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  • 08.03.2024

The Teacher Task Force at the CIES 2024 - The Power of Protest

Join the Teacher Task Force and UNESCO for two panel discussions at the CIES Conference 2024. The event is open to CIES members only. Consult the official webpage here.

Framing the future of teacher wellbeing in low-resource and crisis contexts: definitions, measures and motivations

11 March , 8:00 to 9:30am Hyatt Regency Miami, Floor: Third Level, Stanford

Teacher occupational wellbeing (TWB)—“how teachers feel and function in their jobs” (Falk et al., 2019)—is a critical and urgent issue. In the best of times, teaching is a demanding profession (Greenberg, Brown and Abenavoli, 2016), but after the global school closures precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching has become one of the most stressful professions (Steiner and Woo, 2021). This stress can lead to burnout and professional attrition (Borg, Riding and Falzon, 1991; Skaalvik and Skaalvik, 2018). Low levels of teacher wellbeing have been associated with higher rates of turnover in the profession, as well as absenteeism (Ingersoll, 2003; Albulescu, Tuşer and Sulea, 2018). On the other hand, high levels of wellbeing for teachers are associated with teachers staying longer in the profession because of increased self-efficacy and job satisfaction (Collie, Shapka and Perry, 2012; Zee and Koomen, 2016). This is especially important in light of global teacher shortages. By some estimates, the global education community will need to recruit about 24 million primary school teachers by 2030 to meet the growing need for classroom instruction and learning, with 14% of this recruitment being for new teaching positions and the rest needing to fill gaps being left by teachers who retire or leave the profession (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2016). This teacher shortage is especially acute in Sub-Saharan Africa where 70% of countries face current teacher shortages, a trend that will continue unless there are dramatic system-level changes to teacher hiring and retention policies and practices (Ibid).

While there has been a growing body of research on teacher wellbeing, what it means, and how it functions, there is a dearth of knowledge of what teacher wellbeing actually looks like for educators in low-resource and fragile contexts (D’Sa et al., 2023; Falk, Shephard, & Mendenhall, 2022; Kirk & Winthrop, 2013; Wolf et al., 2015). More importantly, there is a need to more fully understand how teachers in these contexts understand their own wellbeing and the factors that support or hinder it. Indeed, several recent efforts to provide a framework for TWB (Brandt & Lopes Cardozo, 2023; Falk et al., 2019; McCallum et al., 2017; Viac & Fraser, 2020) have used a multidimensional perspective that has focused on external and internal factors in the settings and systems around the teacher. But these different factors can manifest differently, and affect teachers differentially, depending on the social, cultural, and historical context within which teachers work. Indeed, factors at different levels of the ecological system “can increase a teacher’s risk for negative wellbeing outcomes or their propensity toward positive wellbeing outcomes depending on the context in which the teacher lives and works.” (Falk et al., 2019; p.10). Hence, understanding not just what factors affect teachers but how they manifest and interact with each other in different contexts is important if we are to constructively address teachers’ wellbeing in low resource and crisis contexts. This is especially important as teachers continue to be on the frontlines of delivering life-saving and sustaining knowledge and skills to children and youth in complex and uncertain times, often protesting the status quo to re-imagine a more just and inclusive future for their learners. Teachers take on this work with limited support and in increasingly politically-charged and contested environments.

This panel aims to deepen our understanding of TWB in low-resource and crisis contexts to better comprehend how teachers make meaning of TWB, how different assets and factors around teachers affect their wellbeing, and how to address TWB in a manner that respects the agency of teachers in the process. Spanning Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and South America and the Caribbean, the four papers examine how policies and practices of teacher management and teacher professional development alongside teachers’ lived experiences in their schools and communities influence their professional wellbeing. The papers draw on qualitative and quantitative methodologies to privilege teachers’ perspectives and promote their experiences as essential evidence in better understanding, and ultimately supporting, teacher wellbeing in low-resource, forced displacement, and conflict-affected contexts.

