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#TeachersMissing: The global teacher crisis impacting our collective future

The Teacher Task Force network launched its #TeachersMissing advocacy campaign during the SDG 4 High-Level Steering Committee Stocktake of Transformative Actions in Education event, on 17 June 2024 at UNESCO HQ. Find out how to support the campaign here.

There is a critical global shortage of teachers, with an additional 44 million teachers urgently needed by 2030. To address this, countries must work together to invest in education and empower teachers. The future of all learners and societies depends on it.

Dedicated teachers are at the heart of quality education for every learner. But education systems around the world are in crisis as teacher shortages continue to rise. Each year, millions of teachers are resigning, and the attractiveness of the profession continues to fade.

The new Global Report on Teachers published by the Teacher Task Force and UNESCO, red-flags the fact that 44 million additional teachers will be needed by 2030 to reach Sustainable Development Goal 4 of attaining universal primary and secondary education for all.

These widespread teacher shortages adversely affect the quality of education in all countries and regions of the world, whatever their level of economic or human development.

According to the report, global attrition rates among primary school teachers almost doubled from 4.6 per cent in 2015 to 9 per cent in 2022. However, the majority of teacher shortages (about 70%) are in secondary schools, and over half of those are required to replace teachers who are leaving the profession.

Teacher qualifications are another key issue that governments and education role-players need to address. Globally, 86% of primary school teachers have the necessary qualifications according to national teaching standards. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, this indicator drops to just 69%.

In regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), less than 75% of teachers at pre-primary level are properly qualified.

When it comes to student-to-qualified-teacher ratios, the number has generally improved worldwide, but low-income countries still face a significant challenge.

In 2022, high-income countries had an average of 15 students per qualified teacher in primary education, while in low-income countries, the ratio is almost three times higher at 52 students per qualified teacher. This is also significantly higher than UNESCO’s recommended pupil to teacher ratio in primary education (40:1).

Investing in teachers is more than just a priority, it is an urgent imperative. Without this investment, the next generation of learners will not have enough teachers in classrooms. 

#TeachersMissing: Where have they gone? 

Unless urgent action is taken, just four in ten countries will have enough teachers to ensure universal primary education by 2030. This drops to fewer than one in five countries for secondary education.

There are several factors influencing teacher resignations. They are facing multiple challenges including the lack of professional development, poor working conditions, heavy workloads and low salaries. There’s also a general lack of respect and recognition of their critical contribution to society.

This has impacted teachers’ mental health and overall welfare, causing them to feel overwhelmed and unsupported. It has also deterred many potential candidates from joining the profession. 

The shortage of teaching professionals together with the decline in new teacher enrolments has serious implications for learners’ education and well-being. The unequal distribution of qualified teachers also perpetuates educational inequalities, especially in developing countries. 

How can we prevent further resignations and make teaching more attractive?

In a recent address, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated, “Teachers are central to nurturing every country’s greatest resource: the minds of its people. Yet today, we face a dramatic shortage of teachers worldwide, and millions of teachers who lack the support, skills and continuing training they need to meet the demands of rapidly changing education systems.”

The Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession issued several recommendations to transform the teaching profession and to address the teacher shortage crisis, highlighting the need to value and respect the profession by ensuring “decent working conditions, competitive wages, ensuring teacher’s voices are included in policies and decision-making and opportunities for development and innovation.”

These recommendations are echoed by the Global Report on Teachers  which identified several encouraging examples from countries around the world who have started to turn things around:

  • Kazakhstan doubled teacher salaries from 2020 to 2023 after a survey showed teachers felt overworked and underpaid, boosting their state support. Teachers now feel more supported by the state.
  • In the Republic of Korea, new teachers are paired with more experienced colleagues to align professional learning and exchange ideas. This has shown promising results. 
  • Mexico has granted permanent positions to approximately 800 000 contract teachers who became eligible after six months on the job.
  • In China, factors such as personality fit, interest in a subject, opportunity for continuous professional development (CPD) and a desire to help others, are motivating pupils to pursue a career in teaching.
  • Nepal encourages those with disabilities to enter the teaching profession, and nearly 40% of visually impaired people who hold university degrees teach in mainstream schools.
  • Germany invested in a recruitment drive to draw men into early childhood teacher posts, more than doubling their numbers over 12 years.
  • Egypt has committed to appointing 150 000 new teachers to address the country’s shortages.
  • Chile has reduced teaching time from 75% to 65% to give teachers have more time for activities such as professional development.

Adding up the costs, taking action

According to UNESCO-OECD-Commonwealth’s Price of Inaction report, children leaving school early has a major impact on the wellbeing of societies as well as economies. However, if governments were to ensure that every child stayed in school and achieved basic skills, the world’s GDP could increase by more than US$6.5 trillion annually.

One of the keys to ensuring children stay in school and learn is hiring qualified, motivated and diverse teachers who engage all students equally, and can unlock their potential.

This highlights the critical need for governments to support teachers through better policies, and more funding. According to the Global Report on Teachers, the annual investment needed to cover new primary and secondary teaching positions by 2030 is estimated at USD$ 120 billion. A substantial portion of this (US$39 billion) needs to be directed towards Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Can we afford NOT to act?

Just six years away from the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals deadline, we are still facing numerous challenges to achieving education for all.  We must step up our efforts, urgently!

Through its 2024 advocacy campaign #TeachersMissing, the Teacher Task Force aims to encourage governments, organisations and other education role-players to ramp up support for teachers. The campaign advocates for improving the attractiveness of the teaching profession to ensure every learner has access to a qualified and motivated teacher.

The world needs to recognise that teachers are a cornerstone of quality education, and play a critical role in building a more sustainable, resilient and prosperous future for all. Consult the #TeachersMissing advocacy campaign page to see how can you join this urgent call.