GTCS Talks Balkans
Tom Hamilton, Director of Education and Professional Learning at GTC Scotland, talks from Albania about his visit to meet the Council of Europe Project Against Corruption in Albania.
So why is the GTCS wasting teachers' fees by sending you to Albania?
Tom Hamilton (TH): Well, actually, it's being paid for jointly by the European Commission and the European Union so it's not actually costing Scottish teachers anything. But you won't deny that you're sitting in the sun beside the pool while you could be in Scotland doing important things like reviewing the Standards and designing the Professional Update scheme? Well, it is sunny and there is a pool but I'm not actually sitting beside it – I'm sitting in a hotel room writing this while waiting to go to a meeting with Albanian government officials, a meeting where they'll probably not like what I'm saying. And as for the Standards and Professional Update – they're getting on fine without me for a few days.
So what is the GTCS doing in Albania anyway?
TH: Well, it's part of something called the Project Against Corruption in Albania (PACA) - we've been looking at the Albanian education system, weighing up the risks within it for corruption and giving advice on how it might be avoided.
Corruption in education? How can education be corrupt?
TH: Well, you can not bother teaching your pupils during school time and then charge them for private tutoring after school. You can turn a blind eye to cheating and perhaps accept a gift in return. You can ensure that your published text book is the one which all pupils have to buy. You can ensure that your friend/family member/political ally gets the job. You can fail an entire university class and then sell them the revision notes they need for the resit. You can set up a private university and rake in fees while providing little (no?) education and then still award 'degrees' at the end of the programme.
TH: Afraid not. The Albanian government has recently suspended the licence of one of the main private universities for 'selling' a degree to the son of an Italian politician - he had not gained an Italian school leaving certificate, didn't speak Albanian and, indeed, had never actually been to Albania.
So what advice have you been giving?
TH: Well, to improve the system you have to put professional ethics and professionalism right at its heart. You have to have teachers, local officials and central government officials for whom such practices are simply unthinkable. So we've very strongly been pushing the development of an ethical code for teachers. We've been pushing for the development of a much higher profile for professionalism in the development and ongoing life of teachers, and I mean teachers in all sectors.
So can the problems of Albania be solved?
TH: Absolutely... there is an incredibly young population, a dynamic atmosphere, a real desire to be part of Europe, and some very, very committed people who are working to improve educational practices.
So that'll be you off back beside the pool now?
TH: Well, maybe just for ten minutes until my meeting with the government... where did I put my sunglasses?