The first paper in this panel focuses on teacher management policies concerning teacher salary and benefits in South Sudan and Uganda. Drawing on nearly 200 interviews with refugee and national teachers in both countries, this paper demonstrates how low and irregular salaries exacerbate the challenges teachers’ face meeting their own and their families’ basic needs and contribute to teachers’ declining status in society. While this drives many teachers to leave the profession, others persist in the profession due to their strong vocation and desire to give back to their communities. In the second paper, we pivot our focus to examine the ways in which teachers’ work can serve as a protective factor for their wellbeing in contexts of forced displacement. Drawing from a mixed methods study with 555 refugee teachers in Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh), this paper illustrates how the support and respect teachers receive from their community due to their role as educators enhance their sense of professional wellbeing. Designing contextually-relevant measures of teacher wellbeing is the focus of the third paper, which compares teacher’s conceptions of TWB across four different contexts and discusses how these differences and similarities are incorporated in the measurement of TWB in Colombia, Haiti, Honduras, and Liberia. The last paper then focuses on the relationship between teacher professional development (TPD) and teacher wellbeing. Exploring the implementation of a TWB intervention in Uganda, this paper demonstrates how to design a TPD intervention in partnership with teachers in Uganda, including the methods used to ensure that the intervention is relevant and responsive for teachers’ needs.


Let’s talk about transforming teaching through social justice: insights from the UN High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession

13 March, 1:30 to 2:30pm, Hyatt Regency Miami, Floor: Third Level, Ashe Auditorium

Speakers: Carlos Vargas - Chief, UNESCO’s Section for Teacher Development and Teacher Task Force Secretariat, David Edwards (Education International), Amita Chudgar, Martial Dembele, Beatrice Avalos and Jordan Naidoo.

Around the globe, education systems are facing major challenges regarding the recruitment and retention of teachers. This Dialogue panel discusses the nature of this global crisis in education, focusing attention specifically on the Transforming Education Summit (TES) convened by the United Nations Secretary-General, in September 2022. The Secretary-General’s vision statement at the TES made clear that a fundamental change was needed regarding the role and the treatment of teachers. It is in this context that a High-Level Panel (HLP) on the Teaching Profession was established to produce a new vision and a set of recommendations on the teaching profession for the benefit of teachers, students, parents, and education systems worldwide. This Dialogue IV panel brings together colleagues who were closely involved with the HLP since its inception, and members of the expert group whose knowledge and expertise informed the HLP deliberations. These groups of colleagues will each share unique insights emerging from the process of convening the HLP, the deliberations of HLP, and the resultant report and recommendations.

  • 10.07.2023

Building capacity in Zambia to develop a comprehensive teacher policy and strengthen teachers’ voices through social dialogue

Teachers have an essential part to play in building a better future in sub-Saharan Africa. To play that part well, they need to be supported and empowered through good policy and robust social dialogue.

From 20 to 23 June 2023, the UNESCO Section for Teacher Development and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 (Teacher Task Force, TTF), in collaboration with the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity-Building in Africa (IICBA) and the Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA), conducted two training workshops in Lusaka to help address the challenges faced by teachers in Zambia. The first workshop built capacity among members of the ministerial technical committee selected to lead the development of a comprehensive teacher policy. The second focused on institutionalizing social dialogue and empowering teachers and their unions to more actively participate in policy development. 

These workshops followed a national stakeholder consultative meeting on the status of teachers, organized in December 2022, at which the Minister of Education launched the National Framework for Social Dialogue for Teachers, and during which participants began deliberations on the development process for a new teacher policy. After this successful beginning, the June workshops brought together key stakeholders, including representatives from the Ministry of Education (MoE), the Teaching Service Commission, the Teaching Council of Zambia, teacher unions, civil society organizations and development partners, to collectively work towards strengthening the teaching profession to improve the quality of education. The workshops were led by UNESCO's Section for Teacher Development and the TTF and funded through UNESCO’s Capacity Development for Education (CapED) Programme that has been active since 2003 with a focus on least developed countries, currently financed by Finland, France, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

