Teachers are central to learning.
What they do in the classroom shapes how much students are learning, and thus impacts in a direct way children’s future prospects in life.
Teachers can be especially effective when they are empowered, and when their work is aligned to other inputs such as an effective curriculum, good quality materials (textbooks, labs, and other learning aids), and constructive support from school leaders and inspectors.
Sadly though, in many developing countries teachers are not well prepared to teach. They are often not trained, lack textbooks or teach in a language that isn’t the children’s mother tongue. Teachers are also not always deployed where they are needed most leaving the most vulnerable children to be taught by the least qualified teachers in the least favorable conditions.
Sobering figures from partner countries
In its results framework, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) looks at two indicators that relate to teachers: the number of students per trained teacher, and the number of teachers compared to the number of students in a school (called teacher allocation). Both are indications of the opportunity students have to receive individual attention from a teacher and quality teaching.
The GPE Results Report 2018 showed persistent challenges on both indicators: in 2015, 24% of partner countries met the GPE target of 40 students or less per trained teacher and 29% of partner countries met the target on teacher allocation.
This latter figure points to significant disparities in the way teachers are distributed across schools, whereby some schools have a surplus of teachers (usually urban) and some schools face an acute shortage (usually rural/remote). Imbalances in teacher allocation lead to the underutilization of some teachers, increases the costs of service delivery, and produces unequal learning opportunities for the most disadvantaged students.
These results clearly show that this area requires more efforts by all GPE partners and a more deliberate course of action to reverse trends and keep the gaps from getting wider.
GPE’s approach addresses teaching issuesHere is what GPE is already doing to address these issues and accelerate progress:
- GPE supports better sector planning and data: GPE helps countries diagnose challenges with regards to teachers, teaching and learning; adopt clear goals and targets for improving them; and establish appropriate budgets, action plans and monitoring to operationalize strategies.
- Funding for quality teaching: GPE’s grants are a key mechanism through which the partnership supports trained teachers for all children, regardless of where they live. In 2017, all current grants included components to support teacher training and many specifically planned more equitable deployment of teachers throughout countries. In addition, a growing number of GPE grants include efforts to monitor teachers’ classroom practices, an investment that will help countries develop more effective teacher development programs.
- GPE leverages the results-based portion in its grants to focus greater attention on teachers and ensure there is a clear pathway to achieve results. Partner countries have selected a range of targets related to improvements in teachers: for example, Malawi is monitoring student-teacher ratios in the most disadvantaged regions and increasing the proportion of female teachers; Liberia is ensuring that unqualified teachers are removed from the payroll; and Mozambique monitors that teacher development and training is effective.
- GPE supports improved engagement of teachers in sector planning and monitoring and encourages the inclusion of teacher organisations in local education groups to ensure they are part of the policy planning, implementation, and monitoring process.
Continued focus on better teaching
GPE’s new Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX) mechanism that will be launched next year will make a suite of investments to ensure that countries have access to and share the best evidence on policy and programmatic innovations on teacher development and teacher allocation, and ensuring inputs in the classrooms facilitate good teaching. Sharing knowledge and evidence on these issues is a central goal for KIX, through face-to-face meetings, online learning and collaborative problem solving.
Because quality teaching is vital for any robust education system, GPE is also engaging in a series of analytical work on improving teaching to reflect on ways in which the partnership can improve the quality of GPE investments and accelerate progress in this area. In addition, it also continues to work with partners to support collaborative efforts on teachers and teaching. Here are some examples:
- A more strategic approach to improve teaching. In countries not meeting the benchmarks on trained and equitably allocated teachers, the GPE Secretariat is reviewing the findings from the respective education sector analysis to better understand the specific issues in each context, prioritize efforts, and formulate more strategic responses.
- Improving planning on teacher allocation. The GPE Secretariat has undertaken a study that reviewed sector analysis and sector plans in 19 partner countries to reflect on ways it can support better planning on teacher allocation. Some of the key questions in the study include whether the analysis is sufficient to develop robust policy responses, whether there is alignment between the analysis and the strategies proposed in the sector plan, whether countries have set targets and intend to monitor progress in improving the allocation of teachers, and what best practices can be shared. The findings will be presented in a joint report that will be produced with IIEP Pole de Dakar, UNICEF, and NORRAG, and inform subsequent action.
- Reinforcing investments on teacher education and professional development. Teacher development represents one of the biggest areas of investment for GPE. To better understand what types of investments we are making and how they can be reinforced in the future, we are conducting a review of investments in pre-service and in-service training. It will consider the size and distribution of investments, type of programs being funded, and whether program activities align with good practice.
- Supporting knowledge exchange on teachers. The GPE Secretariat supports the work of the UNESCO Teacher Taskforce (TTF) to ensure that knowledge and good practice is shared. This year, the GPE Secretariat is helping to organize the annual policy dialogue forum on “Strengthening Teacher Education,” taking place next month, and will be leading on a discussion of how to promote equitable learning through teacher education with partner countries and other technical experts.
- More and better data on teacher training and qualifications. Working with the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), we would like to help bring together partner countries and the rest of the global community to develop a common set of criteria to classify teacher training programs and qualifications. This initiative would enable the collection of globally comparable data and establish a common language to facilitate better understanding and monitoring of the issue, which is currently not possible due to variations in national definitions.
- Efforts to improve teacher policies- We support the “Strengthening Multi-Partner Cooperation to Support Teacher Policy and Improve Learning” Initiative, which brings together seven partner organizations to strengthen teacher policies in four countries; as well as the Education Workforce Initiative and the Teacher Development Cluster led by the African Union, Education International, and UNESCO IICBA.
The GPE Secretariat encourages ongoing discussion of these opportunities and ways to engage all partners in efforts to catalyze improvements in teachers and teaching.
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