World Teachers Day: celebrations, struggles and an urgent call for governments to raise the status of the profession

published 6 October 2022 updated 7 October 2022

On 5 October, the global education community marked World Teachers Day by celebrating the fundamental role educators play in a democratic society. Education International called on all governments to step up and do their part: invest in teachers, involve teachers, value and respect teachers, as the indispensable professionals at the heart of education.

World Teachers’ Day is held annually to celebrate teachers around the globe. It commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, which sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of, as well as professional standards for, teachers. In addition, the Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel was adopted in 1997.

The leadership of teachers in transforming education was the theme of this year’s World Teachers’ Day: The Transformation of Education Begins with Teachers. Co-convened by Education International, UNESCO, the International Labour Organization, and UNICEF, World Teachers’ Day 2022 aimed to highlight the work of teachers and call on governments to enhance the status of the teacher profession.

Education International brought the voice of teachers to the official celebration event held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. In his opening remarks, David Edwards, Education International’s General Secretary stated: “Transformational teachers are more than merely the backbone of education. They are the beating heart that keeps schools alive and healthy. How a society treats its teachers reflects how much a society values its young.”

The struggles of teachers currently under attack for defending democracy across the globe was also highlighted by Edwards: ”Ukrainian teachers are being kidnapped and forced to teach an alternate reality. In Afghanistan, teachers who demand that their female students return to school are met with harassment and arrest. In parts of western Africa, teachers are targeted if they cannot recite a religious passage. In Hong Kong, teachers lost their right to association because they supported their students demands for democracy and self-rule. In Iran, brave teachers are standing for basic human rights and dignity in the face of brutal and unconscionable violence. In Lebanon, teachers working multiple shifts in schools that teach refugees struggle to earn enough money to pay their bus pass to school.”

Antonia Wulff, Director of Research, Policy and Advocacy at Education International, highlighted that true transformation requires governments to tackle the global teacher shortage head-on. This should be done by making teaching a more attractive profession through decent working conditions, enhancing the status of teachers and, most importantly, trusting in teachers´ pedagogical expertise, knowledge and classroom management.

Teachers, and their unions, transform education

Under the theme “Teachers transform education”, Education International hosted an online event on World Teachers Day led by its Deputy General Secretary, Haldis Holst. The webinar provided a space for education unions to come together across borders, celebrate their achievements, take stock of the commitments made at the United Nation’s Transforming Education Summit and strategise together about the way forward.  

To truly transform education, Education International’s affiliates highlighted the need for governments to invest in teachers, guarantee labour rights and good working conditions, involve teachers in decision-making, and trust their pedagogical expertise.

The need for a critical pedagogy, as embodied in Paulo Freire’s inspiring work, was highlighted as a key element for transforming education and society.

Education International’s President, Susan Hopgood, stated: “The Transforming Education Summit was a first step towards securing increased financing for education. But we need to keep the momentum up and ensure that financing is directed to where it is needed most – not new technologies and not new public-private partnerships, but ensuring that every child has a well-trained and qualified teacher.”

“Despite our challenges around the world, we know we are a profession of optimism and we have the solidarity and organised power, as unions, to create a better future together“.

Revitalising the teaching profession in Africa

Education International’s regional director in Africa, Dennis Sinyolo, brought the voice of African teachers to a continental Symposium for Educational Research and Innovation organised by the Global Partnership for Education in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In his remarks, Sinyolo encouraged African governments to demonstrate clear political will and commitment by investing in education and teachers and presented a 5-point plan for revitalising the teaching profession in Africa.

Teachers are the beating heart of education

As stated in an open letter from the teaching profession, Education International reiterated its call on the world's governments to fulfil their obligation to free quality public education. The world’s teachers, students, and learning communities are ready to build a better future. Teachers are the beating heart of education.