Professional Standards for Teaching: a Review or Literature


Abstract:- The aim of this article is to review the related literature about the Professional Standards for teachers. The conceptual and historical background of the professional standards has been discussed in this article. It is viewed that quality of education and quality of life are interdependent. Quality of education to a great extent lies on the quality of his teachers. Professional standards for teachers are being used as a tool to improve the quality of education. Standards are the measures of achievement for both the professional teachers or educators and the their students.

These professional standards are sub divided into content and performance standards in the curriculum seek to assure excellence.

These standards define and establish expectations, and provide a common base for planning. Professional standards for teachers also provide a foundational framework to develop pre-service teacher education programmes, accredit the institutions that offer them and to certify their graduates as licensed teachers. In different western countries various organizations are responsible for the development of different types of professional standards for teachers.

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In Pakistan, National Professional Standards for teachers has been introduced by the Federal Ministry of Education in collaboration with UNESCO and USAID, which are discussed in detail in this review.


Education is considered as one of the basic elements which contribute to the development of a country and the prosperity of the masses. It promotes awareness among people by making them able to ‘read’ the world (Freire, 1987). The increasing use of technology has transformed the world into a global village.

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This global community has accepted the principle that education is a basic human right. Accomplishment of such right does not only involve being given access to schools and being trained for life-long learning via either formal or non-formal means, but more importantly, being provided quality education (Ibrahim & Ahmed, 2008, p. 402). For many children, youth and adults today, access to learning opportunities is no longer a luxury; however, getting quality education remains to be elusive even in developed countries. The declarations of the 1990 Jomtien World Conference on Education and the 2000 Dakar World Education Forum both emphasized that to achieve Education for All (EFA) by 2015 would require, in addition to increased access to education, all countries to improve the quality and equity of education “so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all” (Ross K., 2007).

Teachers are vital. Unless we can get more teachers, and better teachers, we will not reach the target of making quality education available for all by 2015.The quality and standard of excellence in education depend upon the quality and standard of teachers. Strong evidence demonstrates that the quality of teachers is the most significant educational input for quality learning in schools. The importance of the role of the teacher as an agent of change, promoting understanding and tolerance, has never been more obvious than today (Delors, Mufti, Amagi, Carneiro, Chung, Geremek, Gorham, Kornhauser, Manley, Quero, Savane, Singh, Stavenhagen, Suhr, Won, & Nanzhao,1996). This is reflected in the international trend to give greater attention and effort to improve the quality of teachers.

If any country aspires to compete successfully in the global knowledge economy and convert the raw talents of its people into productive asset it has to create a world class educational system from pre-school to postgraduate levels. A world class education is not possible without world class teachers, most importantly at the foundational levels of K -10 grades, who instruct, inform and inspire their students to quality learning and scholarship. MacBer (2000) describes the qualities of a teacher, A good teacher is kind, is generous, listens to students, encourages them, has faith in them, keeps confidences, likes teaching children, likes teaching their subjects, takes time to explain things, helps them when they are stuck, tells them how they are doing, allow them to have their say, doesn't give up on them, cares for their opinion, makes them feel clever, treats people equally, stands up for them, makes allowances, tells the truth and is forgiving ( p. 3).

Since last decade, there has been a worldwide focus on quality in education in many countries. Calls for quality teachers, quality outcomes and quality schools have become something of a mantra for politicians employing authorities and business leaders (Ibrahim & Ahmed, 2008, p. 402). K. Kennedy (2001) describes a quality profession and a quality classroom teaching as two sides of the same coin. It is true that we want a need a “quality profession”. Yet it equally true that we need individual teachers who make up the profession to be committed to quality teaching […]. What the profession as a whole says about standard of professional practice should come to life in individual classrooms (Kennedy, 2001). To produce world class teachers and empower them to educate generations of learners /scholars, the fundamental requirements have been clearly delineated in professional literature. It includes standards of what teachers need to know and be able to do.

Professional Standards for Teachers

Standard-setting and accreditation of teacher education are key mechanisms to ensure the quality of teacher training. Quality assurance requires Professional Standards of teacher education and an effective mechanism of teacher accreditation of teacher education institutions and programmes. Developing and implementing standards of professional practice to reflect a new model of teacher professionalism is emerging as a priority in a number of countries across the globe. Professional teaching standards help to make teachers’ knowledge and capabilities more explicit, as well as provide a powerful mechanism for defining and communicating what constitutes good teaching. They can also provide a useful framework for ongoing professional learning. Quality of teachers is reflected in their quality of teaching. To ensure quality in teaching, standards for what teachers should know and be able to do should be developed. The standards are used as the criteria for licensing or certification, recruitment, and career planning and development (Ibrahim & Ahmed, 2008, p. 414).

