World Teachers’ Day Spotlights the Global Need for More Teachers

UNESCO to focus on early childhood education worldwide

(Image: File)

Oct. 5 is World Teachers’ Day, the day set aside since 1994 to honor the work of teachers worldwide and to recognize their role in a country’s development. Indeed, this year’s slogan for the celebration makes the causal relationship of education and development explicit: Empowering Teachers, Building Sustainable Societies. The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture, or UNESCO, is highlighting certain sobering statistics about teaching, the need for teachers and teacher training, and education worldwide:

  • 59 million children are not in school.
  • By 2020, the world will need 10.9 million teachers to provide every child with (just) a primary education.
  • In one-third of the world’s countries, 75% of teachers are not trained.

This year, according to Time magazine, UNESCO is focusing on early childhood education— the education of children from preschool (and younger) to about second grade, a crucial time for learning because of children’s rapid brain development. In UNESCO’s Paris headquarters today, the organization will discuss the problems often associated with early childhood education worldwide, such as poor teacher training, lack of resources, and staff shortages. The discussion will focus on the developing world, where, according to Time, UNESCO says there are “equity gaps in access and learning which mostly affect the poorest regions and schools and the earliest grades.”

[Related: Why Are We Losing Black Teachers?]

On its website, UNESCO states that it is teachers that are key to a country’s sustainability and capacity in achieving learning and in creating a society based on knowledge, values, and ethics. There is certainly an obvious parallel to underserved school communities in the U.S.; and the Incheon Declaration, made at the World Education Forum in May 2015, also speaks to American underserved schools: “We will ensure that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated, and supported within well-resourced, efficient, and effectively governed systems.”

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, adopted last month, include an objective for developing and expanding the global supply of qualified teachers. A noble goal, indeed.

Here’s what some are saying online about World Teachers’ Day: