Quality education needs qualified teachers

03 October 2014

Data shows standards being sacrificed to fill teacher shortage gap

In the rush to fill the chronic, global shortage of teachers many countries are sacrificing standards  and undermining progress by hiring people with little or no training, concludes a new UNESCO policy paper, published on World Teachers Day 2014.

Prepared by UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR), it shows that at least 93 countries have an acute teacher shortage, and need to recruit some four million teachers to achieve universal primary education by 2015.

If the deadline is extended to 2030, more than 27 million teachers need to be hired, 24 million of whom will be required to compensate for attrition, according to UIS data. At present rates, however, 28 (or 30%) of these 93 countries will not meet these needs. Sub-Saharan Africa faces the greatest teacher shortage, accounting for two-thirds of the new teachers needed by 2030. The problem is exacerbated by a steadily growing school-age population

“A quality universal primary education will remain a distant dream for millions of children living in countries without enough trained teachers in classrooms,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. “Teachers are the core of any education system. Hiring and training new and already established teachers is fundamental to protecting children’s ability to learn in school.’

Under pressure to fill gaps, many countries are recruiting teachers who lack the most basic training. According to UIS data, in one-third of countries with data, fewer than 75% of primary school teachers were trained according to national standards in 2012. In Angola, Benin, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and South Sudan, this figure falls below 50%. As a result, in roughly a third of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the GMR shows that the challenge of training existing teachers is greater than that of recruiting new teachers to the profession.

“Putting well-intentioned instructors in front of huge classrooms and calling them teachers will not deliver our ambitions to have every child in school and learning,” said Aaron Benavot, director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report. “We have prepared a new Advocacy Toolkit for teachers to help us relay these messages to their governments. Teachers, better than anyone else, can relay how teacher shortages and a lack of training are making it just about impossible to deliver a quality education”

Countries must ensure that all new teacher candidates have completed at least secondary education. Yet the GMR shows that the numbers of those with this qualification in many countries are in short supply: eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa would have to recruit at least 5% of their secondary school graduates into the teaching force by 2020. Niger would need to recruit up to 30%.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the cost of paying the salaries of the additional teachers required by 2020 totals an extra US$5.2 billion per year, according to UIS projections, before counting for training, learning materials and school buildings. With the greatest number of children out of school in the world, Nigeria alone will need to allocate an extra US$1.8 billion per year.

“The good news is that most countries can afford to hire the extra teachers if they continue to steadily increase investment in education,” said Hendrik van der Pol, director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. “Over the past decade, education budgets across Sub-Saharan Africa have been growing by 7% in real terms, reflecting the commitment to get more teachers and children in classrooms. However four countries will need to significantly increase their education budgets if they’re to cover the bills and provide training to new recruits: the Central African Republic, Mali, Chad and Malawi.”