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Blog
  • 06.09.2021

Ensuring inclusion and equity in teacher policies and practices: A sustainable strategy for post-pandemic recovery

Authors: James O'Meara from ICET and Purna Shresta from VSO.

The Global Education Summit in July raised a record US$4 billion, which will help 175 million children learn. This stunning effort shows what is possible when governments work with the UN and other intergovernmental organizations, alongside development agencies and organizations from civil society and the private sector. Such cooperation will help us achieve the common objective envisaged in the fourth Sustainable Development Goal: ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Education that includes everyone and gives everyone a fair chance of learning is not possible without ensuring that everyone has access to quality teachers. It is crucial to implement policies and practices that promote inclusion and equity for teachers in every educational context, considering gender, socio-economic status, location, ability, and other factors that can lead to exclusion.

Ensuring that everyone has access to quality teachers requires significant levels of investment, especially in least developed countries and small island developing states. To ensure quality education for all by 2030, Sub-Saharan Africa – the region with the highest concentration of least developed countries – will need to recruit and prepare 15 million teachers.

Providing access to quality teachers for all requires:

Helping 175 million children learn moves us closer to the shared vision expressed in SDG4. The international education community will be able to maintain the momentum created by the Global Education Summit – and help to ensure quality teachers for all – at the 13th Policy Dialogue Forum and governance meetings of the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, which will be held in Kigali, Rwanda, and online from December 1 to December 3, 2021. The meetings provide the ideal setting to come together again and invest in teachers now ­to ensure sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and prepare today’s learners for tomorrow.

Have your say in developing, implementing and assessing teaching policies

The Inclusion and Equity in Teacher Policies and Practices Thematic group is launching a series of online discussions – synchronous (September 2021) and asynchronous (October and November). The discussions are designed to allow you to get involved with shaping policies and practices that promote fair opportunities for all teachers. By sharing your knowledge, you can help bridge the growing gaps in teacher recruitment, preparation and deployment, which have been exacerbated by COVID-19.

Your engagement in this inclusive policy dialogue will ensure teachers and their representative organizations have a greater voice in policy-making processes. You can participate in these discussions at a time and place convenient to you, increasing the diversity of perspectives on how to provide pathways into teaching for the underserved, vulnerable and underrepresented (including migrants, people with disabilities, indigenous people, ethnic minorities and the poor), closing the teacher numbers gap across the globe.


Details of the first synchronous session on September 24 will be posted on the TTF website. If you are already a TTF member, please visit the TTF website and join the Inclusion and Equity in Teacher Policies and Practices thematic group in the Member Space before the event so you can receive information on TTF events. If you are not a TTF member, please contact the coordinators of the thematic group: Purna Shrestha at purna.shrestha@vsoint.org or James O’meara at james.omeara@tamiu.edu.


Photo: The teacher and her students in a Rwanda primary school. Credit: GPE

Blog
  • 24.08.2021

Investing in teachers - Insights from practitioners, policy makers and teacher advocates

The COVID-19 crisis, with its lockdowns and school closures, shed light on the urgent needs of the education sector as well as the vital role of teachers. As governments scrambled to meet the pressing education needs of students, teachers and communities, it became clear that teachers not only are key to ensuring quality education but also are in dire need of greater support.

During the Global Education Summit: Financing the Global Education Partnership 2021-2025, held in London in late July 2021, the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 organized a side event, “The best investment – Supporting Teachers in COVID-19 recovery and beyond”. A panel of policy makers, teacher advocates and practitioners offered a wide range of perspectives on the needs of teachers as well as promising ways of enlisting funds and supporting teachers in a holistic way.

Supporting teachers and education: a question of political will

Political will is needed to place education at the top of the public investment agenda.  Aminta Navarro of the Global Campaign for Education noted that governments need to realize that they must give priority to investing in education if they want to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. In the context of the current crisis and beyond, it should be a question not of allocating resources one way or another but of governments showing political resolve by deciding to spend on education.

The Peruvian government sought to display such political resolve during the COVID-19 crisis by enlarging its education budget and focusing on those who needed help the most. Peru’s then Minister of Education, Ricardo Cuenca, explained how his transitional government led a massive campaign to support rural teachers who serve disadvantaged communities during the crisis. Coming up with funds to support rural teachers during the crisis required being strategic. Dr. Cuenca noted that making concrete and detailed proposals to the Economics and Finance Ministry allowed the Education Ministry to augment the rural teacher budget allocation by 250%. This increment supported actions that included changing rules regarding teaching conditions and working hours, and allowing for more collaboration between teachers. It also enabled:

  • training rural teachers in digital and specific distance-learning pedagogical skills;
  • supplying teachers with tablets and Internet connections to enable them to work remotely;
  • opening a line to provide teachers with socioemotional support as they confronted the crisis;
  • putting into place a massive vaccination campaign for rural teachers.

