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Absence of professional teaching and leadership standards

To improve the quality of the education workforce, education systems like those in Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore have used clearly stated, widely distributed and highly publicised national standards for teaching and leadership practice as their point of departure. These standards are typically integrated with national curricula and assessment practices, and are not only used to provide guidance to teacher education programmes, but also to design induction programmes, mentoring and continuing professional development over the whole of teachers’ careers (OECD, 2005, 2015c). They can ensure professionals at the beginning, intermediate and advanced stages of their careers are recognised and sufficiently challenged to continue to give their best.

At the time of writing, Latvia is in the process of developing such professional standards for teachers, with work on standards for school leaders planned to start in 2016/17. These are positive developments that can provide additional support and guidance to Latvia’s teachers in their daily practice, and inform their professional development by using these standards as the basis for appraisals and informing a new career structure.

It is important that the professional standards are integrated into initial training and continuing development programmes for teacher and school leaders (OECD, 2005, 2015c). Research evidence has already pointed to the need to modernise the teacher education curricula in Latvia (Webster et al., 2011; Silova et al., 2010). The development of the new standards, combined with the implementation of the competency-based curriculum, makes it even more crucial to review the content, pedagogy and delivery of initial training and continuing professional development. One consideration may be whether there is scope to promote more school-based and/or collaborative learning in networks at the local level.

One critical note is that there are insufficient links between the work on developing the teacher standards and the work on the new curriculum. Latvia’s vision and practical understanding of what being a “good” or “excellent” teacher means at various career stages, should be closely linked to its expectations of its youth that the new curriculum should capture.

This seems part of a larger issue that the review team noticed: the lack of a clearly articulated systematic approach to reform. The success of the various measures intended to improve the quality and attractiveness of the education profession depend on adequate sequencing and coherence of reforms. For example, Latvia should consider combining the work on developing leadership standards with the work developing teacher standards, for two reasons. First, developing two sets of standards at different times may not facilitate the development of a comprehensive and diversified career structure that facilitates the transition from teaching into leadership. Second, having strong leadership is essential to the success of reforms as they will depend on school leaders’ capacity to create the learning cultures within their schools that are necessary for continuous improvements in teaching and learning.

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