What you need to know about teachers

Last update: 10 August 2022

Why is there a worldwide deficit of 69 million teachers?

There are several factors causing the shortage of teachers, chief of which is the huge demand for education from a growing school-age population. The shortage of teachers is most acute in Africa and Southern Asia, where enrolment numbers are soaring as a result of demographic change and the efforts to promote greater equality, which means that more girls and women are pursuing an education and, increasingly so, at a higher level. In addition, the profession has difficulty attracting, recruiting and retaining new talent as it suffers from a rather low status and a social standing which does not correspond with the importance attached to the profession. In short, teachers are too few, classrooms are too crowded, and teachers are overworked, demotivated and unsupported. 

How does UNESCO work to address this problem?

UNESCO works with countries by helping them strengthen their capacities to assess teaching needs and develop strong, evidence-based policies in relation to teacher recruitment, deployment, management, and professional development. It applies international normative instruments: the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers (1966) and the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel (1997) with a committee of experts (CEART) who meet every three years to monitor them. 

UNESCO also supports Member States by providing policy advice and technical assistance, including the development of tools and guidelines, and opportunities for knowledge exchange and policy learning in the 9 domains of its Teacher Policy Development Guide. It enables teacher mobility through six regional conventions on the recognition of higher education qualifications and study credits. An example of successful support for the development and implementation of national teacher policies in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi and Uganda was the multi-stakeholder Norwegian Teacher Initiative, funded by Norad and jointly implemented by UNESCO together with seven partner organizations. In addition to supporting national education authorities to enhance teacher policies and practices, the project promoted social dialogue and teacher participation in the policy formulation. The initiative also aimed at reinforcing the coordination among key international organizations and national actors working on teacher policies, providing valuable lessons at multi-stakeholder policy processes.  

UNESCO also works with teacher education institutions, with which it partners to make professional development opportunities available to the most underserved teachers and education personnel. As part of the COVID-19 response, UNESCO launched the Global Teacher Campus to provide teacher training in emerging fields like social and emotional learning, digital skills and the pedagogical use of technologies.  

One important area of support regards the participation of teachers in educational decision-making, from the classroom to the policy level. It enhances the capacity of teacher organizations to participate effectively in social dialogue with national governments and provides guidance on teachers’ career structure through its International Institute for Educational Planning, and capacity-building for teachers in Africa through its International Institute for Capacity building in Africa.    

What is the International Teacher Task Force for Education 2030?

UNESCO hosts and serves as Head of the Secretariat of the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 (TTF). Created in 2008, as part of the Oslo Declaration and hosted by UNESCO at its Paris Headquarters, the TTF is a unique global independent alliance of over 150 members working to narrow the gap in terms of the quantity of teachers and the quality of teaching practice. UNESCO and the TTF advocate for teaching to remain on the top of the education agenda, advocating for adequate policies and increased financing. The TTF supports teachers through knowledge production and dissemination, advocacy and national and regional policy learning. Its flagship Knowledge Platform is a curated one-stop shop on teacher policy-making and development which showcases quality resources, blogs and initiatives, and is a venue for knowledge exchange and collaboration.  

How does UNESCO support building the capacity of teachers?

UNESCO works with Member States and international partners to implement dedicated programmes supporting the capacity development of existing teacher education and training institutions, drawing on the use of technology-supported solutions such as open and distance learning and teaching innovations. These projects include: 

  • “Enhancing Teacher Education for Bridging the Education Quality Gap in Africa” supported by the Chinese Funds-in-Trust;  
  • “Capacity Building of Teacher Trainers and Teachers in Support of Curriculum” with the support of the Hamdan Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance of the United Arab Emirates; 
  • “Improving Teacher Support and Participation in Local Education Groups,” a project supported by the Global Partnership for Education and implemented jointly by UNESCO and Education International. 

UNESCO, Members States and international partners meet every two years at the international Teacher Policy Dialogue Forum, hosted by the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, to review progress made and exchange good practices in capacity development.  

Why is Africa a focus of UNESCO’s work?

The chronic shortage of trained teachers in Africa jeopardizes progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 for education. Before the COVID-19 pandemic only 64% of African teachers were trained at the primary level and 58% at the lower secondary level. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, less than three-quarters of pre-primary and half of upper secondary school teachers are trained (UIS). UNESCO’s International Institute for Capacity-Building in Africa (IICBA) plays a key role in providing policy support to develop the capacities of Member States to train, retain and manage motivated and qualified teachers. New focus was placed on educational recovery in Africa after the pandemic as seen in this snapshot of educational challenges and opportunities.  

What lessons were learned in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic underlined the fact that there is no substitute for teachers and a need to transform teaching and better support them -and all education personnel- to respond to a variety of situations, formats and learning needs. Most education systems were not prepared to deliver remote learning and the Covid-19 crisis highlighted the urgency of equipping teachers with digital and pedagogical skills, together with socio-emotional support to ensure their wellbeing. Resilient education recovery is co-created with teachers and technology can play a vital role in ensuring learning doesn’t stop during crises and in reaching out-of-school learners.  

What role does technology play?

UNESCO supports teachers to master remote and hybrid teaching as part of an overall focus on innovative teacher development. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Education and Open Educational Resources (OERs) enable flexible and accessible learning opportunities and have great potential to contribute to meet the targets of the SDGs. As part of its work on quality teacher education and working with UNESCO’s Communication and Information sector and, in particular, the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education, UNESCO supports ICT-enhanced teacher standards, planning for ICTs in education strategies, development of ICTs and open and distance learning, and online certificate training programmes in teacher development, like those offered in UNESCO’s Global Teacher Campus.  

What work does UNESCO undertake to ensure gender equality in teaching?

UNESCO pays particular attention to advancing girls’ and women’s education as part of its work to address the shortage of qualified teachers. The Her Education, Our Future initiative focuses on three pillars; better data to inform action for gender equality in and through education; better legal, policy and planning frameworks to advance rights; and better teaching and learning practices to empower. The initiative aims to ensure more qualified teachers, better content and improved learning processes to eliminate bias and equip learners with relevant values and skills, including digital. UNESCO’s work in this area includes producing publications such as the Guide for Gender Equality in Teacher Education Policy and Practice.

How does UNESCO raise the profile of teachers worldwide?

UNESCO advocates for the teaching profession worldwide and disseminates the results of research studies on innovative practices, trends, and the challenges ahead. It recognizes teachers and the teaching profession through two major events: World Teachers’ Day  celebrated annually on 5 October (in partnership with ILO, UNICEF and Education International) and the awarding of the UNESCO-Hamdan Prize for Teacher Development every two years.