Celebrating the work of teachers around the world

Teachers and experts from all around the globe joined the celebration for World Teachers’ Day at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 6-7 October. The theme for the two-day forum held to mark the day is; “Teaching Today: an international overview of professional development and conditions of work”.

The event marking the 20th anniversary of the international celebration opened with a keynote speech from UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, Dr Qian Tang. He underlined the fact that that “a quality education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.” Mr Tang spoke of the need for new teachers and new talent, in particular women. 

Today, teachers lack decent conditions of employment and “an alarming number of teachers leave the profession in the first year” said Dr Fred van Leeuwen, General Secretary of Education International said at the opening ceremony of the event. Dr van Leeuwen explained that that teachers were often excluded from the decision making processes affecting their professional life, in order to ensure better working conditions there needs to be a quality dialogue between governments, teachers and teachers’ unions. “There is no quality education without quality dialogue. We need teachers to contribute their expertise to the education debate at national and international level” he added. 

In many countries, the quality of education is undermined by a deficit of teachers. An extra 1.4 million teachers are needed in classrooms across the world to achieve universal primary education by 2015, and 3.4 million additional teachers will be needed by 2030, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

The main findings of a UNESCO online consultation with teachers was also announced on the first day of the forum. The International Task Force on Teachers for Education revealed some of the main issues faced by teachers: Poor working and living conditions, financial constraints both of which can lead to poor quality of teaching, sub-standard training available at educational institutions and a lack of professional development. 

The opening day of the forum culminated in four workshops where these issues were discussed by over 400 participants, including teachers and experts from Africa, Europe, Middle East, South and North America and Asia.