Filling classrooms with poorly trained teachers undercuts education gains, warns UN

2 October 2014

A global shortage of teachers has pressured many countries into hiring educators with little or no training, undermining the educational progress of numerous school-age children around the world, the United Nations education agency warned today.

In a press release ahead of World Teacher’s Day, marked annually on 5 October, the Institute for Statistics of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that at least 93 countries have “an acute teacher shortage,” adding that some four million teachers would have to be recruited to achieve universal primary education by 2015 when the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) are expected to be met.

“A quality universal primary education will remain a distant dream for millions of children living in countries without enough trained teachers in classrooms,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova through the press release.

“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.”

The new findings note that, of all the areas surveyed, Sub-Saharan Africa faces the greatest shortage, accounting for two-thirds of the overall number of teachers needed by 2030. The problem, added UNESCO, is being additionally exacerbated by the region’s steadily growing school-age population.

As countries are pressured to meet their universal primary education targets, many are recruiting teachers lacking even the most basic training. According to the data compiled by UNESCO, one-third of the countries surveyed had fewer than 75 per cent of primary school teachers trained following national standards. In Angola, Benin, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and South Sudan, this figure falls below 50 per cent.

The costs of providing the training, however, would require an increased injection of funding into national education programmes, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where the cost of paying salaries for the necessary additional teachers would total an extra $5.2 billion per year. In particular, the Central African Republic, Mali, Chad and Malawi need to “significantly increase” their educational budgets as would Nigeria, which boasts the greatest number of children out of school in the world.

“Over the past decade, education budgets across Sub-Saharan Africa have been growing by 7 per cent in real terms, reflecting the commitment to get more teachers and children in classrooms,” observed Hendrik van der Pol, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

“The good news is that most countries can afford to hire the extra teachers if they continue to steadily increase investment in education,” he concluded.


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