Teacher shortages threaten quality Education For AllSub-Saharan Africa will need another 1.6 million teachers in classrooms by 2015 to provide every child with a primary education, according to a new report by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). Chronic shortages are also expected in the Arab States, which will need to expand their teaching force by 26% in less than a decade to achieve the same goal.
Entitled “Teachers and Educational Quality: Monitoring Global Needs for 2015”, the report provides global and regional assessments on the state of teachers and education quality. By highlighting trends in teacher quantity and quality, it explores the policy implications of bridging the gap between the two, especially in developing countries. It also compares the strengths and shortcomings of recruitment and deployment policies as well as working conditions around the world.
Countries across the world will need to recruit more than 18 million teachers over the next decade. The greatest challenge lies in sub-Saharan Africa, which will need to expand its teaching force by 68% over this period. By 2015, countries like Chad will need almost four times as many primary teachers, from 16,000 to 61,000, while Ethiopia must double its stock to achieve universal primary education.
The Arab States will need to create 450,000 new teaching posts, mainly in Egypt, Iraq, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Another 325,000 teachers will be needed in South and West Asia, primarily in Afghanistan, where the teaching force must grow by almost 9% a year over the next decade, according to UIS estimates.
However, some countries with declining school-age populations will actually need fewer teachers. China can expect to reduce its stock of teachers by 1.8 million in 2015, while a more moderate reduction is estimated for India (50,000). This provides an opportunity to improve education quality by investing more resources per teacher and pupil.
In general, the countries needing the most teachers have the least qualified personnel. A lower secondary education is considered the absolute minimum qualification to teach. Yet only 45% of teachers meet this standard in Lao PDR, for example, and 57% in the Congo. The report clearly shows that policies must address both teacher quantity and quality.
This concern for quality is found even in the most developed regions. North America and Western Europe face a shortage in specialized teachers, particularly in math and science. This is partly the result of changing demographic and labour conditions. Older teachers are retiring while new recruits are less concerned with a long-term career in education, especially in Ireland, Spain and the United States, which will need to recruit a total of 1.2 million teachers over the next decade, primarily to compensate for attrition.
The report also presents a set of estimates for sub-Saharan African countries severely affected by HIV/AIDS. The epidemic is reducing the size of school-age populations while exacerbating attrition rates among teachers. According to a worst-case scenario, Mozambique would need to hire 155,000 teachers over the next decade, almost three times more than the current stock, in order to ensure universal primary education and compensate for teacher losses (10% attrition).
Countries in the greatest need of teachers also face severe fiscal constraints. Many have no choice but to rely upon ‘para-teachers’, who generally have lower qualifications than their civil servant counterparts and are paid just a fraction (25-50%) of their salaries. More than half the primary teachers in the Congo for example, consist of ‘volunteer parents’ with limited or no formal training.
Niger is a case in point. Since 1998 the government has massively recruited young untrained para-teachers. Primary completion rates rose from 17% to 25% between 2000 and 2004. But this gain certainly entailed hidden costs by undermining the status of formal teachers and the quality of education.
The report recognizes that para-teachers can provide countries with the flexibility to respond to urgent needs. But by institutionalizing these schemes as long-term options, governments may seriously damage the general status of the teaching profession.
To balance the costs and benefits, the UIS report presents ways to “mainstream” para-teachers through adequate training and equitable compensation, as in the exceptional case of Bangladesh. “Without this,” the report concludes, “falling teacher morale will steadily infect the entire school system, sapping motivation to provide quality education which leads to higher attrition rates in the countries most in need of new teachers.”
The report is one of the highlights of EFA Week (April 24-28), celebrated each year on the anniversary of the World Education Forum, held in Dakar (Senegal, April 2000). It is intended to remind governments and the international community to keep their promise to achieve Education for All by 2015. The theme of this year’s celebrations, organized by the Global Campaign for Education*, is “Every Child Needs a Teacher”.