EU International Partnerships
EU International Partnerships

Invest in teachers to ensure quality education for all: European Union supports United Nations recommendations on the profession

published 11 April 2024 updated 6 May 2024

Funding education and investing in teachers are key to ensuring the right to education for all and achieving all Sustainable Development Goals. This message was heard loud and clear on April 11 at the Global Gateway High-Level Education Event co-hosted by the European Commission and the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The event marked the regional launch of the 59 recommendations put forward by the United Nations High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession as an action plan and a call to action for governments to end the global teacher shortage.

“The teacher shortage is a global crisis, undermining students’ right to quality education and democratic societies. Globally, we need 44 million more colleagues, and this is just within primary and secondary education. We need more colleagues in early childhood education and technical and vocational education and training too. And teachers working in disadvantaged or hard to reach communities need more colleagues most urgently. Teachers across the world are committed to providing inclusive and quality education but need the enabling conditions – including manageable workloads and class sizes, and collegial support – to be able to meet their students’ needs,” stated Education International Vice-President for Europe Johanna Jaara Åstrand at the European High-Level Education Event.

Teachers’ voices heard

The Education International Vice-President and President of The Swedish Teacher Union stressed that the 59 recommendations of the United Nations High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession bring teacher issues back into the spotlight almost 60 years after the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the status of teachers was adopted. Teachers finally feel heard.

The three main areas for urgent action highlighted by the union leader include:

  • Ensuring quality working conditions, including attractive salaries and job security. The short-sighted policy of hiring underqualified personnel on precarious contracts must end. Governments must invest in raising the status of teachers at all levels of education.
  • Providing quality initial training, mentoring, support, and professional development opportunities. Professional standards should be co-developed, implemented and monitored by the teaching profession to guarantee quality teaching.
  • Teachers need their well-being protected, their professional judgement trusted and their voices heard. Nurturing the teaching vocation requires fostering teacher agency and autonomy.

Broad support for United Nations recommendations to strengthen the teaching profession

Speakers at the Global Gateway High-Level Education Event expressed strong support for the 59 recommendations of the United Nations High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession, highlighting the critical need to invest in and support teachers everywhere.

“We need to find better ways to meaningfully support teachers,” stated Amina J. Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, in the opening segment of the event. The UN leader welcomed the recommendations of the UN High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession and called on all governments and stakeholders to prioritise their implementation and invest in education as a global imperative in order to accelerate progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4.

Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Education, echoed this call to action, emphasizing that “teachers and quality education are two sides of the same coin”. She also called for increased investment in teachers, stressing that “quality education depends on qualified teachers and that is where investment must be concentrated”.

Manuela Tomei, Assistant Director-General for Governance, Rights and Dialogue in the International Labour Organization, reflected on the importance of social dialogue in transforming education, welcoming the emphasis placed on social dialogue in the recommendation of the High-Level Panel. The ILO representative noted that the recommendations themselves are the result of social dialogue, with teachers, students, and their unions represented on the High-Level Panel. The ILO leader also welcomed the recommendations’ focus on improving working conditions for educators and advocating for a human centered approach to technology in education, stressing that technology “cannot replace the relationship between teacher and student”.

Sebastian Berger, Executive Director of the Global Student Forum and member of the UN High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession, expressed students’ support for the progressive and ambitious recommendations, praising their commitment to solidarity and social justice. The Global Student Forum leader highlighted the recommendations’ focus on improving working conditions in education, protecting teachers’ wellbeing, supporting refugee and displaced teachers, ensuring inclusive working environments for teachers in all their diversity, greening curricula and infrastructure, and equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to take action for climate justice and social justice.

Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships, stated that education is priority for the European Union, with at least 10% of its budget for international partnerships earmarked for investment in education. “Improving the quality of education means investing in teachers”, the European Commissioner concluded.

UN recommendations and the EI Go Public! Fund Education campaign

Through the Go Public! Fund Education global campaign, Education International and its member organisations are working to ensure the 59 recommendations of the United Nations High-Level Panel are implemented in every country around the world. Education unions are already using the recommendations to advocate for greater investment in teachers and in education in their countries.