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Raising the Quality of Education: Developing Professional Standards for Teachers and School Leaders

Although there has been progress in recent years in expanding education and training opportunities in the Commonwealth member states, quality education remains a common concern. The 16th, 17th and 18th Commonwealth Conferences of Education Ministers emphasised the need to provide quality training and development for teachers to meet education needs at all levels. Ensuring that the teaching profession operates at the highest possible standards lies a the heart of quality education.

Commonwealth countries are at varying levels of progress regarding the adoption and implementation of professional standards for teachers and school leaders; many Commonwealth countries have developed their professional standards frameworks and some are in the process.  However, a considerable group of countries are confronted with the challenge of setting their professional standards as part of the global education reforms underway.

Commonwealth response: 

The Commonwealth Secretariat has developed a set of Professional Standards for Teachers and School Leader and a School Leadership Capability Framework, along with a training programme to facilitate implementation.

The proposed Standards Framework contained in this document attempts to address the following:

•lay the foundation for developing or enhancing pre-service, in-service and continuing professional development;
•assist teachers in self-assessing their competencies on which they can develop their learning and training plans to consolidate their professional qualifications;
•lay the foundation for monitoring and evaluating teachers professional growth and learning ;
•support the planning, deployment and utilization of teachers and school leaders; and
•act as the basis to propose policies towards a competent qualified teaching force.

The Professional Standards set a framework with core attributes (knowledge, skills and practices, ethics, values and attributes, leadership, community and relationships and professional learning) that teachers and school leaders must demonstrate in order to perform effectively their professional duties.  This was done through regional consultations in Africa/Asia, Caribbean and Pacific, which subsequently produced regional frameworks on professional standards.  Pulling the three regional experiences together, this has since led to the development of a Pan-Commonwealth Framework on Professional Standards for Teachers and School Leaders – the document contains the integrated standards framework along with a set of methodological guidelines for the development and implementation of the standards.  The document provides a model and reference that individual member countries can use to develop their own national frameworks on professional standards.


The main purpose of the proposed Standards Framework is to guide countries in defining the basic requirements related to knowledge, pedagogical skills and personal attributes that teachers and school leaders must demonstrate in order to achieve the objectives of education.


As a result of this process, a number of countries in the Commonwealth have developed their professional standards, and some have already started implementation:  Maldives and Samoa have developed their professional standards and are now moving towards implementation; Jamaica is already implementing their standards; while the CARICOM Ministers of Education adopted recently (May, 2013) the Caribbean Framework on Academic and Professional Standards as part of the process initiated by the Secretariat.

There do however remain challenges even for member countries that have put in place professional standards. Implementation of professional standards, support, monitoring and evaluation are complex and challenging steps in the process that must be carefully planned and resourced.


Member countries; ADEA, CARICOM and SAQA