Education International
Education International

UNESCO launches eAtlas of teachers

published 5 October 2012 updated 8 October 2012

At the occasion of World Teachers’ Day, UNESCO has released its eAtlas of Teachers, which helps visualise the gaps in the supply and demand for teachers at national and global levels. Already, it reveals that massive teacher shortages are quietly looming in countries struggling to provide every child with quality primary education by 2015. To reach this goal, at least 1.7 million new teaching positions must be created in just a few years.

This eAtlas is produced by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and will be updated on annually to celebrate World Teachers' Day on 5 October.

Hiring not firing

UNESCO’s virtual images provide valuable information but the reality can be much more shocking. Since 1993, EI has recommended making teaching a more attractive career by improving the status of teachers, including improving salaries and conditions of work and providing quality initial training for all teachers. All teachers should have third-level qualifications to improve the quality of education provided. However, teacher shortages can have long-term negative effects on the quality of the education given to pupils.

Through maps, charts and ranking tables on the eAtlas, browsers can explore the data and statistics from more than 200 countries and territories. The data assesses how many new teachers are needed to respond to the rising demand for primary education? How do working conditions for teachers compare across countries and regions? To what extent are women represented in the teaching workforce?

Global demand for primary teachers

The eAtlas demonstrates that the supply of teachers is failing to keep pace with the demand for primary education.

Updated UIS projections on the demand for teachers show that 1.7 million additional primary teaching positions will need to be created by 2015 in order to achieve universal primary education (UPE). Factoring in an attrition rate of five per cent per year, the total number of primary teachers needed globally climbs to 6.8 million.

Impact in sub-Saharan Africa

The situation is most dire in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly one million new posts must be created in order to meet the rising demand for primary education. Some countries in the region need to more than double their current teaching workforce to meet the goal of UPE. The most critical teacher gaps are found in Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Malawi, Mali and Niger, which will need to increase their teaching forces by more than 10 per cent per year to ensure adequate numbers of primary-level teachers by 2015.

Quality vs. quantity

The pressure to hire more teachers to meet UPE and offset attrition rates can lead to the recruitment of less qualified teachers. In sub-Saharan Africa, many countries have not been able to hire enough teachers with qualifications that meet national standards. In Angola and Malawi, which have some of the highest rates of teacher attrition, less than one-half of newly recruited teachers are qualified, putting the quality of education in these countries in jeopardy.

“We know what is needed:  there is the need to train many more qualified teachers worldwide if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of Education For All by 2015,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.  ”We need a change to governments’ policies of spending cuts, particularly in education.  We need to train and hire teachers, not fire them. We do not need increases in tuition fees which undermine the access to education for all.

“The launch of the UNESCO eAtlas of Teachers on this year’s World Teachers’ Day, whose theme is ‘Take a Stand for Teachers!’, is most timely. We welcome it as a useful tool to monitor progress made on Education For All and advocate for free quality public education for all.”

The latest data and indicators in the UNESCO eAtlas of Teachers are available here

Read the updated Information Sheet on The Global Demand for Primary Teachers here