World leaders warn of ‘damaging’ effects of erosion in respect for teachers

A group of former world leaders has warned that an erosion in respect for the teaching profession could lead to “profoundly damaging” effects on young people’s life chances and a rise in extremism.

In an open letter to education ministers around the world, the leaders say that a “declining respect for teachers” will “weaken teaching, damage the learning opportunities for millions and ultimately weaken societies around the world”.

Governments should “play their part in restoring the respect that [teachers] so richly deserve”, they add.

The letter has been published by the Varkey Foundation and the Club de Madrid – which represents former presidents and prime ministers from around the world – to mark the opening of the 2016 Global Teacher Prize.

The Varkey Foundation award, dubbed the “Nobel prize for teaching”, aims to raise the status of the teaching profession by highlighting best practice around the world. The winner will receive $1 million (£650,000).

Richard Spencer, a science teacher at Middlesbrough College, Teesside, was one of 10 finalists for the 2015 prize. Dr Spencer impressed judges with his use of innovative techniques such as role play, songs and dance to make lessons engaging.

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