On World Day, UN urges international community to invest in recruiting, empowering teachers

A teacher leads students during a sing-along in a class at Monrovia Demonstration School in Liberia. Photo: UNICEF/Sarah Grile

5 October 2015 – Marking the first World Teacher’s Day after the adoption of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, senior United Nations officials appealed to the international community to value, support, and empower teachers, “for it is they who will educate a new generation of children who, in turn, will carry forward all our goals to build a better world for all.”

“Today, as the global community comes together around the new 2030 Agenda, the role teachers play has never have been more important,” said the heads of key UN agencies in a joint statement on the Day.

Quality teachers are increasingly recognized as the most important factor in children’s learning- and thus, in improving educational attainment levels, increasing the ability of young people to participate in society and today’s knowledge economies, boosting productivity and prosperity.

The statement was issued by UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova; UN International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Director-General, Guy Ryder; UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director, Anthony Lake; UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Administrator, Helen Clark; and Fred van Leeuwen, the General Secretary of Education International, which represents teachers' organizations across the globe.

The statement underscored the mounting shortage of quality teachers, unequal distribution of trained teachers, and inadequate or non-existent national standards for the teaching profession.

These are all key contributing factors to wide equity gaps in access and learning. According to estimates compiled by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, to achieve universal primary education by 2020, countries will need to recruit a total of 10.9 million primary teachers.

“This is a global education crisis in the making – unless we act,” said the officials, noting that the looming crisis was recognized at the 2015 World Education Forum, in Incheon, South Korea, where leaders committed to “ensure that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems.

The new global education goal, Sustainable Development Goal 4, which is at the heart of the Education 2030 Agenda, call for “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

“Realizing this goal is critical to achieving all our global development targets – for strong societies depend on well-educated citizens and a well-trained workforce. But we can only realize this agenda if we invest in recruiting, supporting, and empowering teachers,” explained the UN agency heads.

In a separate statement on the Day, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) highlighted the key roles teachers play in empowering students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st century and better connect with people and experiences beyond their borders.

“Being well-trained, dedicated, enthusiastic and interactive, our teachers are reshaping the future of our school children. The ways our teachers are working through the reform are being noted beyond UNRWA,” said Caroline Pontefract, Director of Education at UNRWA.

This year’s celebrations give the Agency an important opportunity to recognize the important work of UNRWA teachers, who continue to deliver quality education despite the many difficulties the face, including the ongoing crisis in Syria and last year’s devastating conflict in Gaza, as well as an unprecedented funding shortfall in the Agency’s core programming budget had risked a delay in the school year in Jordan, Gaza, the West Bank, Syria and Lebanon.

World Teachers’ Day, held annually since 1994, commemorates the anniversary of the signing in 1966 of the UNESCO/ILO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers, and celebrates the essential role of teachers in providing quality education at all levels. The Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers has, essentially, served as a charter of rights for teachers worldwide.

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