Teachers are the backbone of education systems and the key to reaching learning goals, regardless of context and situation. Within the COVID-19 crisis, they are on the front line in ensuring that...
This blog was written by Mark Bray, UNESCO Chair Professor in Comparative Education at the University of Hong Kong, and Director of the Centre for International Research in Supplementary Tutoring (CIRIST) at East China Normal University (ECNU). It reflects the author's opinions, which are not necessarily those of the TTF.
Shadow education and implications for policy
The theme of non-state actors in education, which has huge importance throughout the world, will be the focus for the 2021 edition of UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report. A key dimension includes the private supplementary tutoring undertaken by public school teachers. In the literature, private supplementary tutoring is commonly called shadow education. The metaphor is used because as the curriculum changes in schools, so it changes in the shadow; and as the school system expands, so does the shadow.
Shadow education has long been visible in East Asia, and is now a global phenomenon. While shadow education has received much attention in Egypt and some other parts of North Africa, it is neglected in Sub-Saharan Africa. This article draws on a book entitled Shadow Education in Africa (available in English and in French), the genesis of which was a background paper for UNESCO’s GEM Report.
How widespread is shadow education?
Reliable statistics are scarce, and one message of the book is that better data are urgently needed. Nevertheless, the following statistics shed some light on the prevalence of shadow education.
- In Angola 94% of surveyed students in Grades 11 and 12 (2015) were receiving or had received tutoring at some time.
- In Burkina Faso, 46% of surveyed upper primary students (2014/15) were receiving tutoring at the time of the study.
- In Egypt, 91% of Grade 12 respondents (2014) indicated that they were either currently receiving tutoring or, if they had graduated, had done so before completion.
Other sources show trends over time (Table 1), with significant growth that has likely continued. Some of this tutoring is provided by commercial entrepreneurs who operate tutorial centres, and some is provided by university students and others who operate informally. In Africa, most tutoring is provided by in-service teachers taking additional employment as part-time occupations.
Table 1: Enrolment Rates in Private Tutoring, Grade 6, 2007 and 2013 (%)
Source: SACMEQ National Reports.
What issues arise when teachers are also tutors?
Private supplementary tutoring can be beneficial. It can help slow learners to catch up with their peers, and can strengthen countries’ overall human capital. It also provides extra income for teachers, perhaps helping to retain them in the profession. In many African countries, high proportions of school personnel are contract teachers who commonly have relatively low salaries. Even teachers forming part of the civil service may feel that their salaries are inadequate to meet all family needs.
Yet when teachers are also tutors, several problematic issues arise. One is that the teachers may neglect their regular teaching duties in order to devote time and energy to their private lessons. Especially problematic situations arise when teachers tutor the students for whom they are already responsible in mainstream schooling. For example, the danger arises of deliberate reduction of attention during regular lessons in order to promote demand for private tutoring. Dangers also arise of discrimination in the classroom, when teachers openly or covertly favour the students receiving supplementary lessons from them.
What are the policy implications?
The first need is for the topic to be taken out of the shadows – to be discussed not only by Ministry of Education personnel but also by professional bodies at sub-national, school and community levels. Some governments, e.g. in Egypt, Eritrea, The Gambia and Kenya, explicitly prohibit private tutoring by serving teachers. Other governments, for example in Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, permit such tutoring but prohibit it on school premises. Another category, exemplified by Mozambique, permits private tutoring with official permission but explicitly forbids teachers from tutoring their existing students.
Yet many of these policies exist more on paper than in practice. Governments do not have strong machinery to enforce prohibitions, especially when many actors are sympathetic to the status quo. Thus, even parents may exert pressures on teachers and schools since they want their children to perform well in a competitive environment. Parents frequently feel their children’s teachers know the children best and can therefore provide better support than tutorial centres or other providers.
This situation underlines the need to accompany policies with practical measures to ensure better regulation. Yet sometimes governments feel that the mechanisms to monitor and regulate the practice are inadequate, leading to the development of laissez-faire policies that do little to regulate the problem.
