Tim Phillips, Head of Teacher Development at the British Council in Manchester was part of a one day event in Skopje in September 2015 aimed at all universities in the Republic of Macedonia that train teachers of English. The purpose – how to work together to improve the professional development system starting from the early stages of education.
We asked Tim several questions about the significance of the teaching competences, how things work in the UK and about his work at the British Council that focuses on building capacities of teachers. Here is what he said.
1. What is the importance of the teaching competences in the wider context?
Teaching competences have a number of purposes. I think one of the most positive is that they set down clearly what it takes to be a teacher, what knowledge and skills a teacher needs. They can help teachers to understand what they need to do because they can see where they got through, where they need to improve and they can focus on things to improve. It can also help to raise the status of teachers, because it shows what a complicated, complex skill teaching is. But it’s also used to manage performance and to assess teachers. So you got something clear, that’s agreed and shows you whether the teacher is performing well and what they need to develop. So all this, I think, would have some advantages in helping to clarify what teaching requires in Macedonia.
2. What are some good examples of the UK that are of interest to education in Macedonia?
Well, I think, the one that’s possibly the most interesting is the emphasis on school leadership. There’s been a lot of work with the Government particularly in England in terms of trying to give schools more autonomy so they that they are able to make the decisions themselves, but that relies on very good leadership, and so there’s a recognition that school leaders need to be trained and they need to be responsible and accountable for their schools and especially for the performance of their teachers. They have a very important role in guiding their teachers. Because the school leader is there, in the school, and is of constant presence, I think that’s a very important feature and one that I think is of great interest elsewhere where sometimes there isn’t so much training of head teachers, sometimes there’s a different concept to the role, but I think the evidence in Britain is that a good school leader is very important.
3. What kind of a role does the British Council play in continuing professional development?
I would say that especially in English language teaching the British Council is one of the biggest continuing professional development organisations in the world. We organise the professional development of about 2000 early teachers in teaching centres around the world, and on top of that we work with governments, ministries and other organisations in the professional development of teachers of English in projects in many contexts. And then there’s the work that my team do which is developing training courses and materials for professional development, which in many cases are unique, there’s no one else producing in that area. And then more widely in terms of schools, and schools teaches of others subjects, we do a lot of work bringing the experience of the UK together with the experience of teachers more widely in education and helping develop professional develop systems for teachers.
The next steps of the project will focus on the creation of mechanisms for joint cooperation of all stakeholders with the aim to raise the level of knowledge and teaching practice of the English language teachers in Macedonia.