Paving the way for a comprehensive teacher policy 

Teachers play a crucial role in shaping the future of Zambia, but the country is grappling with challenges such as teacher shortages, declining interest in joining the profession and low teacher morale. To better position the MoE to attract, develop and retain quality teachers, the government solicited UNESCO’s support in February 2022 to develop a comprehensive teacher policy and accompanying implementation guidelines and tools. The first workshop in June 2023 was carried out to help drive that mission forward. On the urgent need for high-quality teachers, Joel Kamoko, Permanent Secretary for Educational Services at the Ministry of Education of Zambia, said, ‘The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers [as] teachers provide the power of education to today’s learners, thereby giving them the possibility for a better future ahead.’ 

The training made use of the Teacher Policy Development Guide to provide guidance on designing a comprehensive teacher policy tailored to Zambia’s specific needs. Carlos Vargas, Head of the Secretariat of the Teacher Task Force and Chief of Section for Teacher Development at UNESCO, spoke about the potential of the workshop to drive change, saying, ‘The development of a comprehensive teacher policy is vital for addressing the issues hindering teacher quality and availability in Zambia. By supporting the Technical Committee members, we are taking a significant step towards ensuring quality education for all.’ 

Carlos Vargas
Carlos Vargas, Head of the Secretariat of the Teacher Task Force, speaks in Lusaka about the importance of teacher policy. Photo credit: UNESCO 

The workshop took a participatory approach, with presentations made by UNESCO, TTF, IICBA, MoE, Education International and local education stakeholders. Speakers covered the importance of contextualizing policy and unpacked the different dimensions impacting the teaching profession, including recruitment and retention, teacher education, deployment, teacher career structures, working conditions, remuneration, standards, accountability and school governance. The main steps for developing and validating a teacher policy were also discussed. Through group discussions and plenary sessions, technical committee members had in-depth conversations and shared insights on key teacher challenges, potential policy actions and solutions and current opportunities on which to build in developing the country’s first national comprehensive teacher policy.  

Participants also benefited from experiences shared by speakers from other countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have developed comprehensive teacher policies using the Teacher Policy Development Guide with UNESCO and TTF support. These speakers included Jonathan Kamwana, Commissioner of Teacher Education, Training and Development at Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports, and Yaw Ankomah, Senior Lecturer in Educational Planning and Leadership at the Institute for Educational Planning and Administration at the University of Cape Coast, who was a member of the technical committee for Ghana’s comprehensive teacher policy. 

By the end of the workshop, committee members had enhanced their technical capacities, gained a better understanding of teacher challenges and acquired knowledge on framing a comprehensive teacher policy. The training also facilitated the identification of a roadmap with milestones for policy development, including the definition of a diagnostic study on teacher issues. A report summarizing the workshop’s outcomes will serve as a valuable resource for reference and basis for further collaboration. 

Sparking dialogue for education transformation 

Social dialogue that brings together government institutions, employers, teachers and their organizations in genuine exchange is essential to creating a teacher policy that addresses the concerns of all stakeholders. Therefore, building on the launch of Zambia’s new National Framework for Teacher Social Dialogue last year, the second workshop aimed to strengthen social dialogue by building the technical and organizational capacity of teacher unions and education sector personnel.  

According to Permanent Secretary Joel Kamoko, ‘Social dialogue is a vital mechanism for achieving quality education for all. Teachers are responsible for implementing educational reforms, and their engagement in social dialogue contributes to the achievement of key aspects of educational objectives and policies, including teachers’ professional development programmes.’ 

At the workshop, national and international consultants and UNESCO representatives made presentations, providing a platform to discuss the importance of social dialogue in improving the teaching profession’s status and the quality of teaching, in alignment with the Education 2030 agenda. Participants gained insights into effective responses and lessons from other national social dialogue frameworks. Gender issues, especially ways to promote equality and equity within the teaching profession, provided another key topic. 