What about the school level?
Even if governments turn a blind eye to the problem, schools can issue their own policies and monitor patterns to avoid ethical malpractice. Schools can help explain the issues to parents, and support finding alternatives to support their children’s needs. School-level policies may be especially effective, since teachers and parents are well known to one another resulting in that guidelines and sanctions are more likely to be meaningful and effective. Nevertheless, it must be recognised that sometimes schools are complicit in encouraging tutoring in order to generate extra revenue for institutional and/or personal uses.
Learning from each other
Some people assume that if the quality of schooling is improved, then shadow education will disappear by itself. Global trends however show the opposite. The East Asian countries that have much shadow education also have strong education systems. Rather, globalisation has increased pressures on families to compete resulting in that shadow education is on the rise in many European and high-income countries. Thus also in Denmark and Finland, which are renowned for the quality of their schooling, the expansion of shadow education is visible. This trend suggests that shadow education is a concern not only in countries where it is already strong but also in those where it is not so strong. In the latter case, policy-makers have the opportunity to shape the sector before it becomes engrained in cultures..
Further, the fact that large-scale shadow education has been evident for a longer time in Asia, may bring insights for other parts of the world. One regional study on this theme is entitled Regulating private tutoring for public good.
Private, NGO, religious and community schools: How do ‘non-state actors’ affect teaching and teachers?
Around the world, education is provided not only by governments but also by local associations, non-government organizations, religious bodies, private enterprise and other “non-state actors”. How do these groups affect access to education, quality of provision and teaching and learning conditions? Moreover, how well do governments regulate non-state actors?
These questions will be at the heart of the next edition of the international community’s major annual education report, the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report. Teachers and teaching are central to the report’s theme, so the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 hosted an online consultation meeting on 30 November 2020 to discuss the theme, in collaboration with the GEM Report team and Education International.
Eighty-six people joined the meeting, including teachers, school leaders and representatives of teacher unions and international and regional organisations, working to support teacher policy development. The meeting was chaired by Borhene Chakroun, Director, Division for Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems, UNESCO, and Dennis Sinyolo, Senior Coordinator, Education International.
Borhene Chakroun highlighted the influence of non-state actors in the teaching profession and the way COVID-19 had demonstrated the importance of involving teachers in the policy process. Dennis Sinyolo welcomed the 2021/22 GEM Report on non-state actors as an opportunity to reaffirm the critical role of teachers and their representatives. He also underlined that education is a fundamental right and that non-state actors should contribute to strengthening and complementing public education systems, but not to replace them.
Every year the GEM Report assesses the world’s progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 (“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”) as well as its related targets and the Education 2030 Agenda more broadly.
The Teacher Task Force consultation meeting broke into four in-depth group discussions that reflected the types of non-state education activity that the 2021 GEM Report will be examining: working conditions in non-state schools; governance and regulations; influence (social dialogue and education technology); and teacher professional development.
Working conditions in non-state schools: Mind the gap
The session on working conditions in non-state schools looked at questions such as: What working conditions and salary levels are offered to teachers in private and community schools run by non-state actors? How are private sector innovations such as mobile payments improving or worsening working conditions?
Participants highlighted the gaps between state and non-state schools in terms of salaries and other contractual benefits. In Uganda, for example, private school teachers are paid 40% less than public school teachers. Differences in workload (class size, additional support), working environment (school infrastructure, materials, autonomy, support, access to technology) and working conditions were also mentioned.
There was agreement that COVID-19 had exacerbated existing challenges – in Italy, for example, some teachers lost 40% of their income due to the pandemic – and that there is a need to provide abundant support to all teachers, to ensure they are qualified and motivated in their work. The session recommended that teachers and head teachers receive better support; that regulations exist to ensure health and safety at school that the fundamental right to education is protected.
Governance, regulations and private tutoring: A need for monitoring
The discussion on governance, regulations and private supplementary tutoring weighed questions such as: How do governments regulate the qualification and certification of teachers to ensure the quality of education in non-state schools? How does this affect teacher recruitment? What are the implications for the growth of private tutoring conducted by teachers and other actors?
