World Teachers’ Day 2006: 40 years of fighting for teachers’ rights“There can be no viable long-term solution to our education challenges and teacher shortages without investment in training and measures to promote respect for the teaching profession,” said the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, in a message marking World Teachers’ Day today.
Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF, and Kemal Dervis, Adminstrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), also signed the message.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Joint ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. The Recommendation lays down the guidelines on a range of crucial issues such as preparation and employment conditions for teachers; the participation of teachers and their organizations in educational decisions; and the measures that should be taken in each country in order to promote quality teachers and learning environments. It is the only comprehensive international standard for the teaching profession in existence.
The relevance and moral force of this document remains as pertinent as ever.
Data collected by UNESCO show the world will need 18 million new teachers by 2015 to meet the target of providing quality primary education for all children. The greatest challenge lies in Sub-Saharan Africa, which will need to expand its teaching force by 68 percent over this period. 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; in Afghanistan, in particular, the teaching force must grow by almost nine percent a year over the next decade.
North America and Western Europe also face teacher shortages, particularly in
mathematics 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.
Overcoming these challenges requires a clear commitment from national authorities in favour of teachers, who are “the heart of the education system,” stresses the joint message. “It is essential,” it continues, “to support teachers professionally, boosting their determination and motivation through decent employment and working conditions and adequate remuneration.”
It also requires a safe working environment, added UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, who paid tribute to teachers working in regions ravaged by conflict where schools, teaching staff and students are often considered targets for extremist action.
“Teachers working under such conditions risk their lives daily in order to offer a better future to their young charges,” Mr Matsuura said. “No effort must be spared in providing them with a secure and safe environment in which to carry out this absolutely vital task.”
Earlier this week, Mr Matsuura announced that UNESCO would conduct a study on violence against education personnel to better understand the extent of the phenomenon, identify where educationalists were most at risk and look at what could be done to improve their safety and security. The published study will be dedicated to the memory of Safia Ama Jan, a former teacher and champion of education for girls and women, who was murdered on 25 September last at her home in Kandahar in Afghanistan.