Every Child Needs a Teacher” is the slogan of the 2013 Global Action Week on Education for All (21-27 April) which focuses on the vital role of teachers in reaching education goals. In the words of the campaign: “Without teachers a school is just a building”.
Organized annually by the Global Campaign for Education, a civil society movement, the Week is an occasion to promote the right to quality education for all. Each year UNESCO mobilizes its networks and organizes activities worldwide on a given theme.
Teachers, their training, recruitment, retention, status and working conditions are among the Organization’s top priorities.“Teachers are the single most influential and powerful force for equity, access and quality in education,” says Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. “The fact is, we will not meet our Education for All goals without teachers.”
Teachers are also a key element in the United Nations Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative, which is driven by UNESCO, and are thus an indispensable part of the post-2015 global development agenda.
“Teachers are essential to meet the aspirations of every girl and boy -- they hold the keys to the sustainable development of every society,” says Ms Bokova.
However, like the village teachers in rural Thailand coping with overcrowded classes and different languages; like Maiga Hadizatou Hamzatou in Mali, who kept teaching when her city was invaded, Karima Yousufi in Afghanistan or Awa Sow in Senegal who had to resist gender stereotyping, teachers everywhere face different challenges.
The overwhelming challenge faced by the profession is one of numbers and quality. Some 6.8 million teachers are needed to achieve universal primary education by 2015. Other issues affecting teachers at all levels of education systems and in formal and non-formal education settings alike, include escalating violence, a climate of austerity and cutbacks and the need to improve working conditions so as to attract qualified people to the profession.
Legal frameworks for teachers
A major part of UNESCO’s work on teachers is actively upholding legal frameworks that promote teachers’ status and working conditions. A committee of experts appointed by UNESCO and the International Labour Organization meets every three years to monitor the application of these recommendations and advise UNESCO and ILO accordingly. Civil societies may also use the conventions to demand their right to quality teachers and quality education for every child, youth and adult.
A broader definition?
“Advocacy events like Global Action Week are a good opportunity to consider a broader definition of teachers,” says Carolyn Medel-Anonuevo of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, which recently held an international workshop on improving the status of literacy facilitators. “Teachers of literacy possibly have the lowest status of all, with low remuneration, and very little in-service training.”
"Global Action Week is also an opportunity to highlight the importance of improving the status of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) teachers, if we are really serious about building the foundation of learning throughout life," adds Maki Hayashikawa, from UNESCO’s Section for Basic Education
Whatever the level or specialization, UNESCO is on standby to help governments prioritize teacher training, support and retention in national education policies.
- Global Action Week 2013 (21-27 April 2013)
- UNESCO Teachers Strategy 2012-2015
- International Task Force on Teachers for Education for All
- UNESCO eAtlas on Teachers