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Teachers Are a Critical Investment

A Canadian International Development Platform (CIDP) and Global Partnership for Education (GPE) collaboration.

Published: November 2, 2017

October 5th marked World Teachers’ Day—an important reminder of the central importance of teachers in the provision of education. It is widely agreed that education is a fundamental pathway for the development both of individuals and societies. While there have been great strides in the provision of education across developing countries, especially in terms of access, there is still a long way to go. Many children are still not in school, and for millions of those who are in school the quality of their experience is far too low.

The role of teachers in overcoming the quality challenge cannot be overstated. Research shows that effective teachers are the single most important factor associated with student learning. But teachers must be empowered, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated and supported.

Source: GPE/Midastouch

Teaching conditions need to change

Unfortunately, conditions for teachers in developing countries are discouraging. Enormous progress has been made over the past decade in getting more children into school. But as a result, classes have grown and teachers are facing larger and more diverse cohorts of students in the classroom. Yet the provision of textbooks, teaching tools, and training lags behind the needs.

With increasing numbers of vulnerable and minority group students, there is a greater need for inclusive teaching strategies and mother tongue or bilingual instruction. Teachers’ salaries are also not proportionate to their responsibilities, despite the research that shows teachers’ pay is  connected with learning outcomes.

Given that teacher salaries account for over three-quarters of the education budget in developing countries, it is essential to optimize the deployment and utilization of the teaching force. Baseline data from the Global Partnership for Education suggest that only 6 out of 21 GPE developing country partners with available data had education systems in which 80% of the allocation of teachers was aligned with the number of students.

In many countries, investment in teacher training is low relative to other areas of education spending. For example, the 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report indicated that only about half of the teachers in sub-Saharan Africa were trained, often because hiring standards were lowered to fill teacher shortages. Overall, 69 million additional teachers are needed to achieve SDG4.

Why teachers are so critical

According to UNESCO, of the top 10 actions needed to address the global learning crisis, the top 3 are: fill the gap of needed teachers, attract top teacher candidates, and train teachers to meet the needs of all students. This will require more resources to expand the cadre of trained teachers and enhance the quality of teaching and learning.

The GPE Results Report 2015/2016 summed it up succinctly:

“Teachers are the central resource within an education system, and their distribution across the system is an important factor in monitoring efficiency and equity within the system. An education system’s capacity to dispatch qualified teachers across schools in an equitable manner is a key measure of its ability to provide quality education for all.”

GPE is working across the partnership—including with teachers’ associations and the Government of Canada—to elevate the teaching profession to ensure the deliverance of quality education. 93% of active GPE grants were invested in teacher development in 2016 and over half in teacher management. GPE is also working to strengthen teacher associations to ensure that they have a seat at the policy and planning table.

There is no doubt: teachers are the critical link to achieving SDG4.

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