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The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher


With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 4 on quality and inclusive education, and the dedicated target (SDG 4.c) on teachers, the education community recognized teachers as key to the achievement of the Education 2030 agenda.

As we celebrate World Teachers’ Day this year, we take this occasion to remind the global community that “The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher.” This theme was chosen to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which recognized education as a key fundamental right. A right that cannot be fulfilled without qualified teachers.

The right to a qualified teacher

A qualified teacher is commonly defined as a teacher “who has at least the minimum academic qualifications required for teaching their subjects at the relevant level in a given country.” Qualified teachers are fundamental to the right to education. However, this definition does not include the notion of trained teachers, defined as “teachers who have received at least the minimum organized pedagogical teacher training pre-service and in-service required for teaching at the relevant level in a given country”. This results in teachers sometimes having the academic qualification required to teach, but not the pedagogical training, or vice versa. Some teachers even lack both academic qualifications and pedagogical training. In many low-income countries, there is a shortage of both trained and qualified teachers.

There is also a lack of data regarding the minimum requirements for pedagogical training among countries, and the existing differences are not well documented. Countries differ in regards to programme duration and curriculum content, extent of and quality of field experience (i.e., practice teaching), and availability and duration of induction and mentoring. For example, teacher education programmes can last from one to four years, may or may not include a period of supervised teaching practice, and may or may not require an academic qualification. Such qualitative differences in the training and qualifications of teachers affect instructional quality in the classroom and ultimately students’ learning achievement.

The impact of teacher shortage

One of the main challenges to this right worldwide is the continued shortage of teachers. There are an estimated 263 million children and youth still out of school globally, and according to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, the world needs to recruit almost 69 million new teachers to reach the 2030 education goal of universal primary and secondary education. This ‘teacher gap’ is more pronounced among vulnerable populations – girls, children with disabilities, refugee and migrant children, and poor children living in rural or remote areas.

Teacher shortages are hampering efforts in many low-income countries to achieving quality, equitable, and inclusive education. To fill the teacher gap, countries resort to hiring teachers on temporary contracts who do not meet the training and qualifications requirements nor have proper professional status thereby increasing, rather than decreasing, the equity gap.

The equity gap is most pronounced in emergency and conflict-situations, where qualified teachers are in short supply. According to UNICEF, more than one-third of out-of-school children and youth globally live in conflict-affected areas -- 55% of whom are girls. In emergency contexts, providing migrant and refugee children with education is key to helping them cope with the new situation. But often, humanitarian agencies must recruit teachers with no preparation for responding to the complex needs of vulnerable children who have been forced to flee their homes because of armed conflict, violence or natural disaster.

A global event

This year, World Teachers’ Day celebration will spotlight teachers’ experiences in crisis and emergency contexts.

A global event will be taking place at UNESCO’s Headquarter in Paris on 5 October. The morning panel will showcase the policy issues and practical challenges of securing the right to education for children and youth living in difficult contexts. It will feature a presentation by the Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great-Britain and Northern Ireland to UNESCO who will speak about the new DFID education policy that puts a focus on addressing the teacher shortage, especially among vulnerable populations in developing and conflict affected countries. Experts from the Global Education Monitoring Report will present a few teasers from the upcoming Report on migration. Finally, the panel will showcase the work of a French NGO, “Groupement d’Educateurs sans Frontières”, who train retired teachers to work with migrant and refugee children.

In the afternoon, the Director-General’s opening address will be broadcasted live in Geneva to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Joint Committee of Experts on the Applications of the Recommendations concerning the status of teachers (CEART), which will meet in Geneva, Switzerland from 1-5 October. The award Ceremony of the UNESCO-Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers will take place after the formal opening ceremony.

Awarded every two years, the Prize is generously supported by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum through the Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation for Distinguished Academic Performance. It amounts to US $300,000, which is equally divided between three winners whose projects aim at improving the performance and effectiveness of teachers in various regions of the world.

This year, the prize will be given to three programmes designed to improve teachers’ training and empower them: The Center for Mathematic Modeling of the University of Chile, the Diklat Berjenjang project (Indonesia) and the Fast-track Transformational Teacher Training Programme (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).

The Ceremony will take place in presence of UNESCO’s Director-General, Ms Audrey Azoulay, and His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Held annually on 5 October since 1994, World Teachers’ Day commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. This Recommendation sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers and standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions.

World Teachers’ Day is co-convened in partnership with UNICEF, UNDP, the International Labour Organization, and Education International.

World Teachers' Day 2018 webpage