“Teachers play a vital role in enabling students to achieve good learning outcomes within effective education systems. While their ability to positively shape a child’s learning experience depends on a myriad of factors, the first step toward good learning outcomes is to ensure that there are enough teachers in classrooms “(UNESCO Institute for Statistics [UIS], 2013).
Enrolment numbers in schools are soaring, but there aren’t enough teachers to provide every child with basic quality education. Across sub-Saharan Africa for example, the number of pupils enrolled in primary school has increased by 69% since 1999, while lower secondary education has increased by 123%. This is a key concern given that an extra 5.1 million lower secondary teachers will be needed by 2030 to provide all children with basic education (UIS, 2013).
This chronic shortage of qualified and properly-trained teachers is a core reason why many children around the world are leaving school without basic literacy and numeracy skills. Data released by the 2013/14 EFA Global Monitoring Report estimates that 250 million children are not learning the basics in reading and mathematics, even though half of them spent at least four years in school. Women and girls are particularly affected in achieving basic literacy skills, accounting for almost two thirds of the world’s 781 million illiterate. If current trends continue, it will take until 2072 for all the poorest young women in developing countries to become literate. Education is not only a fundamental right, but also an effective way for girls and women to achieve higher economic growth as well as social well-being. It has been repeatedly proven that education leads to better health, improves economic prosperity, reduces poverty and increases empowerment among women. Children, especially girls, who miss out on acquiring literacy skills are therefore less likely to access continuing educational opportunities, find well paid work and gain economic independence (EFA GMR, 2013).
Recruiting and training more teachers, especially women, is crucial if we are to achieve quality and equality in education for all. Very low levels of education and poor training are leaving teachers without the subject knowledge and pedagogical skills they need to ensure that children develop strong foundations in basic literacy and numeracy (EFA GMR, 2013). The quality of education offered has a decisive impact on student attendance and advancement rates. If teaching quality is poor, students are far less likely to comprehend, and will be demotivated to attend school. For example, a 2010 UNESCO survey of primary schools in Kenya evaluated teachers and their grade six students in a mathematics test based on the primary school syllabus. The average score for the teachers was only 60%, with some teachers scoring as low as 17%. Consequently, their students also received low scores on the same test, averaging around 47%. In northern Nigeria, a test of some 1,200 basic education teachers found that 78% had limited knowledge of English after taking a reading comprehension test and correcting sentences written by a 10-year-old (Source: EFA GMR, 2012). It is unequivocal that many teachers remain under-qualified. Well-trained teachers are the key factor to improving early learning. They should be supported by professional development programmes in order to help develop their skills in writing, reading, mathematics, and also digital literacy.
Low salaries paid to teachers is another significant component of the global teacher shortage. Governments must provide financial incentives and adequate remuneration in order to retain the best teachers. While a shortage in the supply of qualified teachers is most prominent in sub-Saharan Africa and Arab States (UIS, 2013). However, developed countries are not immune from the effects of teacher shortages and must also take concerted action. Within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - an international organisation of primarily Western and European States - teachers’ salaries are in general less than the average annual wage for employees with a similar level of education. Ensuring a constant supply of qualified and motivated teachers is a critical step to combat the staggering global illiteracy rates.
GWI urges all governments and education sectors to develop and implement concrete legislative and policy action to address the looming qualified teacher shortage - a significant, global challenge that threatens long-term sustainable development across all sectors. To bridge the supply/demand gap at the local, national and international level, States must ensure that prospective and current teachers are provided with competitive remuneration as well as comprehensive training and qualifications at all levels and disciplines, including competencies in education technology and e-learning. This is also why GWI is investing in a project which aims to increase access to quality secondary education to girls in rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa through teacher training and development. The project, first launched in Uganda, will increase the number of qualified and trained women teachers in secondary schools in these rural communities. For more information see our website http://www.graduatewomen.org/
Lorraine Mangwiro, Graduate Women International