Young teachers are the future of the profession

Young people are not joining the profession at high enough rates. What can we do to improve the attractiveness of the teaching profession?

October 03, 2019 by Inès da Silva, International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030
5 minutes read
Jalale Genati, 20, a third year student at Sebeta Special Needs Education Teachers College, Sebeta, Oromia, Ethiopia.
GPE/Kelley Lynch

According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, 258 million children and youth are not in school. More worrisome is that over 600 million children and adolescents who are enrolled in school are not learning the basics.  In both cases, children are being denied their right to a quality education.

To remedy this learning crisis, the world needs new teachers - about 69 million more if we are to meet our commitments before 2030.

This is why the chosen theme for World Teachers’ Day 2019 is “Young teachers: the future of the profession”. Beyond being a celebration of those who have dedicated their lives to transmitting knowledge and shaping minds, World Teachers’ Day is also the occasion to shine a light on important issues that are affecting the profession and keep teachers at the forefront of the global education agenda.

Wanted: young teachers

The number of trained teachers has decreased since 2013. Using national definitions, the 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report estimated that only 85% of teachers were trained in 2017. This represents a 1.5 percentage point decrease.

The OECD’s 2019 Education at a Glance report gives us a snapshot of the situation. Young teachers, defined as those under 30 years old, make up only 25% of the teaching workforce across all levels of education in OECD surveyed countries.

In France, the proportion of young teachers from primary to upper secondary was 11% in 2017. In the Republic of Korea, they represented 14% of the teaching workforce. Chile is one of the countries with the highest average of young teachers with them representing 21% of the workforce.

It gets even bleaker when we look at it by levels of education. In 2017, there were only 13% of teachers aged 30 and under in primary education and only 11% in lower secondary education. This proportion gets even lower in upper secondary education with 8% of teachers in that age group.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the percentage of newly recruited teachers is still low in most countries, especially for primary education, according to the latest available data. In Benin, the percentage of teachers who were newly recruited was 12% at primary level. Out of those newly recruited teachers, only half were trained according to nationally defined standards.

In South Africa the percentage of newly recruited teachers at primary level was 8%, and 91% of them were trained according to national standards.  In Cote d’Ivoire, the percentage of newly recruited teachers for primary education was 13% and 99% of them were trained according to national standards.

More alarming is the low ratio of teacher training graduates to teachers in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, that ratio was 4.0, in Senegal it was 3.7, while in Tanzania it was 12.2.

What we can deduct from these numbers is that worldwide, young people are not joining the profession at high enough rates.

Attractiveness of the teaching profession to young people

Figure 1 Source: EI, The Global Status of Teachers and the Teaching Profession, 2018 p.27

Why so unattractive?

Teachers were once highly respected professionals that often served as inspirational role models for young people. Take Miss Honey, Mathilda’s teacher from Roald Dahl’s eponym book, or John Keating, the fictitious English teacher from Dead Poet Society, or even Professor Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series. All these teachers have inspired respect, gratitude and even love to hordes of readers and viewers.

However, it is much different for teachers these days. Teaching is more often than not described as a hard, thankless profession, exercised in difficult working conditions. It is no longer viewed as a profession of choice. In Tanzania, for instance, the teaching profession is no longer perceived by young people as being a respectful profession but as the last recourse for those who did not perform well in national exams.

In their updated The Future of the Teaching Profession report, Education International highlights the fact that early career teachers sometimes find their initial encounters with a class a daunting experience.

They even list concerns that worried student teachers the most:

  • Discipline and classroom management,
  • Personal and institutional adjustments
  • Teaching methods and strategies, and
  • Working with special needs students.

A survey conducted in the United Kingdom by the National Union of Teachers in 2017, found that half of the respondent teachers aged under 35 expected to leave the profession within the next five years because of the demanding workload.

So why would a young person decide on pursuing this career when they have so many other choices today?      

What can we do?

A first easy step to improving the attractiveness of the teaching profession would be through the development and implementation of holistic national teacher policies.  

The Teacher Task Force, in its Teacher Policy Development Guide, recommends that properly mapped out career paths, good working conditions and appropriate rewards and remuneration need to be considered as measures to motivate and retain teachers in the profession and included in all teacher policies. The United Kingdom is already looking at elevating young teachers’ starting salary as a mean to increase recruitment rates.

Benin has also just launched a 9-month long deployment contract for young teacher trainees, which features a fixed salary and housing allowance directly wired to their bank account as well as health care.

It has also been acknowledged by research that lessening the workload of young teachers can help them cope with the demands of the profession. In Kazakhstan, new teachers work four hours a week less than experienced teachers do. 

As young teachers often cite unpreparedness when arriving in front of a class, we recommend that, beyond initial teacher education, teacher policies include a provision for an induction period, providing young teachers with in-school support in the form of mentors and peer networks.

According to the TALIS 2018 Results, 77% of school leaders who responded to the survey agreed that mentoring is of high importance when it comes to supporting young teachers. In Singapore, more than 50% of novice teachers have an assigned mentor.

So on World Teachers’ Day 2019, we would like to remind the international community that if we do not find solutions to attract young bright minds into the profession, we will fail to bridge the “teacher gap” and fall short of achieving the commitment to quality education set out in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Join our panel discussion

Held annually on October 5 since 1994, World Teachers’ Day commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. This Recommendation sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers and standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions.

This year, UNESCO is holding panel discussions on Monday, October 7 at its headquarters in Paris, France. The debates will convene student teachers, young teachers, teacher trainers, academics and youth representatives to try and identify solutions to attract and retain young people in the teaching profession.


This blog was also published on the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030

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Thanks for the article. My contribution is that from what the new teachers say about the needs they find in classrooms, such as: discipline, students with special educational needs, among others, the teacher training curricula are designed.

shocked that you did not mention pay teachers more...

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