Facts and Figures

Teacher gap

The supply of teachers is failing to keep pace with the demand for primary education

According to projections from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), the world needs to:

  • create 1.7 million additional primary teaching positions by 2015 to achieve universal primary education (UPE);
  • replace 5.1 million teachers who will leave the profession;
  • hire a total of 6.8 million teachers to provide for every child’s right to primary education by 2015.  

The situation is most extreme in sub-Saharan Africa, where the demand for teachers is rising rapidly as the school-age population continues to grow. Sub-Saharan Africa will need to recruit more than 1.8 million primary school teachers between 2010 and 2015 to ensure that every child has access to primary education. (UIS)

Pressure is building on Africa’s teaching force due to rising enrolment in primary education. Across the region, attrition rates (the percentage of teachers leaving the profession) range from 3% in Mali to 17% in Angola, for example, where the average working career of a primary teacher is 7 years at the most (UIS database).

Countries such as Central African Republic, Chad and Eritrea, must at least double their current teaching workforce to achieve UPE (UIS database).

The following countries will need to increase their teaching forces by more than 10% per year to ensure enough primary-level teachers are in classrooms by 2015: Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Malawi, Mali, and Niger (UIS database).

Gender is another important aspect of teacher recruitment. Studies have shown that deploying more female teachers in countries where a majority of teachers are men can have a positive effect in terms of girls’ performance as well as increased rates of retention, progression and completion of primary education among girls. (UIS database).

Teachers are the key to getting children in school and keeping them there

  • More teachers are needed to reach the 61 million children of primary school age who are denied their right to education:
     - 47% of these children will never enter school
     - 26% have started school but dropped out
     - 27% will start school late (UIS database).

Girls account for the majority (53%) of children of primary school age who are not in school. Globally, 32 million girls in this age group are denied their basic right to education (UIS database).

31 million children in sub-Saharan Africa are out of school. 55% of them will never start school (UIS database). Girls face the greatest barriers to education. There are about 2 million more primary school-age girls out of school than boys (UIS database).

In South and West Asia, 13 million children are out of school. 49% will never start school and another 45% have enrolled but dropped out (UIS database).


Quality of education and learning outcomes

  • Assessments have shown that children in many of the world’s poorest countries can spend several years in school without learning to read a word. In Mali, at least eight out of ten grade 2 students could not read a single word in a national language. (GMR 2012)

  • Teachers may lack the necessary subject knowledge and the ability to turn it into effective approaches to instruction. In a 2010 survey of primary schools in Kenya, teachers and their students in grade 6 were given a mathematics test. The average score for the teachers was 60%. Not surprisingly, students also received low scores, around 47%. Some teachers scored as low as 17% on the standardized test, which was set from the primary school syllabus. No teacher in the sample had complete mastery of the subject.

Teacher Training

  • Where education systems have expanded rapidly, teachers have sometimes been recruited with few qualifications. Trainees tend to enter teacher training colleges in Kenya, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, for example, having completed only basic education (GMR 2011).

  • In the Gambia, 77% of instructors of primary school teachers had never taught at primary school (GMR 2010).

  • Of 100 countries with data on primary education, in thirty-three less than 75% of teachers were trained to the national standard. (GMR 2012)

  • Data on the percentage of trained teachers are more sporadic at secondary level, but it is clear that many countries are not training enough secondary school teachers to the minimal level prescribed. Of fifty-nine countries with data, twenty-six have less than 75% of their secondary school teachers trained, and eleven have less than 50% of their teachers trained. The latter include Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Niger. (GMR 2012)

Teacher conditions

Better access to education is critical but insufficient to keep children learning in school. Overcrowded classrooms can defeat the goal of ensuring that every child receives a quality education. In many countries, pupil-teacher ratios are rising. For example, for every teacher there are:

  • 84 primary students in Central African Republic;
  • 79 primary students in Malawi;
  • 65 primary pupils in Rwanda;
  • 48 primary pupils in Cambodia
  •  43 primary pupils in Bangladesh (UIS database).

Teacher absenteeism and time spent off task during lessons can significantly reduce learning time as well as widen learning disparities. One survey in two Indian states found that regular rural government teachers were absent at least one day a week. Addressing employment conditions of teachers and strengthening school governance and accountability can raise learning achievement and reduce inequality. (GMR 2011)

Poorly equipped classrooms and the lack of textbooks and writing materials are not conducive to effective learning. In Kenya, the proportion of children with their own mathematics textbook ranges from 8% in North Eastern Province to 44% in Nairobi. (GMR 2011)

Many teachers are forced to take on extra jobs to supplement their salaries. Governments and donors need to ensure that teachers’ pay and conditions reflect a commitment to delivering good quality education through a qualified and motivated work force. (GMR 2010)

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