Meaning of Standards

The term “standards” can be used in at least two ways: firstly, standards are statements about what is valued - statements of principle; secondly, they are measures - levels or measures of performance. A standard, in the later sense “points to and describes a desirable level of performance” (Ingvarson L. , 2002). Sykes and Plastrik point out that the word 'standard', as in the second sense of a measure, carries different usages and nuances. One of these is the idea of a standard as a legally recognized unit, such as that of Greenwich Mean Time, or the Gold Standard, or the Standard Meter for length. Another is the notion of a standard as 'an authoritative or recognized exemplar of perfection', such as the sacred books of a religious organization.

Yet another usage refers to 'a definite level of excellence, attainment, wealth or the like' such as 'standard of living', standards of health or a particular level of proficiency', as in playing the piano or conducting a hip replacement, for example (1993). There are two main types of standards as applied to teaching: The first defines the basic tasks or duties of a teacher - what a teacher is hired to do. These are the kinds of generic criteria that school administrators usually have authority to apply in appraising whether teachers are doing their basic job. ... The second are standards for good teaching specific to particular subject and curriculum fields. ... These standards are based on professional values and images of high quality learning specific to subject fields (Ingvarson L., 1998a, pp. 32-33).

Standards are used in different ways in teaching profession. For example pre-service preparation and at the time of induction, they are used to select new members of the teaching profession (Selection Standards), to assess that what graduates from teacher education courses should know and able and to do (Standards for higher qualification in teaching), to assess the teacher preparation course and institutions (Accreditation standards), and to measure the performance for full entry to the profession after probationary year (Registration / Licensing Standards). Professional Standards for teachers are also used to improve continuing Professional Development (CPD). These standards may include Employer specific standards, where permanency still applies (Permanency / Tenure standards), Standards for periodic review of performance of contractual duties for retention or dismissal decisions (Accountability standards), Standards for self-analysis and reflection on practice (Appraisal Standards for Professional Development), Profession-wide standards for highly accomplished practice set by a professional body (Advanced Certification Standards) and Standards for career advancement specific to an employing authority (Promotion Standards) (Ingvarson L. 2002, p.3-6).

History of Initiative or Development of Professional Standards There is considerable interest worldwide in the potential of professional teaching standards to support improvements in the quality of teaching and learning. This interest reflects the findings of recent research on quality teaching (Darling-Hammond. 2000; Cuttance, 2001; Rivkin, Hanushek & Kain, 2000). The development of professional standards has proceeded with remarkable speed within a number of countries. Developments have been “driven by a diverse range of factors. It includes the demand for greater accountability, the desire to reform education, the need to strengthen teacher professional development and the introduction of teacher performance appraisal” (Mulcahy, 2003).

A brief history of development of Professional Standards around the world United States of America

At the national level, the establishment of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) has dominated discussion of professional standards in the United States. The National Board established in 1987 in response to the criticisms of teaching standards in “A Nation at Risk”, is credited as being the catalyst for action in the United States. The National Board’s mission was to establish rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do. The vast canopy of NBPTS standards of accomplished teaching is built on five core, underpinning propositions. (1) Teachers are committed to students and their learning; (2) Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students; (3) Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning; (4) Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience; and (5) Teachers are members of learning communities (NBPTS, 1987).

Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) is a consortium of state education agencies, higher education institutions, and national educational organisations dedicated to the reform of the education, licensing, and on-going professional development of teachers in the USA, which had also formulated the professional standards for teachers. INTASC’s mission is to promote standards-based reform through the development of model standards and assessments for beginning teachers (INTASC, 2006). In comparison with the National Board’s approach to developing standards, the INTASC standards are performance-based, that is they describe what teachers should know and be able to do rather than listing courses that teachers should take in order to be awarded a licence (Ibrahim & Ahmad, 2008, p. 418). Developed for purposes of licensing beginning teachers, they do not differ markedly in knowledge or skills requirements from those used by the NBPTS for accreditation of accomplished teachers. Where they do differ is in the expectation that accomplished teachers will be able to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in more refined ways (Ramsey, 2000, p. 22).

The United Kingdom

The issue of standards for teachers has been a focus of policy development in England for most of the last decade. Four separate agencies are now involved in the development, monitoring and accreditation of teachers against educational standards. They are; (1) The Teacher Training Agency (TTA) or Training and Development Agency (TDA); (2) Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED); (3) The General Teaching Council (GTC); (4) The Further Education National Training Organisation (FENTO). The General Teaching Council (GTC) was established by the Teaching and Higher Education Act 1998, started work on 1 September 2000 as the independent professional body for teaching in England. The Act gave effect to a long-held aspiration to give teaching the same status as other self-regulating professions, such as nursing. It set the GTC two aims: (1) to contribute to improving standards of teaching and the quality of learning, and (2) to maintain and improve standards of professional conduct among teachers, in the interests of the public.

