On World Teachers’ Day, UNESCO rings alarm over shortage of teachers

Poor working conditions & lack of training driving talent away


October 5, 2022

/ By / New Delhi

On World Teachers’ Day, UNESCO rings alarm over shortage of teachers

Besides sub-Saharan Africa, India also faces a severe shortage of teachers (MIG photos)

The global education sector is far from recovering the unprecedented setbacks received during the 30-odd months of school closures during Covid-19 pandemic. Even as thousands of schools have closed and millions of students have failed to return to the class room, there is also a tremendous shortage of teachers, primarily because many earlier teachers have not returned to their classrooms and also because schools are struggling to find new talent, says UNESCO on the occasion of the World Teachers’ Day that falls on October 5.

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Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Audrey Azoulay, has expressed grave concern over the severe shortage of teachers in schools which threatens the objective of achieving universal basic education by the year 2030, as cited in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs).

Azoulay sounds the alarm as the world celebrates the World Teachers’ Day. She calls upon the governments around the world to step up their support for teachers, warning that the teaching profession was struggling to retain its workforce and attract new talent.

According to UNESCO, worldwide, an additional 69 million teachers are needed to reach universal basic education by 2030. Exacerbating the problem, the countries suffering from the highest deficit of teachers are precisely the countries which need to catch up the most in terms of the UNSDG goal on universal basic education, notably the sub-Saharan Africa. Another region suffering from the gravest shortage is South Asia, including India, says UNESCO.

“Lack of training, unattractive working conditions and inadequate funding all undermine the teaching profession and aggravate the global learning crisis. UNESCO has always placed teachers at the heart of the fight for the right to inclusive and quality education. There is an urgent need to better recognise this profession on which the future of our children depends,” says Azoulay.

UNESCO’s estimates indicate the need for an additional 24.4 million teachers in primary education and some 44.4 million teachers for secondary education in order to achieve universal basic education by 2030. With some of the most overcrowded classrooms in the world, sub-Saharan Africa is also home to the most overburdened teachers and understaffed systems, with 90 pc of secondary schools facing serious teaching shortages.

New UNESCO figures unveiled for 2022 World Teachers’ Day show that 5.4 million teachers are needed at primary level in sub-Saharan Africa, and 11.1 million teachers at secondary level, if the world is to achieve the targets set by the 2030 Agenda. The region with the second largest deficit is Southern Asia: UNESCO projects 1.7 million additional teachers will be needed at primary-level, and 5.3 million at secondary-level.

Working conditions must be improved

UNESCO says that in low-income countries, the first obstacle to attracting new talent is the heavy workload. According to a new UNESCO data, each primary teacher in these countries has an average of 52 pupils per class at primary level, while the global average is 26. The ratio is particularly high in sub-Saharan Africa, with 56 pupils per teacher, and Southern Asia with 38 students under the charge of each teacher. In sharp contrast, in Europe and North America there are only 15 pupils per teacher on average.

Another challenge for achieving the basic education target is the lack of proper training for teachers. UNESCO says that supervision difficulties are amplified by a lack of training, which means that teachers do not always have all the tools at hand to succeed in the classroom. UNESCO data shows that about 26 pc of primary and 39 pc of secondary school teachers do not have the minimum qualification requirements in low-income countries, compared to respectively 14 pc and 16 pc globally.

In remote, underprivileged, and rural areas, conditions worsen and are exacerbated by multi-grade, multi-lingual and acute learning needs in the classroom.

Female teachers are affected disproportionately due to lack of adequate housing, long and unsafe routes to school and a lack of childcare services making it difficult to keep women in remote teaching posts. The underrepresentation of female teachers in certain knowledge areas, and in leadership positions is another ongoing challenge, says UNESCO.

Another element to be addressed by governments and schools is salary, says UNESCO, which maintains that the vocational crisis is also accentuated by non-competitive salaries. UNESCO data shows that 6 out of 10 countries pay primary school teachers less than other professionals with similar qualifications. This criterion is particularly evident in high-income countries. In 5 out of 6 countries in this group, primary school teachers earn less than other comparable professionals. Three high-income countries have a commendable teacher salary policy: Singapore, with an average salary equal to 139 pc of comparable professions, Spain (125 pc), and the Republic of Korea (124 pc).

UNESCO honours innovative Teacher Development Programmes

On the occasion of the World Teachers’ Day, UNESCO has also unveiled the winners of the 7th Edition of the UNESCO-Hamdan Prize for Teacher Development Programme. According to a press release by UNESCO, three innovative programmes from Benin, Haiti and Lebanon, have been selected as laureates. The three initiatives have enhanced the role of teachers to transform education in their communities and beyond.

The three winners are Apprendre en paix, Enseigner sans violence (Learn in Peace, teach without violence) from Graines de Paix in Benin, TAMAM Project for School-Based Educational Reform from the American University of Beirut, and Training Teachers to Transform Haiti from PH4 Global. An endowment of USD 300,000 will be divided between the winners to help further their work in advancing innovative practices in the teaching profession.

Graines de Paix, Benin

The programme Apprendre en paix, Enseigner sans violence provides educational solutions focused on how to prevent all forms of violence, prevent radicalisation, and foster wellbeing, a culture of peace, security, equity, and inclusion. Teachers learn how to move on from violent punitive authoritarian postures to positive postures that empower all students. The project is based on the pedagogical approaches tested in Switzerland, France, and Côte d’Ivoire, but is anchored in Benin’s local context. Over 4,500 teachers have been trained, 2,500 parents have been sensitized and more than 250,000 children were reached through the project.

P4H Global, Haiti

Training Teachers to Transform Haiti is an innovative programme dedicated to improving the quality of education in Haiti through the training not only of teachers but also of school directors, parents, and community members. The project is based on a cycle including diagnosis of schools, training, distance coaching, and classroom observation. It aims to transform teachers’ methods into effective student-centred strategies that cultivate critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity inside the classroom. This is reinforced by sharing lessons and personalized feedback through social media and messaging apps which enjoy the participation of a community of more than 11,000 teachers across the country. Since 2011, the 3-year intensive programme has benefited 8,000 educators and 350,000 students in all ten departments in Haiti. Over 70 pc of the training courses are provided to schools in rural settings due to the lack of support and resources in those areas.

TAMAM Project, Lebanon

The TAMAM Project for School-Based Educational Reform is a research-based programme where university researchers work closely with educational practitioners to generate strategies that are grounded in the sociocultural contexts of the Arab region. Teachers are offered platforms to network, learn and innovate with educators from other schools. TAMAM covers 70 schools in nine countries across the region: Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Palestine, and Kuwait. Over the past 15 years, 100 improvement projects have been initiated at the local level thanks to TAMAM. The project has benefited 1,000 educational practitioners as direct beneficiaries.



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