United Nations High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession launches landmark recommendations to end the global teacher shortage and strengthen the profession

published 26 February 2024 updated 8 March 2024

Convened by the United Nations Secretary- General in response to the alarming global teacher shortage, the High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession developed 59 recommendations to ensure teachers are valued and respected. The broad and progressive recommendations are the result of sustained union advocacy and a unique opportunity to effect real change for millions of teachers and students around the world.

“For the first time ever, a United Nations High-Level Panel examined the role of teachers and the support we need to do our work. In a major breakthrough, our message was adopted in a broad consensus. The Panel’s recommendations give us a new set of tools to truly transform education. We must now make sure our governments answer the call”, stated EI’s President Susan Hopgood.

“Teachers are central to nurturing every country’s greatest resource: the minds of its people. Yet today, we face a dramatic shortage of teachers worldwide, and millions of teachers who lack the support, skills and continuing training they need to meet the demands of rapidly changing education systems,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“Education International welcomes the leadership of the United Nations in drawing the world’s attention to the global teacher shortage and proposing comprehensive and effective solutions. I would like to thank Secretary-General Guterres, as well as Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed who initiated and championed this effort for the benefit of teachers and students everywhere," added David Edwards, Education International General Secretary, on the launch of the recommendations.

Edwards also thanked the International Labour Organization and UNESCO for their crucial support to enable the work of the Panel. "Education unions are ready to work with governments to implement all recommendations as a matter of priority."

Broad consensus on elevating the status of teachers everywhere

The High-Level Panel brought together a diverse group of experts and stakeholders including ministers of education, former presidents, academics, representatives from civil society, and most importantly, teachers and students and their unions. Education International (EI) was represented on the Panel by EI President Susan Hopgood.

Education unionists made sure the Panel was aware of the full range of challenges teachers face across contexts and advocated for strong recommendations in support of the profession. As a result of these efforts, the final 59 recommendations reflect a strong consensus among Panel members and echo the demands of unions around the world.

The recommendations were launched on February 26 in South Africa, with the participation of Susan Hopgood, Education International President, Stefania Giannini, Assistant-Director General for Education at UNESCO; and Manuela Tomei, Assistant Director General, International Labour Organization.

Mugwena Maluleke, EI’s Vice-President for Africa and General Secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union, highlighted the importance of the recommendations for his region, stating: “Nowhere is action to end the teacher shortage as urgent as it is in Africa: Our young people, our continent has the highest teacher deficit. The recommendations give us a clear path to quality education for all and it starts with investing in teachers. Unions in Africa and across the world must take this message to their governments and work to ensure these recommendations become reality.”

“Marking 2024 as the Year of African Education, the High Level Panel's recommendations come at a pivotal moment for our region's public education systems. They urgently call upon all governments to make significant investments in our educators. This push for qualified, well-paid and supported teachers not only addresses the pressing teacher shortage, but also aligns with the African Union's vision to 'Educate an African fit for the 21st Century,' ensuring every child's right to education. Governments must now act decisively, recognizing that valuing and respecting our teachers is fundamental to building resilient education systems for inclusive, lifelong, quality, and relevant learning”, added Dennis Sinyolo, Education International Regional Director for Africa.

Investing in teachers is investing in the future

The 59 recommendations chart the way to transforming education by strengthening the teaching profession.

Critically, the recommendations underscore that long-term investment in teachers is the most effective strategy to ensure the quality and sustainability of education systems. The Panel calls for equitable funding for education and urges governments to protect education from austerity measures. International financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, are called upon to end all measures that limit education spending and teacher salaries.

The recommendations call on governments to ensure competitive, fair, and professional salaries, in line with those of professions with similar educational requirements. Secure employment, good working conditions, balanced workloads, and the need to prioritise teacher well-being are also highlighted in the UN Panel’s recommendations.

The High-Level Panel also recommends quality initial teacher training that is publicly funded, including through the provision of stipends for prospective teachers. It recommends quality continuous professional development that is equitable, free, part of official duties and co-designed with the profession. Countries should work so that all teachers have a university degree and standards defined by the profession. Furthermore, teachers’ professional autonomy must be respected and teachers must be given the time and resources to collaborate and create communities of practice.

A strong commitment to gender equality, equity, and diversity cuts across the recommendations. Working environments must be inclusive, safe, and non-discriminatory for teachers in all their diversity. Women’s leadership must be encouraged and refugee teachers and displaced teachers should be provided with pathways into the education workforce of host communities. The Panel goes further and calls on the international community to establish a Global Fund for Teachers’ Salaries. The Fund would ensure teachers working in crises receive fair salaries regularly and on time so that they can continue to teach and support the most vulnerable children.

Notably, the Panel’s recommendations put social and policy dialogue and collective bargaining at the heart of transforming education. The Panel states that policies in education should be developed with teachers and their organisations at the table. Furthermore, the Panel reaffirms teachers’ right to take industrial action and stresses that employment conditions should be determined through social dialogue, including collective bargaining.

The Panel also looks at the role of technology in education, stressing that the relationship between teachers and students is at the heart of the education process. The Panel recommends that teachers are given autonomy to choose how to use technology in their classrooms. Governments are encouraged to work with teachers to create policies that support learning and protect student data.

From recommendations to action

“The recommendations call for the creation of national commissions that bring together teacher unions and governments to reverse teacher shortages and monitor the implementation of the recommendations. We need to make sure these commissions are set up and that they genuinely address the issues teachers face. This is our moment. Our collective wisdom and power can transform education all around the world”, stressed EI’s General Secretary David Edwards.