acquisition of knowledge –higher order skills such as communication, collaborating with others, reflectiveness and independent thinking - all of which are important for further study".

"During the last five years, several strong international schools in Sri Lanka adopted the Cambridge qualification, successfully delivering the curriculum as well as teacher development and producing excellent results".

"Cambridge is a trusted education partner for governments and national examination bodies in over 30 countries. In some countries, including Singapore and Mauritius, we work with public bodies to provide the national examinations for learners in secondary schools. In other countries, we work with governments to develop and introduce new education and assessment systems. We also help to localize Cambridge examinations and ease the introduction of education programmes by training officials, teachers and examiners", Ruchira said.

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