Global challenges in teacher supply

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David Spendlove

Crisis or no crisis – the stories about challenges in teacher supply just don’t go away. This is in-fact a global issue today.

It is still a reality that where you are born and who you are taught by will be a significant factor in determining your future life chances. Equally it is an often repeated (although questionable) adage that  “the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers” (McKinsey, 2007).

Despite the above, currently there is an estimated 5 million shortfall of teachers in the world.  Also according to UNESCO in 32 of 94 countries less than 75% of primary school teachers were reportedly trained according to national standards whilst approximately 59 million children do not have access to primary education.

The scale of the global recruitment crisis, whilst already large, is however set to grow, as there is now a global commitment that by 2030 every child will be entitled to 12 years of education from age 5 to 17. To achieve this means training approximately 26 million teachers to both allow for the growth in teachers required and to address the attrition of teachers leaving the profession. This isn’t however just an issue of supplying teachers as there are fundamental questions about how to ensure you achieve a constant supply of teachers and how to ensure the future teachers are appropriately qualified whilst also considering how this is best achieved.

A further dimension also relates considering teaching as a global profession with increased mobility. As such how do you therefore manage the flow and best educate teachers who are more likely to be globally mobile than previous generations?

Organizations such as ‘Teach for All’ and high profile events such as the Varkey foundation $1 Million Global Teacher prize certainly help partly address the supply and raise the profile of teaching. Nevertheless even whilst some global regions such as central Asia may not have the same acute recruitment issues of Sub Sahara-Africa the challenge still remains of how best to develop great teachers in sufficient quantities.

The most obvious solution to addressing the global teacher crisis is to increasingly employ under-qualified adults with little or no training whilst also changing legislation to allow immediate entry into the classroom. Equally importing teachers from other countries is also seen as a solution for particularly wealthy countries who can pay attractive salaries, however this merely exacerbates the problem elsewhere.

Increasingly the use technology may offer solutions as the increased availability of broadband, smartphones (with the cheapest in the world being around $5) and tablets mean that teachers can be trained in different ways. Alternatively teachers can even be bypassed with students taught directly via online platforms or through accessing MOOCs.

Whilst the scale of the problem will vary across the world many countries are reexamining their teacher supply through:

  • Reconsidering legislation about who can teach.
  • Actively recruiting teachers from other countries.
  • Changing the entry requirements and qualifications for entry into the profession.
  • Reconsidering how best to prepare new teachers for the classroom.
  • Increasing the number of fast-track and employment based teacher preparation schemes.
  • Reducing government involvement through encouraging privatization of teacher education.
  • Changing teacher certification and licensing requirements.
  • Encouraging the diversification of routes and alternative providers of teacher education programmes.
  • Reexamining the balance between theory and practice in teacher preparation.

Whilst the diversification of teacher preparation in many countries is driven by necessity there are also new opportunities emerging through considering new ways of preparing teachers for the profession. Increasingly distance learning, hybrid approaches, localized residency programmes, clinical practice, and the rise of employment-based programmes are all competing with traditional University and College preparation programmes.

Ultimately both a global challenge and opportunity now exists, not only to ensure there is a sufficient quantity of teachers to meet the increasing demands but also to develop new ways of preparing teachers of sufficient quality to  increase  the prospects for all children.

The writer is Dr. David Spendlove, Head of Initial Teacher Education, Executive Director of Teach First NW, Manchester Institute of Education, University of Manchester

Want to gain more insights on this topic? Meet Dr. David Spendlove at EduTECH Asia who will be sharing in-depth insights about how to foster next generation teaching competencies in Higher Education.

davidDavid has 16 years of experience in Higher Education. His work involves the development of both policy and practice in a variety of areas including design and technology education, teacher development and creative education. Currently he co-edits Design and Technology Education: An International Journal as well as co-edits the D&TA international research conference proceedings since 2003. He has given many international talks on subjects including creativity, assessment, emotional literacy, teaching and learning, etc.

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