INNOTECH Brings Together Country Representatives to Explore Teacher Motivation in Southeast Asia

Delegates from ten Southeast Asian countries including Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor Leste, and Vietnam convened in a teacher motivation regional research forum to develop the Southeast Asian Framework for Motivation of Teachers in Staying in the Profession.  

INNOTECH recognizes the important role of teachers in improving the quality of education and enhancing student achievement and learning outcomes. To improve their performance, it is crucial to explore teacher motivations in staying in the profession. In line with this, SEAMEO INNOTECH conducted a Teacher Motivation study in the Philippines as technical assistance to the Department of Education (DepEd). The study documented the factors that make teachers join, remain, and potentially leave the teaching profession. Building on this, SEAMEO INNOTECH is currently undertaking a study on the motivations of teachers in Southeast Asia, with the aim of creating a country-specific framework predicting teachers’ motivations to stay in the profession. The organization is collaborating with partner SEAMEO Centers and Ministries of Education to finish the said undertaking.  

Southeast Asian country representatives and content experts take a photo with SEAMEO INNOTECH Center Director, Prof. Leonor Magtolis Briones and the rest of the INNOTECH team.

Country representatives and content experts with SEAMEO INNOTECH Center Director, Prof. Leonor Magtolis Briones and the rest of the Teacher Motivation team.

“Envisioning Motivated Teachers: A Foresight-based Development of Teacher Motivation Framework in Southeast Asia” forms part of Phase 1 of this research, using a futures thinking approach to develop a working draft of the regional framework. Prior to the conduct of the Regional Research Forum, the partner SEAMEO Centers and Ministries of Education made significant contributions by gathering teacher contexts and policies related to staying in the teaching profession and conducting interviews with teachers. These provided useful information in the series of presentations, roundtable discussions, and workshop sessions. The regional framework to be developed will then lay the groundwork for Phase 2, which involves designing a survey instrument.  

Country representatives presented their respective national contexts, including the status of teachers, their society’s general view of them, and the cultural factors influencing the status of teachers. For instance, Mr. Khat Prumsochetra of SEAMEO TED, highlighted the respect given to Cambodian teachers, as “they are seen as instrumental in educating the next generation.” Similarly, teaching in Indonesia is also seen as a noble profession. Ms. Limala Ratni Sri Kharismawati of SEAQIL even emphasized that the word “teacher” in Javanese language is known as “Guru,” an acronym for “Digugu lan Ditiru” that literally means “trusted and emulated.” She further added that in Javanese culture, “a teacher plays an extremely positive role… someone who is trusted and serves as a role model in life, both in school and in the community.”    

During the presentations, representatives also discussed stereotypes and misconceptions about teachers in their countries. Gender bias remains an issue in Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam, where many consider teaching more suitable for females, relegating males to leadership and management roles. Challenges also surfaced in the discussion, such as the lack of a comprehensive teacher policy that covers all dimensions of teacher education and development, including pre-service and in-service teacher education and training, recruitment, deployment, retention, personnel management, incentives, and working conditions of teachers. Additionally, the teaching profession, despite being highly respected, is not considered as prestigious as other professions given the various challenges.   

Dr. Christian Leubert Milambiling moderates a breakout session.

Dr. Christian Leubert Milambiling moderates a breakout session to further explore Teacher Motivation in Southeast Asia.

The attendees of the forum also shared various challenges faced by the educators in their respective countries. The representatives stated that one of the struggles was addressing the teachers’ competency gaps, which were reduced by encouraging them to go on trainings. Also, there was a mention of mentoring programs that allowed teachers to learn from and collaborate further with their school heads. However, the implementation of these development programs is hindered by limited resources, location of the schools, and even the level of teacher acceptance of these changes.   

In response, the forum emphasized the importance of fostering collaboration among education stakeholders, increasing technology access, and providing funding support. It was also noted that teachers themselves should prioritize their professional development.   

Despite the challenges, many teachers still choose to remain in the profession as they consider it as their vocation, mission, and passion in life. Government efforts to elevate the teaching profession by granting civil servant status were also acknowledged.  

Dr. Lizamarie Campoamor-Olegario at the roundtable discussion.

Dr. Lizamarie Campoamor-Olegario at the roundtable discussion to further explore Teacher Motivation in Southeast Asia.

The forum took place on September 19-20, 2023, at the Center’s Pearl Hall in Quezon City, Philippines. The first day’s proceedings is available for streaming on the Center’s official YouTube channel and Facebook Page.

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