Teaching As a Profession - Professional Ethics for Teachers

Teaching As a Profession - Professional Ethics for Teachers


Professional Ethics for Teachers: Introduction

In the context of globalization, education becomes a prerequisite for the supply of highly qualified and trained manpower. Education is seen not only as a key to social cohesion but also to mitigate the consequences of globalization.

The fundamental requirement for global standards of education is trained and professionally competent teachers. As it looks today, where there is an explosion of education enterprises, there is a great demand for good, qualified, and committed teachers.

This situation is also common to all developing countries. Such good, qualified and committed teachers could not be possible if we cannot promote professionalism among teachers.

Professionalism: Its’ Meaning

What is Professionalism?

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Different people have different views on the meaning of professionalism. Some people equated professionalism with ‘vocation’ while others equated with ‘passion’. Still, others equated it with ‘devotion’.

If one goes through the dictionary, different connotations found for a profession are:
  • Line of work,
  • Vocation,
  • Occupation,
  • Job,
  • Career,
  • Business,
  • Discipline,
  • Livelihood,
  • Living,
  • Employment, etc.
However, these meanings are not complete in themselves to justify the meaning of a profession.

The word ‘professional’ traditionally means a person who has obtained a degree in a professional field. The term professional is used more generally to denote a white-collar working person or a person who performs commercially in a field typically reserved for hobbyists or amateurs.

In western nations, such as the United States, the term commonly describes highly educated, mostly salaried workers, who enjoy considerable work autonomy, a comfortable salary, and are commonly engaged in creative and intellectually challenging work. Less technically, it may also refer to a person having impressive competence in a particular activity.

Definition of Professionalism and Profession

Vollmer and Mills (1996) define profession as “an occupation based upon specialized intellectual study and training, the purpose of which is to supply skilled service or advice to others for a definite fee or salary”.
Cogan (1953) has given a very comprehensive definition of ‘profession’ as “a profession is a vocation whose practice is founded upon an understanding of the theoretical structure of some department of learning or science, and upon the abilities accompanying such understanding. This understanding and those abilities are applied to the vital practical affairs of man. The practices of the profession are modified by knowledge of a generalized nature and by the accumulated wisdom and experience of mankind, which serve to correct the errors of specialism. The profession, serving the vital needs of man, consider its first ethical imperative to be altruistic service to the client”.

Characteristics of Profession and Professionalism

In light of all the above definitions, we can derive certain special characteristics of a profession. They are:
  1. It requires a high degree of general and systematized knowledge
  2. It requires a long period of specialized intellectual training
  3. It is characterized by work that is essentially intellectual
  4. It provides a unique social service
  5. It controls its standards of entrance and exclusion
  6. It grants practitioners a broad range of autonomy, and
  7. It develops and enforces a professional code of ethics.

Teaching as a Profession

There has been some debate over the years as to whether teaching really is a profession. Some authors classify it as a semi-profession, whereas others distinguish secondary school teaching from elementary school teaching and classify the former as a profession and the latter as a semi-profession.

There is a number of research studies that say that the quality of education has a direct relationship with the quality and competence of the teachers. In the context of globalization, education becomes a prerequisite for the supply of highly qualified and trained manpower.

Education is seen not only as a key to social cohesion but also to mitigate the consequences of globalization. The fundamental requirement for global standards of education is trained and professionally competent teachers.

As it looks today, where there is an explosion of education enterprises, there is a great demand for good, qualified, and committed teachers. This situation is also common to all developing countries.

Such good, qualified and committed teachers could not be possible if a sense of professionalism is not felt among teachers. So, teaching whether at the elementary level or secondary level or tertiary level needs to be professional in nature.

In light of the characteristics of a profession described above, teaching could be well justified as a profession. A profession requires a high degree of general and systematized knowledge.

Duties of a Teacher

  • A teacher as a professional is required to acquire knowledge and skills in his/her teaching field.
  • He/she needs to update himself/herself with the changing knowledge base of a particular field.
  • Teaching as a profession cannot be specialized overnight. Mere knowledge of the content of a particular field cannot make a teacher a professional
  • He/she requires a long period of specialized intellectual training both at the pre-service and in-service level. Then only the work he/she will perform could be characterized as intellectual.
Teachers have the responsibility to their students, to peers as well to society. He/she has the responsibility to develop essential values among the students to appreciate the cultural heritage of society.

Since school is a miniature society, the responsibility of a teacher is to promote the social norms, etiquette among its students. A teacher is also a potential agent of social change. Hence, he/she also supposed to develop essential scientific values among the students to fight against social evils and prejudices.

However, as an ideological proposition, professionalism entails that a teacher should be given substantial autonomy to undertake their work in the way they judge to be appropriate for students, management, and society at large. Autonomy in the teaching profession can only bring a favorable attitude towards the teaching profession and students.

The status and dignity of teachers in our society have been declining steadily over the last few decades. There are several reasons for such a deteriorating status of teachers. One of the most justified reasons is the lack of a professional code of ethics among teachers.

Let us discuss this point in the subsequent points.

Code of Professional Ethics for Teachers

A high standard of professional ethics is required to be developed among teachers. The professional teacher owes a higher duty to its students and society. Often the teacher is required to put the interest of the students ahead of his own interests.

Adherence to professional ethics can contribute significantly to enhance their status and self-esteem and for increasing respect for the profession in society. 

Responsibilities of a Teacher

Teachers have the responsibility to attain the highest degree of ethical conduct towards students, parents, peer groups, management, professional organization, and society at large.