Investing in teachers: meeting benchmarks and closing gaps

Citing the internationally agreed funding benchmark of spending 20% of the national budget on education, Dennis Sinyolo, Chief Regional Coordinator for Africa for Education International, called on governments to meet this benchmark and invest adequately in education and in teachers in particular. Aminta Navarro suggested that countries expand tax bases and modify national debt payments to assign more resources to education. As recognized in the fourth Sustainable Development Goal, teachers have a critical role in education and in the life of students and communities, and therefore must be the priority in education budgets.

Investing in teachers must go beyond teacher salaries and hiring. Comprehensive training, continuous support, a motivating environment as well as adequate resources are also key to ensuring that teachers can not only provide quality education but also remain motivated. All these elements must be costed into education budgets.

Rwanda has been investing heavily in holistic professional development and school leadership that considers teachers’ complex needs. The country’s Education Minister, Valentine Uwamariya, said her government acknowledges that high quality teacher and school leader training and engagement contributes directly to achieving the desired levels of student learning. Dr. Uwamariya detailed the efforts being made in Rwanda for pre-service and continuous professional development. Primary- and secondary-level programs support school-based peer learning, coaching, career guidance and counseling. Attention is given to fostering teachers’ well-being, providing special motivation incentives and promoting professional standards. There is also particular consideration to reviewing teaching methods, including those related to digital learning.

Many countries struggle to meet the needs of their teachers, despite dedicating a large portion of their education budget to their wages. Using the example of Sub-Saharan Africa, Carlos Vargas, Chief of UNESCO’s Section for Teacher Development and Head of the TTF’s Secretariat, pointed out that even though more than 90% of the education budget goes into teacher salaries in 13 out of the 28 countries reporting this indicator in the region, salaries remain low and teacher shortages are enormous and persistent. He explained that these shortages are the result of a combination of factors including poor working conditions, low salaries, and a lack of training and professional development. This illustrates well why a more holistic approach to supporting teachers, coupled with domestic and international funding, is crucial to closing the teacher gap.

To invest smartly in education, include teachers in policymaking

Dennis Sinyolo pointed out that involving teachers in policy making profoundly enhances the quality and relevance of educational policies. For this to happen, social dialogue is of critical importance, and it needs to be institutionalized and legislated. Teachers are more than just implementors of policy. They have an on-the-ground perspective that allows them to identify needs and help better budget them. That is why it is vital to include teachers and teacher unions from an early stage when making decisions about planning, monitoring, evaluation and implementation.

Involving teachers in policymaking requires viewing and treating teachers as professionals. However, the de-professionalization and casualization of teaching have become global trends, so governments need to boost teacher development by making more efforts to facilitate high-quality teacher education, both pre-service and in-service.  

There is an urgent need to invest in teacher professionalization especially in rural areas

The lack of formal teacher training is most acute in rural areas. Babuo Abba, a refugee teacher from the Central African Republic who arrived in Chad in 2014, explained that in Chad’s rural areas most teaching is done by community teachers who lack formal credentials. This lack of training and certification often results in attrition, as community teachers leave teaching because they are not viewed as teaching professionals and therefore are not granted proper remuneration, work conditions, professional development, let alone get a say on educational policy. COVID-19 aggravated the situation of these teachers. Lacking formal status, they did not have access to the resources they needed during the crisis and were often not paid during school closures. This resulted in massive teacher attrition.

Teacher professionalization must be holistic and culturally relevant

Echoing Babuo Abba’s concerns, Cindy Leafland from the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of Suriname explained that, in her country, rural teachers often lack qualifications because they have less access to training than urban teachers. Moreover, rural students and teachers suffer because both curricula and assessments lack cultural relevance. While there is a need to strengthen national standards, these must allow for authentic learning experiences for teachers and learners in a variety of settings, and not just in urban contexts. To foster more holistic and context-sensitive teacher training, Leafland suggested different forms of mentoring and modeling that could take place between novice and more experienced teachers.

COVID-19 has challenged educational systems around the world, but as we learned from this panel discussion at the GPE summit, the pandemic has also provided an opportunity to reflect on what needs to be prioritized and, in some cases, a chance to leap into action. Investing in education is crucial not only to repair the losses brought about by the pandemic, but also to redirect efforts towards a more sustainable future. Investing in teachers in a holistic and context-sensitive manner is a crucial way of ensuring that future generations receive the education that they need in order to deal with an increasingly complex world.


