How many teachers does the world need?

To celebrate World Teacher’s Day, 5 October, we invited Albert Motivans from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics to provide some insights into how the lack of teachers affects progress towards Education for All.

Massive teacher shortages are quietly looming over countries struggling to provide every child with quality primary education by 2015 as laid out in the sixth of the Education for All goals. These shortages lead to outright exclusion from education while posing a serious risk to education quality. Large class sizes – especially in the early grades – can seriously compromise children’s opportunity to learn. Moreover, some school systems are lowering teaching standards in order to expand their teaching forces and meet the demand for primary education.

Albert Motivans leads the section responsible for education indicators and data analysis at the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

To reach the goal of universal primary education (UPE), at least 1.7 million new teaching positions must be created in just a few short years to accommodate the growing demand for primary education, according to new estimates from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). In addition, countries will have to recruit another 5.1 million teachers to make up for teachers currently in the workforce who will retire or leave the profession. So in total, 6.8 million teachers should be recruited by 2015 in order to provide the right to education to all primary school-age children.

These projections are featured in the UNESCO eAtlas of Teachers, released in advance of World Teachers’ Day. which allows one to visualize the gaps in the supply of and demand for teachers at national and regional levels. Through maps, charts and ranking tables, it is possible to explore the data in order to answer key questions such as: where are the most new teachers needed to respond to the rising demand for primary education? How do working conditions (e.g., salaries) for teachers compare across a subset of countries? And to what extent are women represented in the teaching workforce?

According to UIS estimates, over one-half of the world’s countries (114 out of 208 countries) need to increase the size of their teaching workforces in primary education between 2010 and 2015. Severe shortages are found across sub-Saharan Africa, which will need to create almost 1 million new primary teaching positions in just a few short years. Some countries in the region will need to recruit more than 10% of their current teaching workforces in order to provide UPE. Some countries have shown that they were able to expand teaching forces rapidly, but that they still face an uphill climb in order to keep up with growing youth populations in addition to addressing those who are underserved by education.

While South and West Asia accounts for 7% of the world shortage (requiring 114,000 new teacher positions), the region needs to recruit about eight times that amount (992,000) to replace teachers who will be leaving the profession by 2015. By combining these projections, the region has the second highest need for primary teachers overall. However, not all countries in the region need to increase the number of teaching posts. For example, Bhutan and the Maldives can reduce their teaching workforces by a few hundred positions and still meet the goal of UPE.

Due to its growing school-age population, the Arab States needs to heavily recruit primary teachers in the coming years. In addition, 477,000 primary teachers need to be recruited to account for teachers leaving the profession. While the scarcity of primary teachers ranges across countries, severe gaps are found in Djibouti, Palestine, Sudan (pre-secession) and Yemen.

Overall, Latin America and the Caribbean does not face demands associated with UPE. However, the region does need to recruit the equivalent of 15% of its current teacher stock in order to make up for attrition. Countries like Mexico and Argentina need to recruit a substantial number of teachers – about 80,000 and 42,000 respectively.

North America and Western Europe will also need to recruit more teachers as staff leave the profession or retire. Attrition accounts for 84% of the region’s total recruitment needs. In the United States, for example, about 460,000 teachers are expected to retire or leave the profession by 2015.

Overall, the UNESCO eAtlas, which is produced by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, allows users to quantify and visualize the gaps between the supply and demand for teachers. The data are intended to help international and national policymakers evaluate their recruitment needs and set realistic goals. The projections do not indicate what will happen but rather what should happen to provide every child with a primary education.

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One Response to How many teachers does the world need?

  1. Anne-Gret Friedrich-Cuntz says:

    Very interesting blog, as it makes me realize that even the nursing profession suffers from a staff shortage, however, nursing has always done well in respect to the salary level. Historically, if the nursing shortage got bigger, a salary increase could be noted. As nursing is the most trusted profession in the public eye, it is hard to admit that teacher are not as valued from a professional perspective as they should. Teachers raise our children and our future, therefore they should be commended for that and a higher salary is the least society should provide them with.


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