Workshop participants
Workshop participants, including teacher unions discussing how to better enhance the role of teacher’s voices and perspectives in policy development efforts. Photo credit: UNESCO.

The training workshop on social dialogue marks a significant milestone in promoting meaningful engagement between education stakeholders and giving teachers a voice in shaping education policies. Through this effort, Zambia is taking a crucial step towards fostering a conducive teaching and learning environment, improving the teaching profession and enhancing teacher quality and working conditions.  

On the workshop’s potential impact, Carlos Vargas said, ‘By empowering teachers and education sector personnel through enhanced social dialogue, we can collectively work towards improving the teaching profession and creating an environment that supports quality education for all.’ 

Driving positive change in Zambia’s education landscape 

Both workshops represented important steps towards addressing the challenges faced by teachers and improving the education landscape in the country. By promoting collaboration, inclusivity and the exchange of ideas, these workshops have paved the way for a more equitable, high-quality education system in Zambia.  

Moving forward, UNESCO will provide assistance in Zambia to conduct a comprehensive diagnostic study as part of the teacher policy development process. Following the launch of the National Framework for Teacher Social Dialogue in 2022, a pilot programme on social dialogue has been successfully conducted in two specific provinces, benefiting 200 teachers. UNESCO will continue its support to define the implementation of the framework before its nationwide rollout. 

For more information about UNESCO’s work on teachers, click here. To explore related resources and materials on teacher policy and social dialogue, follow the links below: 

  • 21.06.2023

Social Dialogue: Promoting Quality Education and Decent Working Conditions for Teachers in Africa

Education International and UNESCO-IICBA are jointly organizing a webinar entitled "Social Dialogue: Promoting Quality Education and Decent Working Conditions for Teachers in Africa" , to be held on 29th June 2023, from 9:00am to 11:00am GMT/Accra Time.

The discussion will centre around a framework for social dialogues proposed by Education International to promote quality education and decent working conditions for teachers in Africa. The webinar aims to:

  1. Gather contributions from partner organizations to strengthen the framework.
  2. Propose a validation process for the framework for social dialogues in Africa.
  3. Anticipate the adoption of the framework by the governments of African Union member states.

Dr Carlos Vargas, Head of the Secretariat of the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, will participate in a panel discussion focussing on country and partner perspectives on social dialogue.



  • 30.11.2022

Zambia - National stakeholders meeting on the institutionalisation of social dialogue for teachers and the development of a comprehensive teacher policy

The purpose of this in-person national meeting is to create awareness about the teacher policy framework developed with UNESCO and IICBA’s support through the Capacity Development for Education Programme (CapED), foster national ownership, ensure sustainability in implementation, and to engage stakeholders in the key issues and the roadmap for the development of the comprehensive teacher policy in Zambia.

As part of the meeting organized by the Teacher Council of Zambia with CapED’s support, the Teacher Task Force will present its Teacher Policy Development Guide - a key reference designed to assist national decision-makers and education officials to develop evidence-informed national teacher policies as integrated components of national education sector plans or policies, aligned to national development plans and strategies.

The following are the specific objectives of this joint meeting:

  1. to launch and disseminate the developed national framework for social dialogue for teachers in Zambia
  2. to discuss the importance of social dialogues towards improving the status of the teaching profession, teacher quality, teaching and learning in line with the new education 2030 agenda, CESA (2016-20) and ILO recommendations (1966/1997);
  3. to identify mechanisms for scaling up the institutionalizing social dialogues for teachers in the education sector
  4. to identify and discuss key issues affecting the teaching profession in the Zambian education sector
  5. to develop a clear roadmap for developing a comprehensive teacher policy to guide the Ministry of Education in attracting, developing, managing and retaining effective and quality teachers for improved education service delivery
  • 01.06.2022

We must pay attention to West Africa’s teacher strikes

By Anna C. Conover, Consultant, and Peter Wallet, Project Officer, International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030

Recurrent teacher strikes taking place across West Africa, including in Ghana, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Senegal in the last six months signify serious labour relations challenges and affect quality education. Among their complaints and demands, teachers cite low and unpaid salaries, arrears and stipends; poor working conditions; lengthy and cumbersome promotion processes; understaffed and overcrowded classrooms; and challenges related to certification and lack of professional recognition.

