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By Ponke Danker, Coordinator of the Irish Forum for Global Education

A new set of tools to tackle the global teacher shortage and support teaching personnel globally is now out: The United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession published its recommendations and summary of deliberations.

Great hopes are placed on the recommendations, which aim at transforming the teaching profession. Hopes that the recommendations when implemented will ensure that true value is placed on teaching personnel, that we will see the number of teachers rise globally, and that education will also be guaranteed in areas affected by crisis and conflict.

“Teachers are central to nurturing every country’s greatest resource: the minds of its people”,

states António Guterres, UN Secretary-General in his introduction.

While at the core of providing quality education to all, the global shortage of teachers puts education at crisis. The report recognises multiple factors for this, including poor working conditions and low salaries as well as enormous hardships faced by teachers working in crisis contexts.

The 59 milestone recommendations address

  1. Enabling the transformation of the teaching profession;
  2. Investing in teachers;
  3. Promoting equity, diversity and inclusion;
  4. Elevating the status and dignity of the teaching profession;
  5. Improving quality and fostering innovation in teaching through training and lifelong learning;
  6. Ensuring sustainability, peace and democracy;
  7. Fostering humanity in teaching through decent work;
  8. Developing leadership in teaching;
  9. Advancing human-centred education technology; and
  10. Transforming teaching through a new social contract for education and social dialogue.

The detailed recommendations provide clear road maps. For example, to invest in teachers, the High-Level Panel provides that “funding for public education should be guaranteed at a level of at least 6 per cent of gross domestic product and 20 per cent of total government expenditure”. It is recommended that part of the investments are made towards competitive salaries and incentives, teacher training and continuing professional development (CPD), and quality teaching and learning materials. Lastly, the recommendations call for a degree of financial autonomy of education institutions to efficiently respond to teacher needs.

When addressing teachers working in crisis-affected regions, such as refugee camps and areas prone to violence, the recommendations call on governments to develop clear policies for support, aiming amongst others, at guaranteeing the well-being of teachers and raising the status of teachers. Furthermore, funding continuity must be ensured in cases of disruptions and salaries paid in a timely fashion. To facilitate retention in the teaching body, governments should provide refugee and displaced teachers with pathways to teach in new communities, facilitating recognition of qualifications and experience across borders. Lastly, education must be dedicated to ensuring sustainability, peace, and democracy, which includes providing adequate training to teachers.

The IFGE is determined to achieve quality education for all globally. This entails education in development and emergencies. Globally, we must ensure that teachers, students, and schools are safe, that teachers receive quality salaries and support, and to create conditions in which teaching and learning can reach its highest standards. As UN Secretary-General, António Guterres says: “[j]ust as teachers support us all, we must support teachers.

So, we need to call for

  1. Global investment in the teaching profession;
  2. Promotion of equity and inclusion; and
  3. Ensuring sustainability, peace and democracy in the teaching and to create spaces for teaching and learning to thrive.

For more information, Education International has put together a helpful info pamphlet about the United Nations High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession. And Mike Thiruman, General Secretary of the Singapore Teachers’ Union, has answered questions of Education International, explaining the recommendations.