Skip to main content
  • 05.10.2021

Teachers at the heart of education recovery: What does the latest data tell us about the state of the world’s teachers?

After more than 18 months of variable school closures and remote and hybrid teaching, World Teachers’ Day in 2021 is celebrating teachers and affirming their critical role in maintaining education as a vital service to all children as well as a fundamental human right.

To better inform education stakeholders’ decisions and policy-making, it is essential to understand the state of the world’s teachers through timely measurement and the use of internationally comparable statistics to identify gaps and opportunities. So, the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 has published a World Teachers’ Day 2021 Factsheet as well as a policy brief based on the recent findings of the Trends in International Mathematics and Sciences Study (TIMSS) report* to shed more light on teacher needs, and the need for teachers.

The data in these documents reflect a dire need to reassess the importance of teachers and raise the profile of the profession. In 2016, a projected 69 million additional teachers were needed to ensure universal primary and secondary education by 2030 (SDG target 4.1), and much more must be done to improve teachers’ qualifications, working conditions and status. Moreover, the COVID-19 crisis has not passed, which means pandemic-related needs persist, including teacher vaccination and professional development for the expanded use of remote or hybrid teaching now and in the future. Efforts must be made to ensure that addressing these needs does not take place at the expense of the progress that has been made so far.

To ensure education recovery, more teachers are needed in many countries

Although the total number of primary and secondary teachers worldwide increased by 41% between 2000 and 2020, there are still too few teachers to meet current and expanding needs. This is especially the case in sub-Saharan Africa, where 4.1 million more teachers are currently needed to achieve universal primary and secondary education: almost 1 million in primary and 3.3 million in secondary education. Action to address this shortage is needed urgently, since, as new Teacher Task Force research shows, the gap is projected to increase to 11.2 million teachers by 2025 and 15 million by 2030, based on increasing school-aged populations and replacements needed due to teacher attrition. Needs are greatest in Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Niger and the United Republic of Tanzania, where more than 5% annual growth in the number of teachers is needed just to meet the targets of full primary and secondary enrolment by 2030.

Teacher attrition (teachers choosing to leave the profession) remains a significant contributing factor to the teacher gap in many countries. Teachers abandon their profession for a complex variety of reasons, including low social recognition of their work, lack of opportunities for professional development, insufficient promotion prospects and difficult working conditions. Over a five-year period, primary-level teacher attrition was as high as 22% in Guinea, 17% in Sierra Leone, 16% in Mauritania and 13% in Benin.

While COVID-19’s effects on teacher attrition are not yet clear, in many contexts the pandemic has led to calls for additional teachers to be recruited to ease school reopening, putting further strain on limited financial and other resources. In 2021, however, a global survey by UNESCO/UNICEF/World Bank/OECD on National Education Responses to COVID-19 School Closures revealed that just 31% of 103 countries recruited additional teachers for school reopening, ranging from about half of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to just one-quarter in sub-Saharan Africa, of which most were southern African countries.

More needs to be done to improve teachers’ qualifications 

International comparisons of teacher qualifications are difficult, since teacher training standards and programmes differ widely and have varying entry prerequisites, duration and content. More and better indicators to measure and monitor the multiple dimensions of teacher qualifications need to be developed in order to understand the quality of teachers, their capacity to perform in the classroom and their needs for additional training and continuing professional development (CPD).

Globally, 83% of teachers at both primary and secondary level hold the minimum required qualifications to teach, but the situation differs by region: 97% of teachers at both levels are qualified in Central Asia, compared to 67% of primary and 61% of secondary teachers in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, regional figures hide wide variations between countries. In Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti and Mauritius, 100% of teachers hold the minimum required qualifications, compared to just 62% in Niger, 52% in Gabon, 27% in Sao Tome and Principe and 15% in Madagascar.

The TTF policy brief, based on TIMSS data, shows that teacher qualifications play an important role in learning outcomes. A multi-country analysis suggests that teachers who have a bachelor’s degree that included pedagogy, have participated in CPD and have at least 10 years’ experience are correlated with stronger learning achievement in many countries.

