Global teacher shortages threaten goal of quality education for all

25 April 2006
Peter Smith briefs UN correspondents

With a projected worldwide shortage of 18 million teachers over the next decade, most critically in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States, a United Nations report released today advocates training parents and teaching assistants to fill the gap, along with other innovative solutions.

“This is the Darfur of children’s future in terms of literacy,” Peter Smith, Assistant Director-General for Education of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), told correspondents at UN Headquarters in New York.

"We have to invent new solutions or we are as good as writing off this generation," he added

Entitled “Teachers and Educational Quality: Monitoring Global Needs for 2015,” the report, produced by UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, assesses trends in teacher quantity and quality while exploring the policy implications of bridging the gap between the two, especially in developing countries.

The greatest challenge, the report says, lies in sub-Saharan Africa, which will need to expand its teaching force by 68 per cent by 2015. Countries like Chad will need almost four times as many primary teachers, from 16,000 to 61,000, while Ethiopia must double its staffing to achieve universal primary education.

The Arab States will need to create 450,000 new teaching posts, mainly in Egypt, Iraq, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Another 325,000 teachers will be needed in South and West Asia, primarily in Afghanistan, where the teaching force must grow by almost 9 per cent a year over the next decade, according to Institute estimates.

In general, the countries needing the most teachers have the least qualified personnel, with only 45 per cent of teachers having a lower secondary education, which is considered the absolute minimum qualification to teach.

Even North America and Western Europe, though, face a shortage in specialized teachers, particularly in math and science, partly as the result of changing demographic and labour conditions.

The education report is one of the highlights of Education For All Week, observed from 24 to 28 April and intended to remind governments keep their promise to achieve Education for All by 2015, one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed upon by world leaders at the 2000 World Summit.

The theme of this year’s celebrations is Every Child Needs a Teacher.


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