This week, the worldwide education community celebrates Global Action Week.
Together we are pushing for action on the urgent priority of guaranteeing that every child has a teacher. Without a critical investment in their teaching workforces, governments cannot not guarantee the right to a quality education for all children.
5.4 million teachers needed
The latest estimates suggest a 5.4 million teacher gap, concentrated across 112 countries.
By 2015, two million new posts need to be filled in order to cater for the expansion in enrolment, and a further 3.4 million posts must be filled to cover those who are retiring or leaving the profession.
I invite you to click through this map to find out how many children are being taught by each teacher.
In many countries, one teacher supervises an average of 40 children or more on a daily basis. In the case of the Central African Republic it is an average of 84.3 children per teacher.
Going beyond basic standards
Lower class sizes do not automatically lead to better quality education, but who can seriously think that when you have this many children in a room with one teacher, their learning is not being compromised?
The amazing thing about these statistics is that they are merely the number needed to achieve access goals.
How many trained teachers, with what level of training, are needed to ensure that 250 million primary school-aged children, who are at present not able to master even basic reading or writing, actually learn while in school and achieve good learning outcomes?
Tackling the ‘hidden exclusion’
As we outline in our report, ‘Ending the Hidden Exclusion: learning and equity in education post-2015’, the gap in learning outcomes is worryingly large, and widening in some cases, resulting in many children not gaining the basic skills they need in order to go on and access a wider education.
Tackling what we have termed ‘the hidden exclusion’ – that is, children who are in school but not learning the basics – is essential to fulfilling the universal right to education.
Teachers are critical to addressing this. They are the most important resource to improve the learning which takes place in school.
Any changes in the way teachers are treated or prioritised in national education policies must reflect the fact that they require continuous training to help them develop their teaching skills.
Ensuring teacher quality
Of 100 countries with data on primary education, in 33 less than 75% of teachers were trained to the national standard. There is also huge disparity in the minimum requirements for primary school teachers.
It is crucial to ensure teachers become part of a professional workforce, with access to adequate quality training prior to entering the teaching profession, through pre-service training, and also during their whole career.
As the Global Monitoring Report team highlights this week, efforts need to be particularly targeted at teachers in the early grades, a vital time.
Additionally, it is crucial to provide greater recognition and professionalisation of early childhood education specialists, who may well have the highest impact on any child’s learning trajectory.
Every child needs a teacher
Finally, while narrowing the teacher gap, the huge task at hand will be to incentivise new and existing teachers to take up and remain in positions in poor, rural and fragile contexts.
Only then will governments successfully guaranteeing that every child has a teacher, and that every child is able to fulfil their right to education.