2017 Wenhui Award winners: innovations in teachers’ professional development

New Delhi: A model that has revitalized teacher training in parts of rural China as well as a flexible learning programme designed to help Southeast Asian teachers keep pace with rapid technological advances are the co-winners of the 2017 Wenhui Award for Educational Innovation.

Zhao Geng, Deputy Director of the Teachers’ Administration Division of the Hubei Provincial Department of Education in China was recognized for the “Teachers’ Professional Development – Rural Teacher Training Under Culture Management Course Education Model”.

The Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Centre for Educational Innovation and Technological (SEAMEO INNOTECH) shares this year’s top honour for their, “GURO21: Gearing Up Responsible and Outstanding Teachers in Southeast Asia for the 21st Century” programme.

Dr Libing Wang, Chief of Section for Educational Innovation and Skills Development (EISD) at UNESCO Bangkok, said that both of this year’s winners exemplify the theme of this year’s Wenhui Award, “Innovations in the Professional Development of Teachers.”

“Well supported teachers and easily accessible, continuous, effective professional development practices are essential to quality education and innovation is key to making this a reality,” he said. “The initiatives recognized this year show that professional development can take place in classrooms, communities and at all levels of education as well as in both formal and informal settings.”

Rural schools in China, as in many countries in Asia-Pacific, face a shortage of qualified teachers. China’s Rural Teacher Recruiting Programme addresses this by recruiting 4,000 graduates annually from 300 colleges to teach in rural and remote schools. The Culture Management Course developed by Zhao Meng aims to complement this by providing teachers with the skills they need to thrive in rural villages, including cultural values, social consciousness and responsibility, as well as management skills. Over the past decade, Mr Zhao has trained over 50,000 new rural teachers, who have been deployed to more than 2,000 schools.

SEAMEO INNOTECH’s “GURO21” initiative offers flexible learning courses aimed at addressing the needs of teachers to keep pace with technological advances and 21st Century educational trends. Courses target teachers from the classroom to teacher trainer levels as well as tertiary instructors or professors. A learning needs assessment is carried out to determine participants’ needs and expectations prior to the delivery of courses online.

Three Honourable Commendations were also announced this year.

The SeeBeyondBorders, “Teach the Teacher Program”, in Cambodia was recognized for its work training primary school teachers in Cambodia, who share their knowledge with peers by building local communities of professional practice. SeeBeyondBorders’ “Scaffolding Capability And Learning Experiences (SCALE)” approach has proven successful in building teachers’ conceptual and pedagogical understanding as well as in providing ongoing support through a mentoring programme. SCALE is implemented in collaboration with district offices of education and school principals in Cambodia to ensure the project’s sustainability over the long term.

The Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development, Universiti Sains Malaysia, also received an Honourable Commendation for its “360 Approach to Teachers’ ESD Professional Development”. The programme goes beyond one-off workshops or lectures on embedding Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into subjects for a full range of activities. These include webinars, research into teachers’ knowledge about and attitudes toward ESD, as well as opportunities for teachers to network and share ESD practices.

Finally, Yala Rajabhat University (YRU) in Thailand received an Honourable Commendation for its, “Training Local Teachers for Sustainable Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education in the Southern Thailand Conflict Zone” initiative. YRU has mainstreamed mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) into its curriculum for pre-primary/primary teacher education and provides in-service training for teachers and administrators in MTB-MLE schools. The university also offers an MTB-MLE teaching internship programme, the “first of its kind in Asia”. The jury noted: “The project has helped to improve the educational outcomes in Thailand’s Deep South, and can be replicated in other regions in conflict.”