By Aaron Benavot, director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report and Albert Motivans, head of Education Statistics at the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
A new paper jointly released by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the Education for All Global Monitoring Report today puts a spotlight on the global teacher shortage while identifying those countries facing the greatest needs. Under pressure to fill the gap, many countries are hiring teachers who have little or no training. Without immediate action, the shortage of teachers, especially trained teachers, will jeopardize wider efforts to ensure that all children not only go to school but also learn.
How many teachers do we need? The year 2015 is just around the corner, and yet UIS data show that countries will need to recruit about 4 million more teachers to achieve universal primary education by the deadline. Of the total number, 2.6 million would be needed to replace teachers who leave the profession, while the remaining 1.4 million must fill new positions to ensure that there are not more than 40 pupils per teacher. At least 27 million teachers would need to be recruited even if the deadline is extended to 2030, as is currently being proposed.
Some regions and countries need many more teachers than others. This interactive e-Atlas by the UIS shows which countries have teacher shortages and when they might close their gaps if current trends continue. By far, the greatest challenge is in sub-Saharan Africa. The region accounts for more than one-half (63%) of the additional teachers needed by 2015 or two-thirds (67%) by 2030.
Can countries recruit enough teachers? It is unlikely that countries with the most severe shortages can recruit enough teachers by 2015. Among 93 countries with data, only 29 countries will be able to bridge the gap by 2015, leaving 64 countries with a shortfall. It is even more worrying that 28 countries will be unable to fill the gap until after 2030, if current trends continue.
Are the costs of hiring more teachers affordable? The good news is that, if education budgets continue to grow at present rates, 23 out of the 27 sub-Saharan African countries will be able to cover the salaries of the extra teachers needed. Yet, for the Central African Republic, Chad, Malawi and Mali, bridging the gap would require a considerable increase in the education budget, according to UIS projections.
What about quality? Hiring more teachers is only a part of the solution. In the race to keep up with expanding school populations, many countries have expanded teacher numbers rapidly by hiring people with very little training. This may help get more children into school, lack of training jeopardizes education quality. In one-third of countries with recent data, less than 75% of primary school teachers were trained More than half the teachers were untrained in Angola, Benin, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal and South Sudan.
Many poor countries do not have enough upper secondary school graduates, making it difficult to recruit enough teachers with even basic knowledge of subject matter. The constraint is most severe in sub-Saharan Africa, where the chances of even completing primary school remain low. At least 10% of all upper secondary school graduates would have to join the profession to produce enough teachers in Burkina Faso, Mali and Mozambique by 2020 with the share rising to almost 30% in Niger.
The new paper explains that, in one-third of countries across the region, the challenge of training teachers that are already in classrooms is just as large as that of recruiting new teachers to the profession. In Ghana, for example, the percentage of trained teachers fell from 72% in 1999 to 53% in 2013. The number of trained teachers would need to grow by almost 10% per year for Ghana to ensure that there will be 40 pupils per trained teacher in 2020, down from 59 pupils per teacher in 2013. This is well above the 2% average growth rate of trained teachers since 1999.
The EFA Global Monitoring Report’s interactive website, the World Inequality Database on Education (WIDE), highlights that children are learning least in remote areas. The challenge is that higher-quality trained teachers are also often less inclined to teach in remote or rural areas without incentives. In Ethiopia, for example, the percentage of lower primary teachers who were trained was as low as 1% in the Somali region and 4% in Afar, the two most remote rural regions, as compared with 43% in Addis Ababa.
Providing a good quality education for all requires working together on all fronts. This is why the EFA Global Monitoring Report has also launched an Advocacy Toolkit for Teachers along with the new policy paper, in partnership with UNESCO’s Teacher Taskforce for EFA and Education International.
The UN General Assembly is formulating a new set of sustainable development goals post-2015. In particular, Goal 4 would aim to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all.” To make this goal a reality, UNESCO and the EFA GMR is advocating for a clear set of targets that can be monitored. To facilitate this process, the UIS is leading a technical advisory group to recommend a range of indicators that could be used to monitor the post-2015 goals identified by the international education community. While discussions continue, we must ensure that the training and recruitment of teachers remain high on the agenda to finally deliver on our promise to have every child in school and learning.