When will the fundamental role of teachers be recognised?

Disillusioned teachers, a lack of vocations, inadequate salaries, poor training and social recognition at half-mast. Almost everywhere, the vocation of "teacher" no longer appeals. On the occasion of World Teachers' Day (5 October), Action Education is calling on governments to recognise the fundamental role of teachers and to grant them salaries and working conditions commensurate with their mission and commitment.

There is currently a shortage of 12.9 million primary school teachers worldwide and 3.1 million secondary school teachers (UNESCO and Teacher Task Force 2023) to guarantee quality education for all by 2030. And this shortage of skilled professionals is not confined to the least developed countries. On the contrary, very few countries today, including some of the most developed, provide teachers with recognition and resources. As a result, the profession no longer appeals to the younger generation, and existing teachers are no longer hesitating to move on to more prestigious and better-paid professions.

Difficult conditions discouraging teachers

In the least developed countries, teachers have to cope with overcrowded classrooms, no teaching materials, and are paid pittance wages to teach pupils at very different levels who do not necessarily speak the language of instruction. Some have initial training, others do not. A World Bank study of seven African countries showed that nearly a quarter of primary school teachers were unable to perform simple subtraction, and that a third of them could not multiply by two figures. According to the same study, less than 10 % of primary teachers have acquired good teaching practices. These deleterious teaching conditions have an impact on children's learning, particularly for the most vulnerable groups, and considerably increase the risk of them dropping out of school. Teachers in the most developed countries are certainly better off, but the conditions (training, recognition, salaries, etc.) are still far from adequate for providing quality education.

Emergency responses that reveal a lack of understanding of the teaching profession

The shortage of teachers common to the whole of Europe and the United States is now leading the various ministries of education, including the French Ministry of Education, to authorise the hasty recruitment of teachers with little or no training. A decision that has far-reaching consequences for entire generations. Recruiting teachers with no qualifications or prior training reveals a very poor understanding of the fundamental role of a teacher. Teachers are not just books or computers, they don't just pass on factual knowledge, they help children to develop their skills and attitudes, shape their personalities and lay the foundations for their future. It is thanks to them that pupils open up to the world and develop their curiosity and critical thinking skills. A misstep, a lack of knowledge or skills, can lead to children rejecting learning, dropping out of school and jeopardising their future and that of society as a whole.

Training, salaries and expertise

On the occasion of World Teachers' Day (5 October), Action Education is sounding the alarm: the shortage of teachers in the world today is pushing governments to step up the recruitment of poorly trained contract teachers, thereby encouraging poor quality teaching which will undoubtedly have major repercussions for the youngest children. It is high time to move away from emergency responses and build more sustainable solutions, guaranteeing a competent and motivated teaching workforce. This starts with high-quality initial and in-service training, salaries that are worthy of the responsibilities they take on, and career development prospects. What's more, it's essential to recognise the expertise and know-how of teachers and let them be the driving force behind proposals to improve education systems.

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