Teachers are UNRWA’s single most important educational resource; central to the provision of quality education. They are at the heart of the UNRWA Education Reform. To this effect, UNRWA has strengthened its investment in its teachers through career progression and continuous professional development opportunities. In this regard, the UNRWA Teacher Policy, endorsed in 2013, has been introduced to further professionalise the teacher work force. The Teacher Policy, in line with international research, sought to invest in its teachers through strengthening and motivating the teacher force and the systems which support it. Through this Policy, the career progression opportunities for teachers have been extended and the prior anomalies of the grading of the school principals (or head teachers) and their deputies was also addressed. A new layer of the field-based teacher professional support structure was added - the Strategic Support Units - whose work will help ensure that support to education in the field is evidence-based and effectively operationalized. The three new Strategic Support Units are: the Quality Assurance Unit (QAU), the Assessment Unit (AU), and the Professional Development and Curriculum Unit (PDCU).
The approach to teacher development was in itself holistic and coherent, moving beyond the usual focus of professional development and teacher training – albeit a key feature of the reform - to address issues of policy, including organisational structures and career progression. This broader focus reflects global evidence on the relatively low impact of a sole emphasis on teacher training, particularly delivered through the cascade approach and what is known about how teachers ‘learn’ best.
Within this overall approach to teacher development, specific training and professional development programmes are more likely to have an impact and even more so if the modality of the training reflects what is known about effective learning the classroom, and crucially how teachers themselves ‘learn’. To this effect, two large scale, professional development programmes were introduced. Both draw on best international, but contextualised, practices of blended learning (print, audio visual, web based). Both programmes are designed to strengthen the existing UNRWA school support system by requiring the field-based cadres to play key roles in implementation and capacitating them to this effect. The programmes are: School-Based Teacher Development Programme: Transforming Classroom Practices (SBTD 1 and 2) and Leading for the Future (LftF), respectively targeting teachers and school principals and their deputies.