The causes of this situation are numerous. In fact, many countries in the region have made significant progress to improve education access over the past two decades. For example, the net enrolment rate doubled in Burkina Faso and in Niger, reaching 76% and 59% respectively by 2020, a trend that has taken place in most countries in West Africa to varying degrees.

Yet to achieve gains in access, efforts to raise the status of the profession have stalled. Countries in the region have made policy tradeoffs that included the mass recruitment of contract teachers who typically receive lower pay and are given less support than their civil service counterparts. Poor working conditions compounded to the lack of strategy to integrate contract teachers into the civil service, result in growing frustrations which have often led to strikes. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on non-civil service teachers has exacerbated the situation due to the non-payment or delay of contract teachers’ salaries.

Disruption and discontent

Teacher strikes inevitably reduce classroom time for students and add to other factors which affect education quality and lead to learning loss, such as inadequate funding, teacher shortages, poor infrastructure, and so on. In Guinea-Bissau, for example, during the last 5 years, teacher strikes have negatively affected at least one third of the school year. In various other West African countries, frustration has mounted to the point that students have taken to the streets to ask for their right to an education. This occurred last January in Senegal as students, after enduring several weeks without classes and fearing a lack of preparation for their exams, marched to demand a prompt solution to the standoff between the government and teacher unions.

As countries emerge from COVID-19 related school closures, the fear of losing another school year grips students and families. In Senegal, fear over the prospect of an “année blanche” or a lost academic year marked the beginning of 2022. With a series of walk-outs and strikes, teachers demanded their government to honor agreements reached in 2018 regarding compensation structures.

Halts to education do not only affect local populations but also impact knowledge building at a global scale. Academic strikes are currently taking place in Nigeria to demand the implementation of a 2009 agreement to improve compensation and invest in Nigerian university-level research.

One of the challenges for the advancement of teacher interests in the region is the fragmentation into small teacher unions which often go unrecognized by authorities. In Togo, for instance, The Togolese Teachers' Union (SET) has been on strike to demand, among other things, a housing allowance, the hiring of additional teachers to reinforce the workforce and better recognition of the profession. However, for the Togolese government – which does not officially recognize the SET– this strike has no legal basis and has removed over 100 striking teachers from their positions.

Improving mechanisms for social dialogue at all stages of policy development is crucial to prevent and better handle crises

Often characterized as confrontational rather than collaborative, the relationship between governments and teachers’ organizations needs to be reframed. Social dialogue, which the International Labour Organization defines as “[all] types of negotiation, consultation or simply exchange of information between or among, representatives of governments, employers and workers, on issues of common interest relating to economic and social policy” is an important means to align government and teacher objectives and establish harmony between both parties in the pursuit of providing quality education.

As outlined in the Teacher Policy Development Guide, effective policy development requires creating spaces and mechanisms that facilitate social dialogue between governments and all stakeholders, particularly teachers and their representatives. The urgency to address problems precipitated by crises could help forge stronger cooperation between governments and teacher unions for policy development. Unfortunately, in part due to the rapid global measures to close schools, examples of fruitful social dialogue between governments and trade unions were not frequently observed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. During education recovery, however, standoffs between teacher unions and their governments may be mitigated by ensuring teachers are included in all levels of the policy development process in a permanent way.

Critical lessons to enhance social dialogue

To strengthen social dialogue in sub-Saharan Africa, both union leaders and governments must have a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities. Union leaders need better training on how education systems work to effectively communicate teachers’ needs through existing channels, participate in policy-making and to advocate for and mobilize their constituents. On their part, governments need to understand their responsibilities to uphold fundamental principles and rights at work including freedom of association and collective bargaining. Joint training with governments, relevant employers’ organizations and teacher unions is one way to strengthen the practice of social dialogue in education.

