No education system is better than its teachers. Teachers are the custodians of learning; they impart knowledge, values and skills; at their best, they tap into the hopes and talents of young people and help them to grow into productive citizens.
Yet too often, teachers are not given the recognition and support they deserve. World Teachers Day reminds us of their heavy responsibilities as well as the challenges they face, particularly at a time of global economic difficulty. We should not let teachers and children pay the cost of the crisis; we must protect our education systems from current financial pressures and budgetary constraints.
One of the priorities of my new global initiative, Education First, is to recruit and train more teachers. The world needs about 2 million more teachers to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015. The lack of teachers undermines not only the progress made in enrolling children in primary education, but also our efforts to improve school and learning environments.
We must also ensure that teachers are well prepared and well supported. Without qualified teachers, there is no quality education. Pre-service and in-service training are crucial, as are good working conditions, commensurate remuneration and adequate career development opportunities.
Teachers themselves have a responsibility to create safe and conducive environments for children to thrive. They can also serve as powerful models of tolerance, good citizenship and solidarity with the disadvantaged – a role I hope all will embrace.
On World Teachers Day, I pay tribute to the millions of teachers around the world who are working with passion and skill to nurture their students and whose influence on our world is potentially profound. Let us recognize that investing in teachers is a wise investment in our efforts to build strong economies, cohesive societies and a future of dignity and opportunity for all.