Worlds of Education


From recommendations to action: Joining forces to end the global teacher shortage

published 26 April 2024 updated 6 May 2024
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The shortened version of the following remarks were delivered by Johanna Jaara Åstrand, Education International Vice-president for Europe and President of the Swedish Teachers’ Union, at the European Union Global Gateway High-level Education Event on April 11, 2024. The event marked the regional launch of the recommendations put forward by the United Nations High-level Panel on the Teaching Profession to address the global teacher shortage.

I became a teacher because it´s the most meaningful, important and valuable work there is. And I know I share that opinion with colleagues all over the world. Despite that, we are missing 44 million colleagues, and this is just within primary and secondary education. If we include early childhood education and technical and vocational education and training, the shortage is even bigger. For students in disadvantaged or hard to reach communities, the need for more teachers is particularly urgent.

Teachers across the world are committed to providing inclusive and quality education, but we need the right support, recognition, and resources to be able to meet our students’ needs.

The establishment of the High-level Panel on the Teaching Profession brings teacher issues back into the spotlight, almost 60 years since the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers was adopted. The Panel’s recommendations rightly identify a few key areas for urgent attention.

First, teachers need quality working conditions including attractive salaries and job security. It’s time to end the short-sighted policy of hiring underqualified personnel on precarious contracts, and instead invest in raising the status of teachers at all levels of education.

Second, teachers need 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.

And third, as teachers we need our wellbeing protected, our professional judgement trusted, and our voices heard. We become teachers because we care about young people, we want to have a positive impact, and we have hope for the future – we need to nurture this vocation by fostering teacher agency and autonomy.

Taken together, we need to both guarantee teachers’ basic labour rights and foster a new, human-centred approach to the profession. Investment in holistic policy reform should make teaching an attractive, first choice profession where people want to stay and develop for their entire career. This requires adequate funding to train and hire sufficient numbers of qualified teachers. That is why EI and our 383 member organisations are campaigning for increased investment in the profession through our Go Public: Fund Education campaign.

The global recommendations are a starting point. But each country’s context is different, and as recommended by the Panel, we see the need for every country to establish national commissions to tackle their teacher shortages. We can only address the shortage if we understand its nature and scope, identify its root causes, and involve the profession in the process.

Because we know the reasons behind the shortages. In Sweden, 60 % of the teachers who left the profession early would be willing to come back if salaries and conditions were improved and respect and trust in our profession were stronger. In South Sudan, our colleagues have not been paid for months. A Teachers Salaries Fund for emergency contexts could help attract and retain teachers by ensuring timely and adequate salaries.

If governments are serious about tackling teacher shortages, working with teachers is essential. In too many countries, the failure to establish mechanisms for social dialogue and collective bargaining has meant missing out on the experience and expertise of teachers. Working together, we can navigate emerging challenges like the climate crisis and the use of new technologies in education.

As teachers, we see the High-level Panel recommendations as a powerful set of tools to transform education and effect change for millions of colleagues and students around the world. We’re ready to do our part to ensure that they are implemented. We call on governments to do their part. Engage in partnership with us, work with the teacher unions, and invest in your teachers. That is how you shape a stronger and more sustainable future.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.