On World Teacher's Day, the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has issued statistics revealing that close to 69 million new teachers are needed to provide quality universal primary and secondary education by 2030, the deadline of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Entire education systems are gearing up for the big push to achieve [SDG 4] by 2030,” said Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the primary global source for statistics on education, in a news release today.
“But education systems are only as good as their teachers. Global progress will depend on whether there even is a teacher, or a classroom in which to teach with a manageable number of children instead of 60, 70 or even more pupils,” she added, noting the need to provide training, resources and support for teachers to do their job.
Sustainable Development Goal 4, which calls for ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education also includes a specific call for more qualified teachers, and more support from the international community for teacher training in developing countries.
According to the UIS data, sub-Saharan Africa has the largest teacher gap and the region will need about 17 million primary and secondary teachers by 2030.
As the region with the fastest growing school-age population in the world, it is already struggling to keep up with demand: more than 70 per cent of its countries face acute shortages of primary school teachers, 90 per cent of them face serious shortages in secondary education, UNESCO added.
Similarly, southern Asia has the second-largest teacher gap, especially at the secondary level. Only 65 per cent of youth across the region are enrolled in secondary education and the pupil-teacher ratio is estimated at 29:1 (based on 2014 estimates) – far higher than the global average of 18:1. The region needs another 15 million teachers by 2030, the vast majority (11 million) at secondary level.
Furthermore, other parts of the world face grave challenges too. For instance, conflicts in Syria and Iraq has destroyed large parts of their education systems and has had a severe knock-on effect on neighbouring countries that are trying to cope with an influx of refugee children and youth in need of learning opportunities and teachers, the news release noted.
The message from UNESCO coincides with this year's celebrations of the 2016 edition of World Teacher's Day – held under the theme Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status – highlighting the importance of the teaching profession for global development as well as the need for urgent action to address the shortage of teachers.
“Teachers not only help shape the individual futures of millions of children; they also help shape a better world for all,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Guy Ryder, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark, and Education International General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, in their joint message on the occasion.
“How can we recruit new teachers and attract them to the vital profession of teaching when around the world, so many are undertrained, underpaid and undervalued?” they added.
The 2016 World Day commemorates the 50th anniversary of the signing in 1966 of the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers, and celebrates the essential role of teachers in providing quality education at all levels. The Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers has, essentially, served as a charter of rights for teachers worldwide.
The Day has been celebrated annually since 1994.