Teamwork – and 69m new teachers – is key to tackling the learning crisis

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The Education Commission says teachers should not work in isolation but as part of an education team (Brian Wolfe)

Barriers to education, Teachers and learning, The Education Commission

World Teachers' Day is on Saturday, October 5 and the 2019 theme is “Young Teachers: The future of the profession.” The day will celebrate teachers worldwide and address some of the issues that are key to attracting and keeping the brightest minds and young talents in teaching. One of those challenges, according to a new report from the Education Commission, is to provide training, professional development, career paths and working conditions to enable them to be effective. Here we look at the findings of this major report.

Almost 70 million new teachers will have to be recruited if every child in the world is to get a quality education by the year 2030.

With just under 10 years left for world leaders to deliver on their promise of quality and equitable education for all, Theirworld’s #WriteTheWrong campaign has been highlighting the shocking statistic that 260 million children are still out of school.

More than 600 million are in classrooms but not learning the basic skills they need to succeed in jobs of the future. A major reason is there simply aren’t enough teachers in many countries and the existing ones are often unqualified or poorly trained. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 45% of teachers in secondary schools and 62% in primaries are trained to teach. 

To meet the demand, 69 million new teachers must be recruited globally, warns a major report produced by the Education Commission, which was set up to tackle the lack of education funding. Three-quarters of these new teachers need to be in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

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South Asian countries are desperately in need of new, qualified teachers (World Bank)

But Transforming the Education Workforce: Learning Teams for a Learning Generation says teachers cannot deliver quality education alone. It argues they need leadership and support to be effective and reach the most vulnerable children.

The 170-page report quotes the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” and says: “When this ethos of collaboration and care is applied to the learning process, we believe it takes a team to educate a child.”

It calls for learning teams made up of teachers, school and district leaders, specialists, learning assistants, community experts, entrepreneurs, health and welfare professionals, parents, volunteers and many others to work together to help all children succeed. 

The education workforce must also evolve to keep pace with the rapidly changing world and embrace the new opportunities these changes bring, it adds.


In the Gambia, 77% of primary school teacher training instructors surveyed had never taught in a primary school themselves. 


In Sierra Leone, only 27% of teachers at primary level and 14% at secondary level are female.


In Zimbabwe, teachers are on average visited every two and a half years by a supervisor and four years in rural areas.

That echoes the views of the man who won the 2019 Global Teacher Prize. Peter Tabichi – a Franciscan friar and a teacher at a poorly-equipped school in rural Kenya, where he gives away 80% of his monthly income to help the community – said: “To be a great teacher you have to be creative and embrace technology. You really have to embrace those modern ways of teaching.”

Ju-Ho Lee, former South Korean education minister, is a member of the Education Commission and one of the authors of the report, which draws upon new research and analysis from over 300 partners in 105 countries.

He said: “Most education systems were designed during the Industrial Revolution to bring education to the masses. Now, more than 150 years later, we need an education workforce and systems that can respond to the rapid changes in today’s world – demographic shifts, environmental changes, scientific advances and technological innovation.”

The Education Commission report – whose co-authors are Education International President Susan Hopgood and African Women’s Development Fund CEO Theo Sowa – calls for “three visions for change”.

Peter Tabichi With Gya Wanja Maina

Peter Tabichi, Global Teacher Prize winner for 2019, with one of Theirworld’s Global Youth Ambassador, Wanja Maina, at an event to raise funds for global education last week (Theirworld)

They are:

Strengthen existing systems. Professionalise teachers and other key roles with appropriate recruitment, training, professional development, career paths and working conditions to enable them to be effective.

Develop learning teams. Diagnose the challenges, understand existing roles and skills, and consider how best to utilise them in a team. Realigning roles, focus any new roles on the areas of greatest need and enable more teamwork.

Transform an education system into a learning system. Harness learning teams to build networks of schools, professionals and cross-sectoral partnerships that use data and evidence to produce learning systems that are self-improving and adaptable to change. 

When the report was released at last week’s United Nations General Assembly, Gordon Brown – the UN Special Envoy for Global Education – said: “We don’t just have a climate emergency, we have an education emergency. Unless we take drastic measures, half of the world’s children – 800 million – will not be on track to learn the skills needed to thrive in 2030. 

“To address this learning crisis, we urgently need to recruit 69 million teachers and provide them with the training and support they need.” 

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