Photo credit: Yoly Gutierrez/CIFOR, taken in Peru.

News
  • 27.07.2021

The persistent teacher gap in sub-Saharan Africa is jeopardizing education recovery

The new projections released last week by the Teacher Task Force reveal that more and smarter investment in teachers and teaching is needed to enable Africa’s children and youth to access quality education. According to new calculations, to reach education goals by 2030, sub-Saharan Africa will need to recruit a 15 million teachers.

The advocacy brief, Closing the gap – Ensuring there are enough qualified and supported teachers in sub-Saharan Africa, is published by the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, hosted by UNESCO. The brief shows that, despite some gains in the past 5 years, progress in recruiting more teachers has been too slow, and many countries need to accelerate the number of teachers they recruit per year.

Of the countries in the region, Central African Republic, Chad, Mali and Niger will need the highest increase in the number of primary teachers in the coming years (6% or more growth annually). In secondary education, even higher annual growth in teacher numbers is needed: a handful of countries need more than 10% annual growth, including Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Mozambique, Niger and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Countries need teachers with the qualifications to provide education of high quality to children and youth. However, due to growth in enrolment in recent decades, a high proportion of teachers are unqualified. In 2000, an average of 84% of primary teachers had the minimum required qualifications, but by 2019, only 65% did.

The pupil–trained teacher ratio has recently improved in primary education sub-Saharan Africa, but remains high. On average, there is one trained teacher per 58 students at primary level, while in secondary the ratio is closer to 43 pupils per trained teacher. Higher pupil-trained teacher ratios imply less face-to-face student–teacher contact time, less individualized teaching and lower levels of quality education. 

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the lowest percentage of female teachers in primary education, at just below 50%. In secondary education, 30% of secondary teachers were female in 2018. Within countries, shortages of female teachers are particularly acute in rural areas. This has important implications for girls’ enrolment, since female teachers have a positive impact on girls entering and remaining in school.

Resources are needed to recruit large numbers of new teachers, as well as to retain both teachers entering schools for the first time and those already teaching. As the study shows, even when countries cover the lion’s share of their education costs, low-income countries will need external financial support to fund essential non-salary costs, which include initial teacher training and continuous professional development, preparation for blended learning, access to ICT, and improved working conditions. For example, Burkina Faso faces a funding gap of US$97 million in its efforts to provide teacher training and other interventions for 2021–2025.

To provide critical initial and continuing professional development for teachers, both domestic finance and international aid will need to increase, and better policies and governance will be needed to ensure effective and efficient spending.

The COVID-19 crisis spotlighted the importance of teachers, but also the difficult working conditions in which many are teaching. Evidence points to heavy workloads and high levels of burn-out, as teachers have been asked to support communities and ensure learning continuity with little or no preparation or support. Countries and the international community are now looking towards the recovery of education systems, with ambitious plans for remedial learning to compensate for learning losses, which means that teacher support and preparation will be more crucial than ever. But without further investments in teacher professional development, governance and accountability, it is unlikely that these ambitions will be realized.

The Teacher Task Force is issuing a call for greater investment in teachers and teaching to ensure that all learners have access to a qualified and supported teacher by 2030. It recommends that governments and partners:

  • Develop holistic teacher policies and cost them properly, especially in the countries with the most severe shortages. These policies will allow countries to better understand where teachers are needed the most, in particular for disadvantaged areas, as well as to identify the most cost-effective interventions and the policy trade-offs required.
  • Increase domestic resources available for education and ensure that teachers are paid a living wage. Domestic education budgets need to be increased or maintained to ensure they reach the internationally agreed benchmark of national education expenditure of at least 15%–20% of GDP.
  • Increase international funding to education with a stronger focus on teachers and teaching, in particular initial and continued professional development.
  • Improve teacher preparation, support and working conditions to reduce attrition and ensure, in particular, that young teachers remain in the profession. Actions must urgently be taken to protect teachers, whether from attacks on schools or from COVID-19. 
  • Collect more national and internationally comparable data, if better and sounder educational financing and teachers’ planning is to be carried out, and to ensure that the investments made have their desired results.

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The International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 is a global network of over 155 members (including countries, UN members and regional organizations, civil society organizations, the teaching profession and foundations) working to promote teachers and teaching issues. Its Secretariat is hosted by UNESCO at its headquarters in Paris.

Consult the advocacy brief Closing the gap – Ensuring there are enough qualified and supported teachers in sub-Saharan Africa.

