Teaching responsibility and its evaluation, according to UNESCO

Teacher evaluation in university

Teachers whose work is not recognized and adequately rewarded often feel overburdened and undervalued, which can influence absenteeism, motivation and effectiveness.


The primary commitment of a teacher is quality instruction. Teachers are expected to educate, be advisors, researchers, analysts, mentors, among many other roles. Also, before all conceivable obstacles, they are asked to deliver excellent results. Sometimes it seems that the weight of the success of each educational program rests on the shoulders of teachers. However, do they have the means and support to accomplish such a complicated task? The Global Education Monitoring Report 2017/8 "Accountability in Education," carried out by UNESCO, examines the responsibilities of teachers and the mechanisms used to evaluate their performance around the world. It also advises new evaluation methods to achieve better results.

How far does the teaching responsibility go?

The UNESCO report describes that the primary responsibility of teachers is to ensure high-quality instruction. Their duties include tasks such as addressing the curriculum, ensuring commitment and learning, adapting instruction to the needs of students, preparing class materials, providing feedback to students and parents, as well as organizing and evaluating. It is estimated that in OECD countries the average work time for a primary school teacher is 776 hours (2014 data). Although the time varies according to each country; teachers work 561 hours in Russia, 600 hours in Greece, but more than 1,000 hours in Latin American countries such as Chile and Colombia.

According to UNESCO, in most educational systems, teaching work focuses on the transmission of knowledge in elementary subjects such as language, mathematics, history, geography and social sciences. However, some institutions ask their teachers to emphasize on intercultural, social, behavioral and emotional skills; such as critical thinking, empathy, teamwork, perseverance, among others. In summary, teachers bear most of the educational responsibility.

Depending on each school, there are other responsibilities besides instruction that are rarely paid, a situation that can increase teachers' frustration. In many Latin American countries, where schools have inadequate resources, the excessive workload is compounded by the shortage of instructional materials and overcrowded classrooms. Experts from the UNESCO study say that teachers whose work is not recognized and adequately rewarded often feel overburdened and undervalued, which can influence absenteeism, motivation and effectiveness.

Teacher frustration evaluating tests at school


Are current evaluations effective?

Although the assessments commonly applied to teachers have the potential to boost professional development, they are usually focused on test scores applied to students or to the teachers themselves ­—Valuations that often do not consider the complete work of the teacher. Most evaluation systems are designed to hold the teacher accountable for easily quantifiable measures, such as absenteeism and student performance. However, the assistance and the student's performance depend on many factors and not only on the teaching work.

No measurement strategy can capture the full range of teacher performance or encompass the qualities necessary for effective teaching. Also, the directors, parents and students value all capacities and knowledge of the teachers differently; They have different perceptions and degrees of objectivity concerning high-quality teaching. Therefore, it is essential to use as many complementary sources of information about teaching performance as possible.

It should be noted that schools and teachers are sometimes forced to adjust and simplify the curricula given the pressure to achieve scores required by this type of tests. Additionally, schools lose time from the educational program in training students and teachers in the face of these tests.

A new valuation method

This report suggests that observation in the classroom is necessary to assess teachers' ability. To accomplish this, the evaluators, who may be other teachers, must be trained to recognize high-quality instruction. It is recommended that test scores applied to students to evaluate teaching not be used disproportionately since educational success or failure depends on many factors.

Teachers can design this new evaluation method or be supervised by them. It is necessary that the qualification criteria be based on experience and professionalism. For example, teachers would evaluate the classroom activities of their colleagues; they would comment on teaching methods, collaborative work, tutoring, academic research review and other forms of feedback.