Teachers enact their agency when they make decisions informed by, and aligned with, their beliefs and values. A balanced view of teacher agency attends to the interaction of the agent with structural and contextual influences. Agency can be enacted individually, in relation with others with similar beliefs and contexts, and/or collectively with others who possess disparate talents and operate in other contexts. Enacted in these ways, teacher agency provides avenues for critiquing and combatting the status quo in schools, providing children from minoritized backgrounds with equitable access to educational opportunities, and collaborating with stakeholders from outside of the educational institutions. While there is great potential for teacher agency to contribute to positive changes in the profession of teaching, in educational settings, and in the broader community, there are misperceptions (e.g., agency is classroom-bound, agency is fixed and invariable, agency is always about resistance) that sometimes limit educators’ abilities to enact agency. In order to support teacher agency, teacher educators must examine their curricula, their roles and responsibilities in supporting preservice and in-service teachers’ understandings of agency, and their own willingness to act as agents of change.
Ryan Flessner and Brooke Kandel-Cisco
Kurt Stemhagen and Tamara Sober
There are a variety of ways in which teachers engage in activism. Teachers working for social change within their classrooms and teachers who engage in advocacy and organize to influence policy, law, and society are all doing work that falls under the umbrella of teacher activism. While there are numerous catalysts, many teachers become activists when they encounter unjust educational or social structures. There are also considerable obstacles to teachers recognizing their potential power as activists. From the gendered history of teaching to the widespread conception of teaching as a solitary and not a collective enterprise, there is rarely an easy path toward activism. The importance of collective as opposed to individual social action among teachers is increasingly recognized. Many cities now have teacher activist organizations, a group of which have come together and created a national coalition of teacher activist groups. Overall, teacher activism is an underresearched and undertheorized academic area of study. Possibilities for collective action should be fully explored.
James H. Williams
This article looks broadly at the intersection of education, development, and international cooperation. It discusses trends in international cooperation in education for developing countries as well as ongoing challenges. Education has expanded rapidly throughout the world. Even so, the industrialized nations are decades if not generations ahead of parts of the developing world in terms of enrollment and learning attainment. For reasons of equity and economic development alone, it is imperative that all efforts be put to the task of achieving universal school enrollment and learning. To achieve such a goal in the context of what some researchers have termed a 100-year gap requires efforts on the part of national governments and international cooperation on the part of all nations of the world. International cooperation in education includes: (1) the institutions and architecture of international organizations; (2) development assistance, which is closely related; and (3) international agreements to promote education and other development goals. In a broad sense, these initiatives can be seen as moving toward increasingly cooperative relationships between wealthier nations and developing countries. International institutions involved in education include various agencies of the United Nations (UNESCO, UNICEF, ILO, UNHCR) as well as multilateral development banks (the World Bank, IMF, IDA, etc.); regional development banks (Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, etc.); and bilateral development agencies. Development assistance is provided in the form of technical and financial assistance to national governments by bilateral development agencies, the multilateral development agencies, UN agencies, as well as an increasing number of non-governmental agencies (NGOs). The UN Declaration on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child are foundational documents laying out the rights of all children to education and the obligation of governments to ensure children have access to quality education. Several global initiatives have led the way toward increasing educational participation in developing countries, including Education for All, the Millennium Development Goals, the UN Global Education First Initiative, and the Sustainable Development Goals. The article concludes with a listing of trends in educational development.