Monday, 5 October 2015

World Teachers' Day: 'Governments must take urgent action to address chronic teacher shortages'

Writing for World Teachers' Day on 5 October 2015, David Edwards, deputy general secretary of Education International, and Silvia Montoya, director of the Unesco Institute for Statistics, explain why the world's governments have to fund education and fully qualified teachers

At the United Nations last week, the world’s leaders adopted 17 ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Education is at the top of the agenda, thanks to the advocacy and insistence of students, teachers and the larger education community. Within the goal of inclusive and equitable quality education there are 10 targets, ranging from universalising early childhood education opportunities to closing the achievement gaps in all countries. The leaders clearly recognise that education is crucial for achieving all the other goals – from women’s health to gender equality and environmental protection.

Yet one glaring fact shows that we are heading for a major collision between ambitions and reality: the world will need to recruit 25.8 million school teachers to provide every child with a primary education by 2030, according to a new paper from the Unesco Institute for Statistics (UIS).

In addition, if we were to take Malala’s challenge seriously – "one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world" – we already need an extra 2.7 million teachers in classrooms today to reach the 59 million children who are denied the right to primary education. And this is just the beginning, with Malala pushing towards universal secondary education for all. That means every single child in every single country, not just trained teachers for rich countries and a cheap, low-quality substitute for poor countries.

Teachers agree. When Education International surveyed more than 15.000 teachers last year for World Teachers’ Day, in the largest poll it ever conducted at classroom level, more than 50 per cent identified the current teacher shortage as a major threat to both the equity and quality of education. It is no surprise, for example, that data from the OECD’s Talis survey also found burnout caused by large class-sizes.

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