A bachelor’s degree was the most common qualification among teachers in the 64 high- and middle-income countries participating in TIMSS. Typically, teachers from higher-income countries have higher qualifications: 90% of grade 4 students in mathematics had a teacher with a post-graduate degree in Czechia, Germany, Finland, Poland and Slovakia. On the other hand, in some middle-income countries, including Armenia, Morocco and Pakistan, more than one-third of students had teachers who had only completed upper secondary education.

Teachers need support in addressing pandemic-related needs

Governments have struggled to support teachers in transitioning to remote and hybrid teaching models during school closures. Not only do teachers need training in how to use technologies, they also need specific support for distance learning pedagogies as well as emotional and psychosocial support. The joint UNESCO/UNICEF/World Bank/OECD survey shows that the most common support provided to teachers was instruction on distance education. Globally, 71% of countries provided instructions, ranging from 100% in Eastern and South-eastern Asia to 45% in Central and Southern Asia and 40% in sub-Saharan Africa. In comparison, teachers in just 42% of all countries were provided with ICT tools and internet access, ranging from 67% in Europe and Northern America and 56% in Latin America and the Caribbean to 22% in Eastern and South-eastern Asia and only 6% in sub-Saharan Africa.

The pandemic has precipitated a growing trend in distance education and technology integration in teaching, but according to the TIMSS report, CPD to support online education was inadequate in many countries before the crisis. Across countries, just 35% of grade 4 students had mathematics teachers who had been trained in technology integration.

Finally, for teachers to fully contribute to education recovery, their health and well-being must be strengthened and sustained. This includes prioritizing teachers during vaccination efforts. Currently, 71% of countries have included teachers in a priority group for vaccination (See Teacher prioritization map in COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans). Vaccination efforts are at different stages worldwide, but some countries which did not prioritize teachers have very low rates of fully vaccinated teachers – for example, 12% in Venezuela and 9% in Algeria. Teachers’ mental and emotional health must also be sustained, but just 6 in 10 countries globally and 3 in 10 in sub-Saharan Africa offered psychosocial support to help teachers deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has generated additional strain for teachers who, in many cases, already faced high workloads with inadequate support. To weather the crisis, and to meet the SDG 4 promise, more must urgently be done to give them the resources they need. 

Visual credit: © UNESCO with icons from

*The Trends in International Mathematics and Sciences Study (TIMSS) report is an international assessment of student achievement in mathematics and sciences, which contributes to understanding teacher quality and its role in student achievement through a set of indicators that contextualize teacher qualifications within students’ school environments. The new TTF policy brief is based on the latest TIMSS 2019 report, which covered 64 countries.

  • 12.10.2021

Understanding the role of teacher qualifications in student achievement

As the single most important in-school factor influencing student achievement, understanding the role of teacher quality is key to advocating for quality education for all. Yet, tracking teacher qualifications at the international level is difficult, as a wide-ranging set of indicators to measure and monitor its multiple dimensions is lacking.

Last week, on World Teachers' Day, the Teacher Task Force released a new policy brief: Qualified teachers urgently needed – What TIMSS data reveal about teacher training and student learning, which unpacks teacher qualifications through indicators such as teachers’ initial education, continuing professional development and cumulative experience from The Trends in International Mathematics and Sciences Study (TIMSS) 2019*.

Key findings

Initial teacher education:

  • A bachelor’s degree was the most common qualification for teachers in the study. However, teachers in higher-income countries have higher qualifications. In several European countries more than 90% of students had a teacher with a post-graduate degree, while in some middle-income countries more than one-third of students had teachers whom had only completed upper secondary education. 

Programme major and specialization:

  • Most teachers completed majors related to pedagogy. On average, this was the case for three quarters of grade 4 students in mathematics. However, this covers a wide range: 90% or more students in European countries compared to fewer than two-thirds of students in some developing countries.

Continuing professional development (CPD):

  • More grade 8 teachers than grade 4 teachers participated in CPD. Between 40% and 60% of students in grade 8 were taught by teachers participating in CPD compared to between 30% and 40% of students in grade 4.

Continuing professional development by type:

  • CPD that supports online and inclusive education was inadequate. 46% of grade 4 students in mathematics had teachers whom were recently trained on content while just 35% had teachers whom were trained on technology integration. Similarly, 59% of grade 8 students in science had teachers whom were trained on pedagogy while just 44% had teachers whom were trained to address individual needs.