The GTC code has been revised and is effective from September 2009. The Code describes professionalism in practice in relation to registered teachers: (1) Put the wellbeing, development and progress of children and young people first (2) Take responsibility for maintaining the quality of their teaching practice (3) Help children and young people to become confident and successful learners (4) Demonstrate respect for diversity and promote equality (5) Strive to establish productive partnerships with parents and carers (6) Work as part of a whole-school team (7) Co-operate with other professional colleagues (8) Demonstrate honesty and integrity and uphold public trust and confidence in the teaching profession (The General Teaching Council (GTC), 2009).


The issue of standards is under discussion in Australia since 1980’s. Professional Standards for teachers have been developed both at National and state/ province level after a long and continuous struggle. This Standard movement can be divided into two parts. (1) First Phase of standards development (1980 – 1999), (2) Second Phase of standards development (21st Century). Most of the initial work on professional standards done in first period was the result of state government agencies or employers. However, no comparable professional standards for teachers were developed. Accreditation of teacher education programs, entry to and succession within the teaching profession was organized in line with the particular qualification or registration requirements within each State or Territory. Regulatory bodies for teachers within Australia were state-based (Mulchay & Jasman, 2003, p. 13). In the second phase of standards develop movement; the responsibility of developing professional standards was squarely placed with the profession.

It was increasingly argued that standards should be generated by the teachers so that establishment of these standards would craft point of reference for teachers. Ingvarson (1998, p. 127) writing in the context of school teaching, argues that teaching standards “need to be embedded in the teaching of a particular subject if they are to be valid representations of expertise and useful guides to professional development” (as cited in Mulchay & Jasman, 2003, p. 16). The National Standards for Teachers (the Standards) in Australia has been validated and finalized by The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) in collaboration with The Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA) in 2010. The National Professional Standards for Teachers were endorsed by MCEECDYA in December 2010. The Standards represents an analysis of effective, contemporary practice by teachers throughout Australia.

Their development included a synthesis of the descriptions of teachers’ knowledge, practice and professional engagement used by teacher accreditation and registration authorities, employers and professional associations (The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), 2011). The seven Standards identify what is expected of teachers within three domains of teaching (Professional Knowledge, Professional Practice and Professional Engagement) within their four stages (Graduate, Proficient, Highly accomplished and Lead Teacher) of their careers .

Teachers’ demonstration of the Standards will occur within their specific teaching context at their stage of expertise and reflect the learning requirements of the students they teach (AITSL, 2011). The Standards are; (1): Know students and how they learn (2): Know the content and how to teach it (3): Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning (4): Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments (5): Assess, provide feedback and report on student learning (6): Engage with professional learning (7): Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community (AITSL, 2011, p. 5).


The Ministry of Education, with the cooperation of United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the financial support of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has developed National Professional Standards for Teachers in Pakistan. These standards frame a vision of the qualifications Pakistan expects of its teachers. These expectations need to be of national concern because teachers are the heart of the nation's effort to assure a better future for all children and youth (United Nation Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 2011).

These standards were launched on the 23 of February of 2009 and it is hoped that with them, a wider discussion on teacher quality will emerge and be accompanied by concrete actions dedicated to its improvement. The standards are; (1)Subject matter knowledge (2) Human growth and development (3) Knowledge of Islamic ethical values/social life skills (4) Instructional planning and strategies (5) Assessment (6) Learning environment (7) Effective communication and proficient use of information communication technologies (8) Collaboration and partnerships (9) Continuous professional development and code of conduct (10) Teaching of English as second/foreign language (ESL/EFL) (Government Of Pakistan, 2009).


Education is an essential need of life. The quality of life depends upon the quality of education. A quality education system depends upon the well qualified teachers. To measure the ability and performance of the teachers we need some basis and standards provide these bases for evaluation or comparison of teachers. Just like many other professions professional standards for teachers are being introduced in education in different countries of the world including Pakistan. The review of literature reveals that United States of America has a pioneering role in the development of these professional standards for teachers. In many western countries like America and Australia these professional standards for teachers are being introduced by both public and private organizations, especially teachers’ organizations.

These standards are of generic and specific types. The generic standards are introduced to general expected behavior of teachers. The specific standards are produced according to the needs of the specific subject. These standards are playing a crucial role to improve the quality of education. These standards are also motivating factor for teachers for their continuous professional development (CPD). In Pakistan these professional standards are recently introduced in 2009 by the federal ministry of Education government of Pakistan with the financial support of UNESCO and USAID under STEP project. These standards are in the process of implementation and several teachers’ organizations and NGOs are also closely monitoring and evaluating them. It is hoped that these standards may be used as agent of change for the betterment of education in Pakistan.

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Updated: Feb 22, 2021
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