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World Teachers’ Day shines spotlight on global teacher shortage

By Albert Motivans, head of education indicators and data analysis, UNESCO Institute of Statistics, and Pauline Rose, director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report

This year’s World Teachers’ Day, on October 5, focuses on one of the most urgent global education problems: a huge shortage of professional, well-trained and well-supported teachers.

The scale of the global teacher gap is revealed in new figures released this week by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS). About 58% of countries and territories around the world currently do not have enough teachers in classrooms to achieve universal primary education (UPE) by 2015 – the second Education for All goal and the major education target in the Millennium Developments Goals.

Countries will need an extra 1.6 million teachers to achieve universal primary education by 2015 and 3.3 million by 2030, according to the UIS. The forthcoming 2013/14 Education for All Global Monitoring Report will elaborate on these figures and examine the policies and resources needed to bridge the teacher gap.

World Teacher’s Day will be marked on October 4 by special events around the world, including the launches at UNESCO in Paris and at UNICEF in New York of a year of action in favour of quality education organized by Education International, the global teachers’ federation. The launches will include contributions by UNESCO’s director-general, Irina Bokova; the UN secretary-general’s Special Envoy for Education, Gordon Brown; and Pauline Rose, director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report.

Today’s new findings include not just the huge number of primary teachers needed but also those needed to ensure that all children can complete lower secondary school – 5.1 million by 2030. Lower secondary schooling is already considered compulsory in most countries of the world and universal participation is widely expected to form part of the post-2015 global education goals.

The new UIS projections help to better gauge the global teacher shortage while identifying those countries facing the greatest needs. For example, Sao Tome and Principe will most likely be the only country in sub-Saharan Africa with enough lower secondary teachers in classrooms by 2015.

These projections reflect the number of new teaching positions needed to ensure quality education for all. In addition, countries must also replace teachers who leave the profession because of retirement, illness or other reasons. Several countries facing chronic teacher shortages also have high rates of teacher attrition. In Angola, for example, almost one in five teachers leave the profession in a given year, according to the latest UIS data.

This teacher shortage is one reason children around the world are facing a learning crisis: the 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report revealed that there are 250 million children not learning the basics, whether they are in school or not. The Report’s recently released evidence on the transformational power of education shows that children who miss out on acquiring literacy skills will also be less likely to have healthy children, to find well paid work, challenge cultural prejudices, take part in democracies and propel their societies and countries towards greater prosperity.

One teacher, Ana, from Lima in Peru, was consulted for the forthcoming 2013/14 EFA Global Monitoring Report. She said, “I chose to be a teacher because I believe that education has the power to transform the society we live in. What motivates me to be a good teacher is to be an active agent in this change that is so necessary for my country, to fight against discrimination, injustice, racism, corruption, poverty.  Our responsibility as teachers is enormous, and our commitment to provide quality education must be renewed every day.”

Mrs. Jampa Choedon teaching her students in Srongsten High School in Kathmandu, Nepal.
© Rene’ Edde 2008/EFA GMR

Why are so many teachers needed, now and in coming decades? In many countries, classrooms are already overcrowded, especially in the crucial early grades, and more teachers are needed to ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn.

In addition, in sub-Saharan Africa, the region most in need of more teachers, teacher recruitment and training just isn’t keeping up with population growth –for every 100 primary school age children today, there will be 143 in 2030. Neither is it keeping pace with the soaring demand for education. The number of children enrolled in primary school has risen by 66% since 1999, while lower secondary enrolment has increased by 123%.

The challenge of recruiting teachers does not lie just in the numbers, but in providing children with quality teachers. Far too often teachers remain under-qualified, poorly paid and with low status. As the 2013/14 EFA Global Monitoring Report will outline, the global teacher shortage needs to be tackled with measures to reach those most at risk of not learning, by providing teachers with more and better training, more investment in resources for their schools, and better tools and data so that we can monitor and improve education quality by assessing how much children are actually learning.

To learn more, consult the UIS website for the complete set of projections, the UNESCO eAtlas of Teachers, an infographic on the teacher shortage and the EFA Global Monitoring Report infographic on the learning crisis.



  1. Il est urgent de réagir et de sauver ces enfants ! Investir dans l’Éducation c’est éviter de la misère et des guerres !

    Omar BADR
    Directeur d’école

  2. This is the right moment to insist that the training and support of the next generation of teachers must include preparation for including children with disabilities in the regular classroom.
    This is their RIGHT under Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilties to which 134 governments are committed in initernational law.
    UNICEF has commissioned a report on this subject which should be available soon.

  3. I am not sure about other countries, but in the United States, as long as teachers continue to be reviled as “mooching” off the taxpayers, and not working a full time schedule, it remains unlikely that the best and brightest college graduates would want to become teachers. The pay is low compared to other careers and teachers do not get the same respect as other professionals. It seems like it is no longer enough to want to help children, as the disincentives for becoming a teacher in the US keep growing.

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