Teachers’ previous experience:

  • Years of teaching experience varies substantially. On average, teachers had 17 years of experience in grade 4 and 16 years in grade 8. In some European countries 70% of students had teachers with 20 or more years of experience while in some middle-income countries about one-quarter of students were taught by teachers with 5 or fewer years.

Teacher qualifications and student learning:

  • In general, teachers with higher qualifications, more pedagogical training and more than 10 years of teaching experience were linked to higher learning achievement.

Policy Recommendations

While it is important to acknowledge the complexity of factors that influence student achievement, this policy brief offers the following general recommendations for policy-makers to strengthen teacher qualifications.

  1. Enhancing the quality of initial teacher education is crucial to improve teacher qualifications. Minimum standards for teachers should be increased to at least a bachelors’ degree or equivalent, while teacher training programmes should include training in pedagogy, specific subject-matter expertise, and other skills. Pre-service teachers’ training should also include practicum experiences led by experienced teachers to help them integrate theoretical knowledge into their teaching practice. 
  2. In-service teachers lacking formal training should be supported through frequent continuing professional development (CPD) interventions leading towards professionalization. They also require a rigorous induction period and continuous mentoring.
  3. While all teachers need more and better access to regular and equitable CPD interventions, COVID-19 related school closures underline teachers’ need for targeted training in technology integration to support remote teaching and in addressing individual needs to support inclusive education.
  4. Experienced teachers can play an essential leadership role in peer training, coaching, monitoring and contributing to formative evaluations of novice teachers. Incentives should be built into career paths to ensure teachers remain in the profession.
  5. It is critical to include the input of teachers and their representatives through social dialogue in defining their training and other professional needs.
  6. The new International Standard Classification of teacher training programmes (ISCED-T), which is being developed by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), will provide a new classification system for teacher education programmes to shed light on the teacher qualifications discussed in this policy brief. It will help to generate new indicators of teacher quality that can be used to measure and benchmark progress towards the achievement of the SDG4.c teacher-related target as well as for analysis in the achievement of the overall SDG4 target on education and other Sustainable Development Goals.

*The Trends in International Mathematics and Sciences Study (TIMSS), an international assessment of student achievement in mathematics and sciences, contributes to understanding teacher quality and its role in student achievement through a set of indicators that contextualize teacher qualifications within school environments. This new TTF policy brief is based on the latest TIMSS 2019 report, which gathered data about grade 4 and 8 mathematics and science teachers in 64 countries. The policy brief also examines the TIMSS student achievement data, comparing student learning across groups based on teacher qualifications in an attempt to establish relationships and draw conclusions about the complex role of teacher’s qualifications on learning.

Photo credit: Kuzmina.

  • 29.07.2021

A priority in the recovery: Supporting teachers for success

Authors: Adelle Pushparatnam, Ezequiel Molina, & Ana Teresa del Toro Mijares from the World Bank’s Teachers Thematic Group.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused drastic disruption to education systems around the world: more than 1.6 billion children have lost months of instructional time, more than 150 million have not had any kind of in-person learning in over a year, and many children are still not back in school today. The pandemic has challenged education systems to ensure learning continuity, and reopening efforts must focus on getting students back to school as quickly as possible, and urgently reversing significant learning losses.

There will be no education recovery without teachers. Even in ordinary times, the quality of teaching that students receive is the most important driver of learning within an educational system, and the importance of teachers goes far beyond students’ cognitive achievement: research also shows that successful teachers contribute to students’ non-cognitive learning and outcomes well beyond their schooling years. The current pandemic has only reinforced the importance of teachers. In the post-pandemic period, teachers will play the most critical role in the front lines in delivering the appropriate support so that students and schools can recover as quickly and effectively as possible.

The challenges brought on by COVID-19, in addition to the global learning crisis already underway before the disruptions, necessitate strengthening teachers’ capacities to teach well and meet the new and evolving challenges our classrooms, schools and systems face today. Teachers’ jobs, already complex pre-pandemic, will only grow more challenging. As students return to school, teachers will need to employ rapid-action learning assessments and tools to track learning losses. Teachers will need to develop targeted and sequenced remedial learning plans, and strategize how to deliver these alongside the current year’s curriculum and learning. Teachers will also need to provide important social and emotional support to students. And many teachers will need to deliver this support in innovative ways, blending in-person, remote, and hybrid approaches, as the health situation continues to evolve on the ground.

