Global teacher shortage easing, but more needs to be done – UNESCO report

Global teacher shortage easing, but more needs to be done – UNESCO report

The world’s schools need 44 million teachers that are needed to achieve the goal of providing primary and secondary education for all by 2030, new data shows.

In a new analysis published on World Teachers' Day 2023, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) found that the shortage has been reduced from 69 million in 2016 to 44 million in 2023 – almost one third.

While the situation has improved, it’s not enough to meet the global needs for education, the report’s authors caution.

“Teachers play a vital role in our societies, yet this profession is facing a major vocations crisis. Some regions of the world lack candidates,” Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General said.

“Other regions face a very high dropout rate during the first few years of work. In both cases, the answer is the same: we must better value, better train and better support teachers.”

One of the report’s key findings was that the attrition rate among primary teachers nearly doubled from 4.62% in 2015 to 9.06% in 2022.

According to the researchers, the top three reasons for this are poor working conditions, high stress levels, and inadequate pay, each driven insufficient resources, excessive administrative duties, and poor leadership.

Globally, only one in two countries pay primary school teachers as much or more than other professions requiring a similar qualifications level. At the upper secondary level, many high-income countries pay teachers 75% or less than the salary paid in other comparable professions.

Highly stressed teachers are twice as likely to contemplate leaving, particularly in their initial five years, the analysis noted, adding that globally, only half of the countries offer competitive salaries to primary teachers.

Pointing to data from Australia, the report’s authors said teachers who are very satisfied with their working relationships are about 70% less likely to leave their position than those who are very dissatisfied.

“High rates of stress for any reason can push teachers out of the profession,” they wrote. “If we want to reverse the teacher shortage, we need to address its multidimensionality using a broad perspective, including short, medium and long terms strategies.”

Highest attrition rate among male teachers and younger teachers

The report found that male teachers generally leave the profession at higher rates than their female colleagues. Global male attrition rates in 2021 were 9.2% for primary teachers compared to female rate of 4.2%.

The researchers said this is because men often have more professional opportunities in other sectors and can change careers more easily and the gender biases, including beliefs concerning who should be responsible for children’s education.

Few countries report when teachers leave the profession over the course of their careers, but available data shows that early career teachers are more likely to leave the profession than their more experienced colleagues – which demonstrates that they need more support to cope with the workload.

UNESCO’s 7 recommendations to improve the status of teachers

To tackle the global teacher shortage, UNESCO made seven recommendations for its member states to implement and adapt according to their own national situations and issues.

  1. Invest in improving initial teacher education and in continuing professional development programmes.
  2. stablish mentoring programmes that pair experienced teachers with newer ones and encourage peer collaboration.
  3. Ensure that teachers receive competitive salaries and benefits, particularly in relation to other professions requiring similar levels of qualifications, as well as opportunities for advancement.
  4. Streamline administrative tasks and paperwork to allow teachers to focus more on teaching and less on bureaucracy.
  5. Promote a healthy work-life balance by setting reasonable expectations for working hours and reducing unnecessary workload.
  6. Provide access to mental health and counselling services to help teachers cope with stress and emotional challenges.
  7. Promote strong and supportive school leadership that values teachers' input, provides constructive feedback, and fosters a positive work environment.