The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the education sector. With school closures around the world, the public increasingly appreciates teachers and the work they do.
However, this awareness has not led to structural improvements such as investments, support and better working conditions for professional educators. In fact, education budgets have fallen by 65% in low- and middle-income countries, and by 33% in upper- and upper-middle-income countries.
Education International’s 2021 report on the global status of teachers and the teaching profession, which surveyed 128 education union leaders and officials in 94 countries and at all levels of education, highlights conditions system-wide that do not attract a new generation of educators to the profession. The continuing shortage of teachers undermines the right of every learner to be taught by a qualified teacher.
“What are we learning from this pandemic? First, teachers and education support staff have gone above and beyond for their students. This report makes it clear that governments urgently need to invest in the teachers and students they educate.
“Raising teachers’ salaries and reducing the workload are essential to recruit the best people into the profession and ensure quality education for all,” said David Edwards, general secretary of the International. Education.
“Recent political changes tend to shift responsibility and blame onto teachers for the problems that systems should support. An intelligent professional agenda requires a collective project negotiated with the profession. This should be seen as a fundamental step towards intelligent professionalism. The joint development of the Global Framework of Professional Education Standards by Education International and UNESCO is exemplary in this regard.
The report, written by Professor Greg Thompson, Queensland University of Technology in Australia, describes factors affecting the status of education workers around the world, such as wages and working conditions, as well as professional autonomy. and the representation of teachers in the media. Some of the main findings include:
- Teachers’ remuneration is too weak, conditions are deteriorating and the infrastructure to support teaching and learning is not a priority for government investment. More than 42 percent of those polled said there had been a deterioration in the working conditions of teachers over the past three years. 84% said wages declined during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Workload intensified. Over 55% of respondents said the workloads were unmanageable. Over 66 percent of respondents felt that the “administrative” requirements contributed to undue pressure on the workload of education professionals.
- Attrition of teachers was reported as a problem at all school levels, with primary education (33.1%) being the highest level and higher education (17.3%) the lowest. 48 percent of those surveyed believe that the teaching profession is not an attractive profession for young people.
- Precarious employment grows. Almost 60 percent of those surveyed cited the use of casual and short-term contracts to hire teachers and academics. In some contexts, notably in sub-Saharan Africa and South-West Asia, many contract teachers reported receiving lower salaries than permanent teachers, inadequate professional support and poor working conditions.
- Continuing professional development remains insufficient for teachers. Many saw it as poor quality, unrelated to the problems teachers faced, and at a personal financial cost with no clear professional benefits (see Tables 106-112).
Respondents were also asked to make recommendations to improve the status of the profession and said a focus on pay, conditions and in particular workload would be valuable.
Positive policies and practices include hiring a sufficient number of teachers, trainers and education support staff and ensuring that education systems have sufficient resources to ensure high quality education.
To access the full State of Teachers and Teaching Profession report by Thompson, G. (2021), please click here. The executive summary can be found here.