Providing teachers with high-quality professional development (PD) opportunities cannot be an afterthought or an add-on: it needs to be considered as an essential funding priority for the recovery period and beyond.

Even before the pandemic, many education systems were not providing teachers with PD opportunities to strengthen their teaching practice, and what was offered was often not aligned with best practice, ultimately not effectively supporting teachers in improving their classroom teaching, and not leading to improvements in student learning. 

It is more important than ever in the recovery context that teachers not only receive PD opportunities, but that these be aligned with evidence-based principles of effective teacher PD so that they can strengthen their teaching skills, and build new skills to meet the evolving challenges on the ground. Effective in-service PD must be tailored to teachers’ needs, providing targeted support in the areas in which teachers need the most support. PD must also be practical, with active learning strategies that provide teachers with opportunities to practice new skills and receive feedback on them. It must be focused, selective and strategic in scope, with sufficient time and resources to adequately cover the content. Finally, PD must be ongoing, providing continuous support over a sustained period to ensure that new skills and knowledge are consolidated and internalized. The complexity of the new tasks that teachers will take on, the multiple demands placed on them, and the rapidly evolving context on the ground, only reinforce the importance of these principles as guidance posts in the design and development of high-quality PD to support teachers.

Ultimately, as countries around the world shift to re-opening and prepare for the difficult task of education recovery, it is teachers who will be in the front lines of this challenging effort. Ensuring adequate funding for high-quality and effective PD experiences for all teachers that support their development and success, must be a priority that goes hand-in-hand as we work on getting students and teachers back in classrooms. Ultimately, supporting teachers’ learning and capacity-building means supporting students and schools.

At the World Bank, this is the context that has motivated the development of our new program Coach. Coach aims to help countries improve and develop highly effective teacher PD systems and programs that leverage insights from the fields of adult learning and behavioral science. The Coach tools & resources have been designed to support countries along every stage of their journey in designing, implementing and evaluating high-quality and effective teacher professional development programs and systems, aligned with what we know works from research and the experience of the most successful programs in the field. Programs such as Coach that seek to build and strengthen teachers’ skills are more essential than ever to helping education systems meet today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.

To learn more about the World Bank’s work supporting teachers, please sign up for our monthly newsletter, check out our webpage, or write to us at 


The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this article do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The ideas and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors; they are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit the Organization.

Photo credit: Dominic Chavez/World Bank


Learning and Teaching in the Digital Era

Education is one of the cornerstones for countries’ socio-economic development, and technology and innovation are ways to take it everywhere. Accordingly, at ProFuturo we believe that digital...
  • 22.01.2021

This is how we're supporting teachers around the world in 2021

This International Day of Education, celebrated on Sunday 24 January, will recognise the inspiring collaborations around the world that have safeguarded education in times of crisis. To mark the occasion we are highlighting initiatives, partnerships and best practices to support teachers and learners.

We asked Teacher Task Force members to share their plans for 2021, a year in which it will be critical to join forces and combine resources to recover from the pandemic and move forward together in support of teachers.

At least a third of the world’s students have not been able to access remote learning during Covid-19 school closures. Students in low and lower-middle income countries lost an average of about four months of schooling, compared to six weeks in high-income countries. Recovering from this situation will present an unprecedented challenge.

However, school closures have also made people appreciate the importance of schools and the key role of teachers – not only for academic and economic reasons, but also for learners’ socio-emotional development. Covid has been a wake-up call to ensure education systems become more resilient, inclusive, flexible and sustainable. It has also shown the capacity of systems and teachers to innovate to ensure teaching and learning can continue despite challenging circumstances.


Out-of-the-box thinking

Teacher Task Force members have been sharing how initiatives demonstrated by teachers during 2020 school closures have inspired plans for 2021.

VVOB – education for development will focus in 2021 on managing further disruptions to education, remediating learning losses due to these disruptions, and building the socio-emotional wellbeing of youth. It will promote blended capacity development trajectories for teachers and school leaders that can help include those left behind, building on experiences in countries including Rwanda.

GPE’s response to the pandemic included support to distribute portable radio sets in Sierra Leone and launch of a regular educational broadcast within one week of school closures. In 2021, GPE will continue to fund training and management information systems, working with partner countries to identify challenges and find solutions.