  • In relation to students, a teacher should always strive to foster the intellectual, social, and moral growth of his/her students. 
  • He/she should treat all students with love and affection and impartial irrespective of caste, creed, sex, status, religion, language, and place of birth. 
  • He/she should respect the moral and religious beliefs of his/her students. 
  • He/she should respect the rights of all children enacted in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (1989).

  • In relation to parents/guardians, a teacher should provide essential information about the progress of the child to the parents. 
  • He/she should establish and maintain a cordial relationship with parents and seek their cooperation towards improving the teaching-learning process as well as improving the child’s ability.

  • In relation to its profession and colleagues, a teacher should win public trust and confidence by providing quality education to all the students. 
  • He/she should update his/her knowledge and skills on a continuous basis. 
  • He/she should always transact the curriculum effectively after making thorough preparation for the lessons to be taught. 
  • He/she should avoid derogatory comments about the students and colleagues especially in front of the students and management. 
  • He/she should cooperate with the principal, management, and colleagues in and outside the school in both curricular and co-curricular activities.

  • In relation to management, he/she should have awareness about the legal and administrative rights and responsibilities towards the management. 
  • He/she should carry out instructions from management and also raise his/her rights through the clearly determined procedure and channels. 
  • He/she should develop mutual respect and trust through his/her professional activities.

  • In relation to a professional association, a teacher should be a member of a teacher association at the local/state/national/international level. 
  • He/she should participate in the activities organized by the teacher association for his/her professional growth. 
  • He/she should be constructive towards criticizing the activities of the association.

  • In relation to society and the nation at large, a teacher should strive to understand the social problems and take part in activities that would be conducive to meet the challenges of social problems. 
  • He/she should refrain him/herself from the activities which promote hatred and enmity among different communities. 
  • He/she should be loyal to school, community, state, and nation. 
  • He/she should be a potential agent to promote national integration. 
  • He/she should also encourage students to discharge their rights and duties enshrined in the constitution.

Strategies to Promote Professionalism among Teachers

Historically, the teaching was not considered to be a profession. It was considered to be a passion and devotion. So, it has not had the kind of structured induction and initiation processes as it had common to many white-collar occupations. 

However, In recent years, there has been a growth in support, guidance, and orientation programs for teachers at different levels. Today now teaching is considered to be a profession like other white-collar jobs. 

However, developing professionalism among teachers is not a one-time job. It is a continuous and life-long process. Different activities need to be conducted at different levels in order to foster professionalism among teachers. 

Some of these activities are discussed below.

Self Activity

  • A teacher should be highly intrinsically motivated. His/her primary concern is learning to grow. 
  • He/she should be a life-long learner. 
  • He/she should continuously be involved in conducting action research while encountering a problem in the classroom. This will help him/her to get updated on content knowledge as well as pedagogical skills. 
  • No external agency is responsible to supervise his/her work. It should be self-supervised. 
  • He/she should be involved in intellectual discussion with peers, seniors, and experts; attend seminars, conferences, workshops; and disseminate his/her innovations/thoughts.

School-level Activity

  • Schools should provide a congenial environment for teachers to grow as a professional. 
  • Enough autonomy should be given to teachers to conduct an experiment with students, and to do action research in the classroom. 
  • They should be motivated to write books and articles; attend seminars, conferences, and workshops, and present papers. 
  • There should be continuous interaction among teachers, management, and parents so as to know each other's difficulties and problems. 
  • The teacher should get a decent salary in order to maintain a standard quality of life in society. 
  • They should also be given incentives from time to time for preparing teaching aids, conducting experiments, and action research.

Association level Activity

  • Apart from lobbying the government for the welfare of the teachers, the teacher organizations should be involved in professional development and in-service education of teachers. 
  • From time to time they should conduct subject-specific workshops, seminars, and conferences. 
  • They should also update the pedagogical knowledge of teachers from time to time. 
  • Teacher organizations should publish periodicals, reports, and handbooks and circulate them among teachers. 
  • Whenever there is a change in curriculum or policies at the government level, the information should be disseminated to teachers and suggestions should be sought from teachers through the organization of meetings, workshops, seminars, panel discussions, etc.

Teaching as a profession is under scrutiny because of several reasons. With the changing demands of liberalization and globalization, a teacher needs to be confident enough to foster essential values among students. 

He/she should also develop those competencies among students which will help them in competing in a market-oriented economy. Teacher education institutions have a great role to play in this regard. Teacher education curriculum both at pre-service and in-service level needs to be changed to meet the growing demand of professionally competent teachers. 

Teacher educators need to be professionally competent enough to meet such growing demands. There should ample opportunities for teacher educators to get exposure to in-service education, attending conferences, seminars, workshops, etc. 

Motivation should also be given for conducting research activities, writing research papers, disseminating the research outcomes through publications, etc. Then only, professionally competent teachers could be produced.

  • Vollmer, H.M., and Mills, D.L. (1996). Professionalization. New Jersy: Prentice Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs.
  • Cogan, M.L. (1953). Towards a Definition of Profession. Harvard Educational Review, Vol.23, 33-50.

Author Remarks: To Promote Professionalism Among Teachers is Very Important. In This article on the Code of Profesional Ethics for Teachers, we have learned the various topics like, Meaning and Definition of Professional and Professionalism in teaching, Duties of teachers, Roles and Responsibilities of teacher, and various activities that are performed by the teacher, Teaching as a Profession, What is Code of Professional Ethics for Teachers?, Strategies to Promote Professionalism among teachers. If you want to write an essay or paragraph on "Teaching as a Profession" then here we have provided the best notes on Teaching As a Profession.

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