World Teachers’ Day on October 5 is an opportunity to celebrate teachers and to promote international standards for the profession. This year’s theme, “Teachers for gender equality,” serves as a reminder that recruiting and training more teachers – especially women – is crucial if we are to achieve the Education for All goals by 2015.
According to updated projections released for World Teachers’ Day by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the world needs another 2 million teachers by 2015 – and it is essential that a large share of them are women.
Although the proportion of women teachers worldwide has increased from 56% to 62% since 1990, it varies widely from region to region. While in some developed countries the share of women teachers is so high that the challenge is recruiting more male teachers, sub-Saharan Africa needs many more women teachers. The proportion of women teachers has grown only marginally since 1990 – from 40% to 42% – and Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Liberia and Togo all have less than 20% female teaching staff, according to the UIS projections.
Why are female teachers so important? As the UIS emphasizes in its release, “countries with high proportions of female teachers in primary education are more likely to have high enrolment rates for girls in secondary education”.
The revised UIS estimate on the number of teachers required worldwide differs from the 1.9 million reported in the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report because it is based on data from a larger number of countries. The need is especially strong in sub-Saharan Africa, where enrolment has soared in the past decade. Factoring in attrition, the region will need to recruit 350,000 new primary-level teachers per year up to 2015.
This year’s focus on gender equality in education is timely. Globally, the world is slowly moving towards gender parity in education. This development has been especially positive in the regions that started the 2000s with the largest gender gaps: the Arab States, South and West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. If these regions still had the gender parity levels of 1999, 18.4 million fewer girls would be in primary school today, according to the 2011 EFA Global Monitoring Report.
In spite of these positive trends, however, many countries are not on track towards the goal of gender equality in education by 2015. According to the Global Education Digest, in 2008 a girl in South and West Asia could expect one year less of education than a boy, and a girl in sub-Saharan Africa 1.5 years less than a boy.