One key question was if government regulations and accountability mechanisms for the teaching profession within the non-state education sector are achieving their aim. The group agreed that there are not enough monitoring mechanisms to verify how teachers are protected, and this should be a key responsibility of governments. Many teachers in private schools were greatly affected during the COVID-19 pandemic as private schools are not regulated by state actors and often stopped payment of salaries.
Weighing the influence of social dialogue and education technology
The discussion on the influence on education of unions and other non-state groups examined questions such as: How do education unions contribute to the achievement of SDG 4? What is the influence on education policy of non-state actors, the private sector, development agencies and education technology?
Non-state groups have brought many innovative approaches to schools, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. But there is a risk that these approaches may become long-term after the crisis without having been negotiated as part of formal curriculum reform. Teachers’ role in implementing innovations is critical, as they have important experience of what happens when policy is implemented.
Education technology has been essential during lockdowns. Education technology facilitates 1-to-1 interaction and there are many advantages of online collaboration spaces. If access to technology is limited, however, gaps in equality can widen. In addition, technology has upset the work-life balance for teachers, sometimes requiring them to be available 24/7 and doubling their workload, online and on paper. Teachers need support and training on how to be leaders online.
COVID-19 has shown the importance of involving teachers and unions in policy dialogue. Many consultations and collaborative work have been established through webinars. For example, Zambia has worked with the teachers’ union to help improve the conditions of service for teachers in private schools. Private school teachers which are not covered by main public sector unions have made attempts to reinforce their position by developing private sector teachers’ unions including in Togo (i.e. SYNEP-Togo).
The session recommended that policy be contextualized, not only on a country level but also more locally, even at school level; that public universities and public actors participate in the design of technology platforms; that governments create mechanisms to enhance dialogue between all stakeholders, promote online consultation with non-state actor and involve teachers’ unions in conversations with ministries.
Teachers’ professional development: sharing opportunities
The session on teachers’ professional development looked at the role of private non-state actors in pre-service teacher training and continuous professional development. Certification standards, effectiveness of training, monitoring and teachers’ qualifications all came under scrutiny, along with whether COVID-19 has changed the role of non-state actors in teacher training.
The group examined the roles of non-state actors in providing initial and in-service teacher training, including research, funding solutions, provision of experts, delivery of training methods and materials, and targeted teacher professional development based on specialized areas.
Participants called on the GEM Report to look at how fairly professional development opportunities were distributed among teachers in urban and rural areas, and rich and poor neighborhoods. It was emphasized that teacher education is the role of the state and that non-state actors can fill the gaps left by state actors cooperatively but not competitively.
It was noted that COVID-19 gave non-state actors an opportunity to respond to the needs of teachers and learners in different areas, including as teacher trainers. In many cases this transformation has empowered teachers with online teaching techniques and strategies, as the representative from the Ministry of Education of Jamaica highlighted. This impact was felt mainly in well-resourced urban areas, however, leaving rural and poor areas behind. Since equity concerns are universal, this remains an issue not just for the global south but also for high-income countries. Furthermore, beyond a profit orientation, private sector educational technology may also shape the type of learning that is valued and thus narrow pedagogy, ignoring the social aspects of teaching and learning.
The session recommended that the GEM report should examine the role of non-state actors in enhancing standards of quality for both pre-service teacher education and in-service training within a common framework, while also introducing flexible approaches. Moreover, the report should address how continuous professional development and training should be connected to the new skills required in remote and distance teaching; and that teachers with ICT skills be encouraged to mentor other teachers. Additionally, the growth of shadow tutoring system during COVID-19 was identified as a further area for examination.
All participants in the consultation meeting agreed that equity and inclusion – giving every child, from every background, a fair chance of a quality education – must remain at the heart of the discussion about the role of non-state actors in helping to achieve SDG 4. There was general agreement that the COVID-19 pandemic and measures to contain it had amplified existing challenges and inequalities. For teachers, especially, the greatest effects have been the strain that the pandemic has placed on working conditions and the balance between personal and work life.