For more information, contact: Anna Ruszkiewicz (ae.ruszkiewicz@unesco.org).

 

Blog
  • 08.07.2021

Investing in teachers is investing in our common future

This blog was originally published on the GPE site.

Qualified and motivated teachers are the single-most important school-based determinant of quality education. That’s why the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 is calling on national decision makers and international funding organizations to choose the best investment they can make in today’s teachers for tomorrow’s future.

Investing in education is critical to reach the world’s agenda for sustainable development, as well as to recover from the COVID-19 crisis and foster citizens who can tackle future global challenges.

At a time in which so many voices are coming together to support the Global Partnership for Education’s replenishment campaign, the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 is making a plea: let’s put teachers at the center of education investments.

 

Funding and training gaps for teachers

Around the world, education systems are facing massive challenges when it comes to teachers.

In many low and lower-middle income countries there are not enough teachers, and large numbers of them have not received sufficient training and support. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, only two-thirds of primary teachers have been trained to practice at this level, and this proportion falls to only half of secondary teachers.

The Global Partnership for Education estimates that it costs, on average, US $371 dollars to train a teacher in its partner countries. Its ambition is to train 3.5 million teachers, who could reach 140 million students. This will represent about 1 in every 6 dollars – about 16% - of the budget the partnership hopes to spend over the next five years.

This will make an incredibly important contribution to meeting the trained teacher gap, which we believe is one of the cornerstones of reaching the other education goals and the SDGs.

Investment is particularly needed so that teachers are prepared for the challenges that the COVID-19 crisis has caused, notably to enable remedial and adaptive teaching and to ensure that a generation of learners is not lost.

Yet, teacher professional development is just one aspect for which funding is urgently needed if we are to sustainably build a teacher workforce that is motivated, supported and protected.

 

A call to action for more financing for teachers

For this reason, the members of the Teacher Task Force have come together to launch a campaign calling on governments and the donor community to #InvestInTeachers and increase funding, to:

  • maintain teachers’ salaries and enhance their working conditions to attract quality candidates
  • improve teachers’ initial education and continuing professional development
  • ensure health and safety and provide socio-emotional support for teachers and students.

Students who are already disadvantaged – living in remote or conflict-affected areas, for example – are disproportionally affected by teacher shortages. In many countries, there are concerns about the impact on teachers of low salaries, heavy workloads, high levels of stress and poor working conditions.

The COVID-19 crisis added yet another layer of complexity, with teachers bearing the brunt of the massive upheavals that nearly every education system faced once schools moved to total or partial closures.

During the pandemic, special training to help deal with the crisis was offered to teachers in less than half of all countries and only about 15% in sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania.

Qualified and motivated teachers are the single-most important school-based determinant of quality education.

When teachers are better paid, their students have higher test scores, in high-income countries as well as in sub-Saharan Africa. Teachers play a critical role in fighting gender stereotypes and promoting inclusion within classrooms and beyond.

During the COVID-19 crisis, teachers not only adapted swiftly to online and distance learning, but also provided crucial socio-emotional support for students and their families, and shared vital health information within communities.

 

A campaign for teachers to ensure a better future for all

Just over a year ago, the members of the Teacher Task Force came together to shine a light on the teaching community’s role in tackling the education disruptions brought on by the pandemic.

In our Call for Action on Teachers, we identified six target areas where action is necessary to ensure that teachers can support learning continuity. These included preserving wages and salaries, protecting teachers’ and learners’ well-being, ensuring teachers are included in decision making, improving and accelerating teacher training, ensuring responses had a strong equity lens, and including teachers in recovery packages.

One year later, we can see many positive advances. While teachers have been recognized for their role in ensuring learning continuity, there has been a renewed acknowledgement of the importance of face-to-face teaching and the safe space that schools provide. In particular, teachers have innovated in spectacular ways, finding solutions to ensure that students keep learning, within both online and offline environments.

There are countless examples of teachers who have spontaneously come together to create learning groups and peer support, often across borders. One teacher in Indonesia created an online community, which grew to over 800 teachers, and in the Maldives, a parent-teacher support group was created to guide teachers and parents dealing with distance learning for special needs children.

However, the crisis has clearly shown the need to sustain and increase domestic and international investment in teachers and teaching. Our “InvestInTeachers” campaign has already begun on social media, and you can sign up to receive updates on new research and events on our website.

Join us in calling on national decision makers and international funding organizations to choose the best investment they can make – in today’s teachers for tomorrow’s future.

For more information visit the campaign’s webpage.