16 January 2006
VSO launches today a recruitment campaign, calling on experienced educators to volunteer as teachers in developing countries.
This announcement marks the culmination of a growing trend towards senior volunteering. The organization will cease recruiting newly qualified teachers for classroom vacancies. For almost 50 years, VSO has been synonymous with overseas volunteering opportunities for graduate teachers in the UK.
Five years ago just 5 per cent of VSO's education placements included training and management responsibility. Today a typical volunteer works with colleagues in Ministries of Education, teacher training colleges and local education authorities on areas such as national quality standards, curriculum development, monitoring and evaluation, teacher training methodology and school management.
VSO's change in approach to education volunteering is in direct response to the Millennium Development Goal, which commits to ensuring all children of primary school age have access to quality education by 2015. While an increasing number of poor countries have committed to providing free primary schooling, many education systems were already suffering from years of under-investment, and development and expansion aggravated the issue of poor quality.
There is a real concern that children will vote with their feet and leave school unless standards are improved. UK Chancellor Gordon Brown said last week that free education should not be at the expense of quality education and that education for all must become a global cause.
Lack of solid infrastructure at government and institutional level means the education received by millions of children is not relevant, of poor quality or badly delivered. VSO's significant history in education volunteering puts it in the unique position of being able to place volunteers in positions where they can use their expertise to build teachers confidence to tackle these issues.
Penny Lawrence, International Programmes Director at VSO commented "Anyone working in the UK education sector knows that curriculum relevance, the effectiveness of teacher support and training and the provision of resources has a profound impact on the quality of education a child receives. In developing countries, where access to education can literally be a matter of life or death, addressing these issues is crucial. We are urging teachers who are retiring or looking to take a career break to consider sharing their expertise as VSO volunteers".
January to March is traditionally the period when senior teachers resign and with 5,000 head teachers in England aged over 55 and approaching retirement. VSO is challenging individuals to consider how they can use their expertise to have a lasting impact on the quality of education children in poor countries receive. If VSO is to meet its commitments to overseas partners it must receive 372 applications by Easter.