Cameron Mirza, Chief of Party for Early Grades Education at IREX

Cameron Mirza is the Chief of Party for Early Grades Education Activity in Jordan. Previously, Cameron was the Chief of Party for the Pre-Service Teacher Education In Jordan program.  Prior to joining IREX Cameron spent several years reforming the higher education sector in the Kingdom of Bahrain. First, as Head of Strategy at the Ministry of Higher Education, then as Director of Strategy for the University of Bahrain. In the UK, Cameron was responsible for delivering such programs as the Respect Action Plan, the Youth Action Plan, and Young Apprenticeships while at the Department for Education and Skills. Cameron was also an advisor to the Ministry of Higher Education for Egypt, supporting the improvement of over 40 Universities. Cameron is a board member of Global Impact Initiative an NGO that supports refugees gain valuable employment skills.


Globally it is estimated by UNESCO that 44 million teachers are required urgently in order to realize the 2030 sustainable development goals. UNESCO also points out that seven out of 10 teachers at the secondary level will need to be replaced by 2030, along with over half of all existing teachers who will have left the profession by the decade’s end. Notably, attrition rates among primary teachers almost doubled from 4.62 percent globally in 2015 to 9.06 in 2022, with teachers often leaving the profession within their initial five years. Clearly, there is an ongoing and worsening crisis in teaching, marked by a global shortage of teachers. These shortages are driven by multiple factors, including teacher attrition, reliance on contracts and unqualified teachers, the lack of professional development, poor working conditions, workload, and low salaries. However, It’s not solely about quantity but also about the quality of skilled, knowledgeable prepared, and retained teachers, professional development of teachers is crucial to continually improve standards.

As policymakers grapple with the above challenges in the context of shifts in demographics, fiscal pressures, learning loss from COVID-19, and increasing class sizes it is time to rethink how Universities can help solve some of these grand challenges and rethink how it can support the teaching profession to play its essential role in creating a better, equitable and more prosperous world, especially when some countries have moved away from initial teacher training at university towards school-based and school-led training

in many countries, the responsibility for preparing teachers is held by the universities, which has helped raise the status of teaching. That said, teacher education has come under increasing criticism as overly theoretical and ineffective in addressing the practical needs of teachers within the classroom.  According to the World Bank In several sub-Saharan African countries, the average teacher does not perform much better on reading tests than the highest-performing Grade 6 or 12-year-old pupil. Therefore, it’s becoming increasingly important for universities to rethink their role in the system that includes governments, learning institutions, teacher organizations, parents, communities, schools, and other stakeholders that need to work together within the profession to develop teachers who can give learners the best chance to succeed in life. So what does the role of universities in teacher preparation look like?

Connected Curriculum

Teacher education must be more diverse, individualized, and learner-centered.  It requires a multi-disciplinary approach, connected to life beyond schools: to family, community, work, the digital world, and even social media. Learning must attend to the social-emotional development of students, their empathy, mental well-being, and contribution to affecting climate change, society, economy, and a sustainable future.  It is this purpose that will be the catalyst for transforming teacher preparation and training with universities at the center of this transformation. Education for Sustainable development (ESD) is important because it equips individuals and societies with the knowledge, skills, and values needed to navigate a rapidly changing world and build a more sustainable future for all. The embedding of sustainability principles into all teacher training will support all future teachers to embed ESD in their classrooms, curriculums, and teaching and will help create future generations of empowered individuals and communities that lend themselves to increased community cohesion and less societal polarization.

Centers of Learning Innovation and Experimental Pedagogy (CLIEPs)

While there has been innovation in teaching in the post-COVID era, it may not always be as rapid or widespread as in some other sectors due to factors such as regulatory constraints, cultural norms, and traditions. This is where universities can play a role in changing the current narrative regarding innovation in learning by establishing CLIEPs. These centers can function as innovation hubs where educators, researchers, and students collaborate to explore new teaching methodologies, technologies such as AI, and curriculum designs. CLIEPs can conduct research on effective teaching and learning practices, educational technologies, and pedagogical theories. Through empirical studies, action research projects, and pilot programs, they generate evidence-based insights that inform educational policy and practice. These centers can design, develop, and implement pilot programs and prototypes to allow experimental approaches to teaching, curriculum, and technology integration in a controlled, iterative environment.  Given that universities offer hundreds of programs from MBAs, and executive programs to data science often online it seems plausible that CLIEPs should leverage modules from their existing portfolio of programs across the institution to design future-facing teacher programs that encompass cognitive and behavioral science, data analytics,  artificial intelligence,  leadership, and sustainable development to test and pilot.  A future blueprint for a CLIEP is to cut across all institutional programs and leverage existing modules, courses, faculty, and industry to support learning innovation.

A New Partnership for Teacher Training

Research by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences concluded that student achievement can improve by as much as 21 percentile points as a result of teachers’ participation in well-designed professional development programs. High quality competency based initial teacher training combined with the ongoing and relevant professional development of teachers is, therefore, an essential part of ensuring quality education and the sustainability of student outcomes.  In many parts of the world partnerships between schools and higher education institutions are ubiquitous however, this partnership is critical to addressing concerns over the quality of the educational systems. Strong school-university partnerships can improve the learning of school students; promote teacher education; and provide professional development for practitioners. Whilst a robust partnership with schools is essential, a future partnership model in designing and delivering effective teacher professional development should also address the voices of different stakeholders, including school leaders,  teachers, government, school, and university authorities, as well as parents and students, all of whom contribute to the growth of teachers. This new partnership model requires a rethink of existing governance arrangements with universities playing a central role in coordinating and building a broad coalition.    The professional development of teachers and school leaders must move to a dynamic lifelong learning model similar to other sectors in order to allow the workforce to continually reskill and upskill.

The way forward

Universities have an opportunity to play a significant role in solving the current teaching crisis through being active protagonists in teacher training and preparation, innovation, and research. The need for cost-effective, high-quality lifelong learning of teachers and school leaders requires imagination, deeper and wider partnerships but importantly university leaders to strategically prioritize teacher education within their local areas and communities.  Technology and AI will be critical for teachers not just for the delivery of lessons but also to allow them to save time in lesson planning and marking.  Increased technology use within schools will create a significant amount of student data, and teachers will need to be trained on how to use this data to know their students on not just an academic level but also an emotional level: to use data to allow the curriculum to flex around the learner rather than the other way round. The future role of teacher training in universities is surely to develop the learning scientists required to future-proof education. This future requires the building of trust between all stakeholders to be a platform to rethink and reimagine the role of universities in solving the global teaching crisis.

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