April 27th, 2006 03:23 EST
Nations Face Massive Teacher Shortages
United Nations -- Massive teacher shortages are looming over developing nations threatening to undermine efforts to provide every child with a quality primary education by 2015, according to a new report released April 25 by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The report, entitled Teachers and Educational Quality: Monitoring Global Needs for 2015, says that the greatest challenge lies in sub-Saharan Africa where UNESCO estimated that the region will need 2.4 to 4 million teachers over the next ten years. Shortages are also expected in the Arab States and South and West Asia.
Over the next 10 years 18 million new teachers will be needed worldwide, according to UNESCO.
Peter Smith, UNESCO assistant director general for education, said that the report provides the basis for a fundamental examination of what is needed for educating children, education policy, and financing in the developing world.
At a press conference at U.N. headquarters, Smith was critical of the efforts being made to finance education. He said that money can be raised for preserving critical heritage sites such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia, "but we are much less successful, relatively speaking unable, to raise money ... in ways that matter or count for children who are our heritage of the future."
Children in the developing world "are dying a slow death from the lack of education," the UNESCO official said, yet the media is either "unable or unwilling to show the problem for what it is."
The report was released to highlight Education for All Week, which is celebrated each year on the anniversary of the 2000 World Education Forum held in Senegal. The week is intended to remind governments and the international community to keep their promise to achieve "education for all" by 2015.
The theme of the 2006 campaign is "every child needs a teacher."
The report will also be one of the documents discussed at a conference on global literacy scheduled for September in conjunction with the 61st session of the U.N. General Assembly. Plans for the conference were announced April 24 by U.S. first lady Laura Bush, honorary chair of United Nations Literacy Decade. (See related article.)
"We know regardless of the level of education ... people who go to school, stay in school and finish school do better -- they are healthier, participate civilly, economically, socially; they have more power; they do better than people who don't (go to school). It is that simple," Smith said.
The report demonstrates several different problems in education: quality of teachers, replacing current teachers who will leave the profession over the years, and creating additional positions to meet increasing numbers of students.
Countries that need the most teachers are also the ones that face severe fiscal constraints, Smith said. Many have no choice but to rely on "para-teachers" who have less education and are paid less than teachers.
For example, more than half the primary teachers in the Congo consist of "volunteer parents" with limited or no formal training, he said.
UNESCO said that a lower secondary education is considered the absolute minimum qualification to teach yet only 45 percent of the teachers in Laos and 57 percent in the Congo meet that standard.
Chad will need almost four times as many primary teachers in 2015 from the current level of 16,000 to 61,000 thus increasing its current teaching force by almost 13 percent a year, which is the highest rate in the world. Burkina Faso, Congo and Niger are also expected to have similar needs.
Ethiopia will need to create 153,000 new teaching posts to reach universal primary education while replacing 116,000 teachers who are expected to leave the profession over the next decade.
Arab states will need to create 450,000 new teaching posts mainly in Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia, UNESCO said.
Another 325,000 teachers will be needed in South and West Asia. Afghanistan -- where the number of teachers must grow by almost 9 percent a year -- is in need of the most teachers, the report said.
Some countries have declining school-age populations and will need fewer teachers. China is expected to reduce its number of teachers by 1.8 million while more moderate reductions are estimated for Brazil and India, it said.
North American and Europe will face a shortage of teachers specializing in math and science, according to the report. Older teachers are retiring and potential teachers are being lured into more lucrative professions. As a result, UNESCO estimates that 1.2 million teachers will be needed over the next decade, primarily to compensate for attrition.
For additional information, see Education.