Photo image: https://en.unesco.org/gem-report/non-state_actors with the photo by Hugo Infante.
Based on research provided by Pierre Varly for the TTF, this note examines how COVID-19 is affecting contract teachers in the public and private sectors in several African countries and provides recommendations for improving education resilience in the face of school closures. It has been published to mark the release of the TTF Review of the use of contract teachers in sub-Saharan Africa.
The current global education crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on education systems. At its height, 194 countries had implemented country-wide school closures, affecting 63 million primary and secondary teachers. Sub-Saharan Africa has not been spared during this crisis, witnessing country-wide closures affecting an estimated 6.4 million teachers.
Who are contract teachers?
Contract teachers are recruited through alternative pathways and agree to work outside traditional employment arrangements that are supported by a civil service collective agreement. They receive a salary for the work they perform but do not receive the benefits that apply under public-sector norms and standards, such as annual leave, pension or health insurance.
While contract teachers may hold similar academic qualifications to their civil service colleagues, they are frequently trained insufficiently in pedagogy, and do not participate in continuous professional development programmes. As a result of their status, contract teachers typically receive lower remuneration and have less job stability, as their employment is subject to public budget fluctuations, market pressures and education providers’ ability to pay.
In practice, there is no single definition of a contract teacher. In francophone sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the terms part-time teacher, state contract teacher, community teacher, national service contract teacher and volunteer all refer to contract teacher subtypes. Teachers in the private sector may also be thought of as contract teachers since they are often paid directly by schools through fees collected from parents. They typically earn less than their public sector counterparts. Various public-private arrangements also exist, with varying implications for the payment of salaries.
Contract teachers as means to expand access to education
The world will need an estimated 69 million teachers, including 17 million for sub-Saharan Africa alone, to meet the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”) in 2030. Due to the teacher shortage in many government-owned schools, contract teachers have been used by the public sector to fill gaps, especially in several sub-Saharan African countries, where the school-age population has grown faster than countries’ capacity to train them. In other countries, remote and rural community-based schools have been set up, based on a public-private model, that employ teachers paid for by local communities and/or through government subsidies.
Understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on contract teachers is essential as they represent a high proportion of the teacher workforce in many countries. They represented 71% of all pre-primary to secondary level teachers in Niger in 2017, according to RESEN, while 64% of primary teachers in Chad were contracted community teachers in 2014. Contract teachers increased as a proportion of all teachers in primary education in Burkina Faso from being negligible in 2002 to 81% in 2015. In contrast, contract teachers decreased as a proportion of the workforce in Mali from 79% in 2009 to 29% in 2014 – as a result of a government decision under pressure from teacher unions to grant civil service status to more than 40,000 contract and community teachers.
Delayed payments and other impacts on public sector contract teachers
COVID-19 has had varying impacts on the employment and salaries of public sector contract teachers. Public sector contract teacher contracts in Cameroon, Niger and Zambia have not been suspended. Moreover, contract teachers have received their salary payments regularly despite school closures.
This contrasts with Togo where “volunteer” contracts are held by 27% of primary, 41% of lower secondary and 25% of upper secondary teachers. While teachers’ contracts have not been suspended or terminated, regular salary payments have been a challenge. At the end of May 2020, the National Agency for Volunteering (ANVT) regularly paid about 900 contract teachers, but another 9,490 had not received any state support, representing about 1 in 6 teachers in Togo.
Some evidence shows that in Kenya, contract teachers also did not receive their salaries, since payments depend on school management, which was not possible during school closures. The joint UNESCO/UNICEF/World Bank survey of country responses shows that Burkina Faso and Guinea will also suspend payments to contract teachers, while Ghana and Sierra Leone will continue to pay salaries but after applying reductions. According to the secretary-general of the Teachers’ Union in Uganda, Filbert Baguma, contract teachers there, too, have not received regular salary payments.
Although their situation is not directly related to COVID-19, 2,500 new teachers hired in late 2019 in Niger have yet to receive salary payments for the first few months of 2020. Having incurred debts to travel to their postings, teachers were then obliged to leave their posts during the shutdown then return for the reopening of schools on 1 June (Education International, 2020). In Cote d’Ivoire, the Ministry of National Education, Technical Education and Vocational Training announced that payments would soon be made to 10,300 teachers recruited in 2019.
In Gambia, temporary teachers whose contracts ended in March 2020 were unable to reapply for their positions due to school closures, ending their regular income.
Private sector teacher instability
COVID-19 has revealed institutional shortcomings in the management of teachers. For the public and especially for the private sector, contract teachers may not be covered by any regulations in the event of force majeure (a circumstance beyond the control of both parties). Unlike in the public sector, however, private sector teachers receive salaries directly from school providers, making the tracking of payments much more difficult. In other cases, including community schools, a public-private model is used where local parents pay fees to the school, which can in turn be subsidized by central education authorities, to cover costs such as salaries.
Information from surveyed countries suggests many private sector teachers were not paid for April and May, mostly because shuttered schools were not able to recover all tuition fees, which constitute their only source of income. The situation varies between schools, however, depending on their capacity to offer distance or online instruction. In other cases, wages are tied directly to the work teachers do, so teachers are not paid during closures and absences. In rural community schools, implications for payments are less clear since salaries can be comprised of fees paid by parents and government subsidies, or direct payment to teachers.
According to Stéphane De Souza, the general coordinator of the provisional office of private teachers in Togo, teachers have had no salary updates from their employers (Kossi, 2020). The National Director of Catholic Education also suspended salaries of teachers for May and June. To improve matters, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education indicated volunteer teachers will receive government assistance throughout closures (Togolese Republic, 2020); to date, however, volunteer teachers have not received assistance. Similarly, private sector teachers have not been paid in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger and Senegal, while in Kenya many teachers’ contracts have been suspended due to a general lack of resources.
To maintain partial salaries for private school teachers in Mozambique, the government has requested that private school leaders negotiate with staff and that parents continue to pay monthly fees. Some parents have not complied, making it difficult for administrators to pay full salaries to teachers. As a result, some schools have negotiated with teachers to lower salaries to 75% during the first month and 50% during the second. Similar reports from Zambia show that many private sector teachers there are currently receiving 50% of their monthly salaries.
Finally, it is important to note that since a significant portion of the early childhood care and pre-primary education sector is private, the implications for pre-primary teachers’ salaries not being paid will be greater than in primary education. Additionally, since 80% of pre-primary teachers in sub-Saharan Africa were female in 2017, the non-payment of salaries at this level primarily affects women.
Towards a more effective response for covering salary costs and building system resiliency
As the main system input to achieving education quality, teachers need to be sufficiently trained and supported. The non-payment of teacher salaries therefore not only poses a significant problem for individual, family and community well-being, but also prevents the delivery of quality education and the achievement of SDG4. The effects on teachers of school closures, including attrition and the hardship experienced by those returning, could seriously harm teaching and learning, and undermines the education system’s ability to withstand shocks, including possible resurgences of COVID-19 when schools reopen.
The non-payment of salaries also places a psychological burden on teachers. The General Coordinator of the Provisional Office of Private Teachers in Togo uttered a cry of despair: “We have nothing left to provide for our families. The situation is serious.” (Kossi, 2020).
Government can show leadership by mitigating some of the most severe impacts. Senegal, for example, set up a contingency fund called Force COVID-19. This response fund of 1,000 billion FCFA (USD 1.6 billion) is intended to support businesses and households through a social and economic resilience programme (PRSE) that guarantees wages, including those of both civil servants and contract staff working in public institutions, until classes reopen.
