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ISCED-T - a new monitoring tool for helping global efforts to improve teacher quality

Author: UNESCO Institute for Statistics

Without teachers meeting basic standards of qualifications and training, learners are unlikely to receive the quality instruction they need to reach their full potential. Teachers are at the heart of education systems and their transformation, but in some countries and communities, teachers lack basic skills. According to the most recent data published by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), 86% and 84% of primary and secondary education teachers, globally, held the minimum required qualifications in 2020. To increase the proportion of qualified teachers, it is essential to be able to monitor and compare the level of teachers’ qualifications nationally, regionally, and internationally.  However, until now, there was no internationally comparable method to do so.

The data currently used for monitoring trained and qualified teachers are based on national standards, which vary across countries. This results in a set of statistics measuring different levels that lack international comparability and undermine the establishment of relevant benchmarks for measuring Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 4.c (to substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers) in a sustainable manner.

To support the monitoring of SDG target 4.c, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) has developed the International Standard Classification of Teacher Training Programmes (ISCED-T). It is a framework for assembling, compiling, and analysing cross-nationally comparable statistics on teacher training programmes and related teacher qualifications (see Figure below). This new classification is based on, and complements, the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED), which serves to classify education programmes and the related qualifications by education levels and fields. 

Figure: Framework for the International Standard Classification of Teacher Training Programmes (ISCED-T)

ISCED-T visual

The ISCED-T is applied across five dimensions:   

  • Educational level of qualification obtained upon completion of the teacher training programme e.g., secondary, post-secondary non-tertiary, tertiary.
  • Target teaching level of the teacher training programme (pre-primary to upper-secondary)
  • Minimum educational level required for entry into the teacher training programme
  • Theoretical duration of the teacher training programme
  • Teaching practice ratio, which is the duration of the work-based in-school component of the teacher training programme relative to the total duration of the same programme.

These five dimensions form the basis of the ISCED-T classification units. The definition of the units and concepts of classification, based on agreed international categories, help with both the production of cross-nationally comparable statistics and the reflection on teacher education and training policies and qualifications frameworks.

To guide the overall strategy for the development of ISCED-T, the review and validation of its draft proposals, and to advise on its implementation, the UIS, in partnership with UNESCO’s Education Sector and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, established a global Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) for the classification. The TAP is a gender-balanced group that consists of experts on teacher training and qualifications, teacher statistics, and international classifications from 12 organizations and from all UNESCO regions.

The ISCED-T was adopted at the 41st session of UNESCO’s General Conference in November 2021. Following this, the UIS has prepared an implementation plan which reflects the suggestions received from Member States. It includes a data collection strategy, developed by UIS with inputs from the TAP of ISCED-T. The implementation of ISCED-T will start after its launch in 2022.

The ISCED-T is expected to contribute to global efforts to improve teacher quality. It is expected to help clarify the definition of trained and qualified teachers, and to enhance the availability and quality of data for monitoring SDG global indicator 4.c.1 on the proportion of teachers who have received at least the minimum organized teacher training. Data reported through the ISCED-T will also help explore the feasibility of developing a global minimum standard for teacher qualifications which could then be used to improve the monitoring of the SDG global indicator 4.c.1 alongside the national standards currently used for monitoring.

For more information about the ISCED, ISCED-T and its Technical Advisory Panel (TAP), please see the UIS website on the International Standard Classification of Education:

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