Using radio to reach rural schools in Chile, TV in Nigeria and an enhanced online platform in Malaysia are among 50 stories in reports published by Teach For All’s global network on how teacher leadership, distance learning and the efforts of communities have helped keep children learning through the pandemic. In 2021, the network will continue its Learning Through the Crisis initiative to support the reopening of schools and creation of more resilient, sustainable education systems.

The Education Commission and the Education Development Trust, in partnership with WISE, are working with governments to fully understand the roles of school leaders and their support for teachers during school closures and reopenings of the past year. The research will be translated into a policy playbook highlighting important lessons learned and insights from several countries.


Technology for professional development

The pandemic not only shifted learning online for many students, it opened up new possibilities in using technology for teachers’ professional development. STiR Education used virtual meetings and radio to reach teachers in India and Uganda, and in 2021, they aim to embed technology more deeply into their work while ensuring that their activities are equitable for all teachers.

The Commonwealth of Learning will in 2021 develop tailored professional development courses in partnership with the UK’s Open University. It will offer courses on mobile learning and cybersecurity for teachers, as well as help teachers in various Commonwealth countries improve their skills in developing subject-specific digital resources.

The Inter-American Teacher Education Network, an initiative of the Organization of American States, creates teams of educational leaders who have worked on projects such as virtual professional development in Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay. Applications for 2021 project teams are open until February 1.

Global School Leaders created Upya, a curriculum to enable school leaders in marginalized communities to lead effectively through this pandemic.

OEI will continue its work to strengthen the capacities of teachers in the Ibero-American region, with a broad focus in 2021 on digital skills. There will be projects aimed at improving STEAM methodology, offer digital resources, and new scholarships in order to contribute to increase the doctoral formation in the region.

ProFuturo will keep offering online free training courses for teachers worldwide, while Enabel will continue teacher training in Burundi including use of information and communication technologies and rolling out online and hybrid courses in Uganda.

Meanwhile, the Center for Learning in Practice at the Carey Institute for Global Good is working virtually with stakeholders, including teachers, to co-develop teacher professional learning materials. As a result, they will provide quality holistic on-line learning in displacement contexts across the Middle East, East Africa, and Central/West Africa.

Whilst digital will be central to future education systems, hands-on face-to-face learning will still be important. The LEGO Foundation will continue to support partners in Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Vietnam who are providing play-based teacher professional development that will reach up to 65,000 teachers in 2021.


Supporting education systems in every setting

Many Teacher Task Force members work with governments to support strengthening and managing system efficiencies and the overall performance of the sector.

In Burkina Faso, UNESCO's International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) is supporting the government to improve its human resources management and related budgeting in education. IIEP, together with the Education Development Trust, is exploring the role of “instructional leaders”, who support teachers to develop their skills without a formal role in assessment and will publish research in 2021 including case studies from Wales, India, Shanghai, Jordan, Rwanda and Kenya.

The Institute’s first ever Hackathon in January 2021 will include addressing challenges to improve the deployment of teachers, reducing disparities between a country’s regions, and identifying ghost teachers – who can cost up to 20% of the education budget in some countries. Lastly, IIEP plans to publish research in 2021 on teacher management in refugee settings in Jordan and Kenya.

Priorities for Education International in 2021 include calling for teachers and education staff to be considered a priority group in global vaccination efforts, and promoting a Global Framework of Professional Teaching Standards developed with UNESCO.

Building on the fact that the best-performing countries in the pandemic were those that engaged in meaningful dialogue with education unions, Education International calls for the dialogue to continue on issues such as the use of technology in education, investment in the workforce, professional development, decent working conditions, and respect for teachers’ professional autonomy.


Working together for teachers

2020 was an unprecedented year across every sector. In education, it shone a light, not only on the systemic gaps and challenges witnessed across the world, but also on the mitigating responses developed organically by teachers. It also saw emergency measures developed and implemented by education stakeholders at different levels, governments and the international development community.

While 2020 accelerated innovation in education and the process to reimagine its future delivery, efforts in 2021 will build on this to reposition and strengthen teachers’ roles in building more resilient systems of education in a post-covid-19 context. The members of the Teacher Task Force aim to be a driving force in this work.


Photo caption: A math teacher in Cambodia. Credit: VVOB – education for development