Freedom of association and collective bargaining as well as union autonomy and legitimacy are also essential to avoid being perceived as being overly politicized. By supporting transparent channels of communication and coming up with clear and unifying arguments, unions can gain the strength needed for effective collective bargaining and negotiation. They should avoid fragmentation and competing interests and instead join together to advocate for the interests of teachers at different levels and situations. Unions also need to better involve women who are often under-represented, particularly in leadership roles.

To foster participation and democratic governance, governments and unions should favor a national or local context-based approach with transparent, participatory and accountable political dialogue. It is also important to ensure that the principal activities that contribute to social dialogue – information sharing, consultation, negotiation – can take place frequently, transparently and with positive results.

Mediation and conflict resolution strategies to avoid losing sight of the common goal of quality education for all

In some cases, mediating bodies and broader social participation in education have been instrumental in facilitating amicable agreements between unions and the government. In Senegal, the National Coalition for Education for All considers that part of its mission is to ensure the appeasement of the educational system, and took part in the successful negotiation of the recent agreements regarding pensions and career validations schemes.

The Teacher Policy Development Guide notes that participation in the policy-making process can take many different forms such as through consultations, formal and informal requests for advice, public hearings, and advocacy by different stakeholders. One example of inclusive policy development is in Ghana where the national Ghana Teacher Task Force was put in place to support the development of its Comprehensive National Teacher Policy (CNTP) to provide a vision and direction for the recruitment, training, development and welfare of teachers. At the core of this task force’s mission was establishing a framework for social dialogue and improving feedback mechanisms at local, regional and national levels.

In Benin, Guinea and Togo, policy-makers and parties consulted in the development of their new holistic teacher policies, agreed to develop an additional module on social dialogue in recognition of its importance at the national context.

Social dialogue to improve education quality

While previous gains in access to education are important, achieving SDG 4 to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” requires a broad approach that involves a better understanding of teachers’ motivations including their efforts to engage in collective efforts to address their needs, including, where necessary, strikes. Institutionalizing social dialogue by including teachers at each step of policy-making and clearly including its role in holistic teacher policies will remain important levers to support collective bargaining in support of teacher ownership of national education priorities and policies.

Teacher strikes in West Africa and in the broader sub-Saharan region remain under-reported in the international press, and insufficiently researched in terms of their impact on addressing teachers’ concerns, learning loss and how they affect education and society. While some evidence shows that strikes have had both short-term and longer-term impacts on students in high-income countries, evidence from sub-Saharan Africa is lacking. Understanding social dialogue’s capacity to mitigate the impacts of strikes in a systematic and context-sensitive way requires innovative approaches from a diversity of contexts and further relevant and timely research.

Photo credit: Education International

  • 11.06.2021

Improving the quality of education: The role of social dialogue between governments and teachers

In our collective effort to achieve SDG 4, the voice of the teaching profession is key. In this webinar we will focus on the importance of cooperation between the authorities and teacher unions to provide quality education for children and students.

To secure quality education and professional issues, social dialogue is essential. The benefits of dialogue between authorities and the teaching profession, and how it contributes to quality education, will be highlighted. We will look closer into how dialogue strengthens the development and implementation of education plans and curriculums, as well as the roles and responsibilities of the social partners in the education sector.  

The webinar will draw on the lessons learnt / experience from the Norwegian Teachers Initiative.

Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, Minister of Education in Ghana
Dag-Inge Ulstein, Minister of Development Cooperation Norway
Mrs Philippa Larsen, President of Ghana Association of Teachers
Mr Borhene Chakroun (UNESCO/NTI)
Steffen Handal, President of Union of Education Norway

Moderator Bård Vegar Solhjell, Director of Norad

Please register here.