For the private sector, governments can influence private providers in the regular payment of salaries. Education authorities in Cote d’Ivoire have used traditional and social media networks to communicate the importance of paying private sector salaries. The minister of education even warned the private sector against teacher layoffs and non-payment of salaries while congratulating those that continued to meet payments. The minister went further to stress that the payment of salaries by private providers will be a precondition to the transfer of funds to private sector establishments.
Civil society teacher representatives can also continue to play an important role. This includes both public sector teacher unions and those representing the interests and rights of private sector teachers. Due to non-payment to private sector teachers in Togo, a new teacher union was quickly set up, the National Union of Private Schools and Institutions of Togo (SYNEP-TOGO), which held its constituent general assembly in April 2020. Formed to defend private teachers’ rights and socio-economic interests, SYNEP-TOGO aims to ensure better representation of its membership to public authorities and international organizations to allow for collective bargaining for the private sector (Togo top news, 2020).
Recommendations for maintaining teachers’ contracts and payment of salaries
Member states are reminded of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers and articles about teachers’ salaries, and rights and responsibilities. The Teacher Task Force further proposes the following recommendations to ensure teacher salaries are covered now and during future school closures.
Enhance the provision of distance education: The spread of distance education is vital for the continuation of teaching and learning during school closures; however, it is also vital to maintain teacher contracts. Where schools close and teaching and learning cannot be transferred online or through other distance education methodologies (including via mobile phones, broadcast and Interactive radio and television and printed materials), contract teachers will be vulnerable. A partial solution is to develop strategies that help schools and teachers to continue teaching during school closures, including the use of high-, low-, and no-tech solutions. For this, teachers need to receive adequate training and preparation, with special provisions for contract teachers who are excluded from professional development opportunities. They also need access to the Internet and the necessary devices.
Develop financing strategies to cover teacher salaries: The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) has announced an additional USD 500 million to support education systems affected by COVID-19 school closures. Governments therefore may have additional leverage to pledge special funding of up to about 4% of total education expenditures to ensure that all teacher salaries – public and private – are paid during short periods of crises. Governments can also make subsidies to private schools conditional on the payment of teachers’ salaries. Countries should also consider innovative funding mechanisms to support teachers during the crisis and the international community should be able to support these efforts.
Strengthen teachers’ voices through teacher unions and civil society representation: Public and private sector teachers – including teachers and support staff in early childhood care and pre-primary education – need better representation. At the same time, relationships between teachers’ unions need to be strengthened to enhance sharing of information related to COVID-19, its impact and effective ways to maintain learning, including distance learning techniques. The collective representation of education support staff and early childhood care and pre-primary education staff needs to be enhanced to improve their standing.
Improve communication with parents, caregivers and communities: Governments can communicate better with parents and caregivers about school closures and their impact on education, as well as with communities about the importance of paying school fees on time, despite the interruption in education, to ensure teachers do not lose their livelihoods.
Improve data on non-civil servant teachers: It is important to collect regular data on contract teachers, including their salaries, training, qualifications and conditions of employment, to enable more effective policy and planning responses when needed.
Teacher Task Force presents new research on the impact of COVID-19 on contract teachers
To shed light on the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on contract teachers in sub-Saharan Africa, the Teacher Task Force conducted desk research and numerous interviews with representatives of ministries, trade union and UNESCO National Commissions. The research is supplemented by data collected through the joint UNESCO/UNICEF/World Bank “Survey on National Education Responses to COVID-19 School Closures.” The Teacher Task Force is also publishing the “Review on the use of contract teachers in sub-Saharan Africa”, which takes a closer look at the situation of contract teachers in 23 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Teacher Task Force, in its response to the COVID-19 crisis, issued a Call for Action on Teachers to ensure all teachers are protected, supported and recognised. In it, the Teacher Task Force calls on governments, education providers and funders – public and private – and all relevant partners to preserve employment and wages, stressing that governments and all public and private education providers should work to preserve the entire teaching and education support staff, and their salaries and benefits. They will be essential for a rapid and effective recovery when schools re-open.
Blog's photo credits: Dietmar Temps / Shutterstock.com