2 October 2008
Low salaries, overcrowded classrooms, low job security, inadequate training – World Teachers’ Day, celebrated annually on 5 October, is the occasion to pay tribute to a profession whose role in the education of young people and adults remains essential. The emphasis this year is on developing teacher policies, the only foundation for ensuring sustainable and high-quality recruitment.The shortage of qualified teachers remains a crucial problem. UNESCO estimates that 18 million more teachers are needed to reach the goal of universal primary education (UPE) by 2015. The shortage is particularly acute in Africa, where an additional 3.8 million teachers are required to achieve UPE. The shortage of teachers in countries such as Rwanda and Mozambique means that classes can have as many as 60 pupils. It is generally recognized that quality education cannot be provided in classes with more than 40 pupils.
“Even when the overall supply of teachers is sufficient, remote and disadvantaged areas across the globe may suffer persistent problems in recruitment and retention. This shortage of qualified teachers is one of the biggest challenges to achieving the Education for All (EFA) goals,” stresses the Joint Message delivered to mark the Day by the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF, Kemal Dervis, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Thulas Nxesi, President of Education International (EI).
Quantity is not the only problem. Insufficient training is another serious handicap. In developing countries, it is not unusual to find teachers who have no advanced education themselves (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, UIS). To improve the situation, only coherent policies can promote the recruitment of teachers in sufficient numbers, guarantee their status and ensure quality training. As a result of UNESCO’s Teacher Training Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa (TTISA), Congo has thus been able to develop an overall policy on teachers aimed not only at hiring more, but also at handling questions of status, working conditions and management.
These will be the key issues tackled in the round table to be held at UNESCO on 3 October. To be opened by the Director-General of UNESCO, the round table will feature addresses by teachers from all parts of the world as well as experts. Representatives of partner organizations (ILO, UNICEF, UNDP and EI) are also invited to take part in a panel discussion moderated by Nicholas Burnett, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Education.
World Teachers’ Day underlines the importance of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. Another UNESCO recommendation concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel was adopted in 1997. Both recommendations lay down the guidelines on issues such as training and employment conditions for teachers; participation of teachers and their representatives in educational decisions; and measures that should be taken in each country to promote quality teachers and learning environments. They are the only comprehensive international standards for the teaching profession in existence.