Report says qualified teachers should be global priority

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The funding gap in education is creating a global shortage of teachers, with an additional 1.6 million teachers needed to achieve universal primary education by 2015, according to UNESCO's latest Education for All Global Monitoring Report. The number is even greater in secondary education, notes the report, which monitors progress toward meeting the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015.

The 2013-14 report, Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality for All, focuses on teachers and the extent to which policies implemented by national governments support them in their work. The report concludes that many governments worldwide have failed in their primary responsibility to ensure that high-quality public education systems are in place and provide appropriate conditions and support for teachers.

High-quality teachers are an important key to improving the learning outcomes for children in school and reducing the rates of out-of-school children. Without attracting, training and retaining enough quality teachers, the report warns, the learning crisis will last for several generations and hit the most disadvantaged children the hardest.

However, only 2 percent of the global education aid budget was spent on pre-service and in-service teacher training programs between 2008 and 2011. As a result, many of the poorest countries have not received the necessary financial support to train, recruit and retain qualified teachers.

National education plans must include an explicit commitment to ensure that high-quality teachers reach the learners who need them most, the report says. They also must allow teachers and their unions to participate in formulating and monitoring comprehensive teacher policies, as they have a unique insight of the classroom reality.

The report shows that "an education system is only as good as its teachers," said Fred van Leeuwen, Education International's general secretary. "New goals after 2015 must ensure that every child is at [a] school taught by a qualified and well-supported teacher, and [that all children] learn in safe educational institutions with adequate infrastructure, facilities and resources."

David Edwards, EI's deputy general secretary, adds that the report offers strong evidence that teachers are the most important educational resource and a critical determinant of quality. "This is one of the key messages EI is delivering through the Unite for Quality Education global initiative to raise awareness of the major role quality education plays in the development of the individual and society." [Education International press release]

January 30, 2014