Shortage of qualified teachers main obstacle to achieving education for all: UN

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 6 (APP): The goal of providing quality education for all children by 2015 will not be possible without an additional 18 million new teachers worldwide, the UN said Friday.

The growing shortage of qualified teachers is the main challenge to the realisation of international education targets, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said in a message issued to mark World Teacher’s Day.

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“But the challenge is more than one of just numbers,” Director-General Koichiro Matsuura added. “The quality of teachers and teaching is also essential to good learning outcomes.

In the message, which is co-signed by the heads of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the organization Education International, Mr. Matsuura noted that in many countries not all children are able to go to school or learn basic skills since there are simply not enough teachers.

“This has negative outcomes not only for the future of individual children, but also for the development of whole societies,” he added.

To address the shortage of qualified teachers in Afghanistan, UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Education in training personnel, developing curriculum and establishing teachers training colleges.

“These colleges are designed to help redress years of underinvestment in teachers training, which has led to a marked decline in number of teachers and teaching standards,” the agency said in a press release.

UNICEF’s efforts in the war-torn nation include strategies for increasing the number of female teachers, who were barred during the Taliban’s rule from practicing their profession.

“The drive to improve the numbers of female teachers and improve standards of teaching is important step in ensuring that girls continue to return to the classroom, and to reduce risk of drop-out amongst pupils already enrolled,” said Catherine Mbengue, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, to mark World Teacher’s Day, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) has released a new study which finds that violence, occupation, closures and poverty are having a dire effect on the schooling of Palestinian refugee children.

The agency’s education programme serves over half a million students in three countries and the occupied Palestinian territory. The study shows that in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, the performance of children in UNRWA schools compares favourably with that of their peers in Government-run schools, in spite of limited resources.

In the Gaza Strip, the study reveals a “worrying” rate of failure in Mathematics and Arabic in UNRWA schools, according to an agency press release. In response to the study, UNRWA is pursuing efforts to improve educational standards in Gaza, including hiring more than 1,500 new classroom assistants and building a new teacher training college.

“The cumulative impact of years of violence and closures, of disrupted schooling and endemic poverty is clear from the stark exam results of Gaza’s schoolchildren,” John Ging, Director of UNRWA operations in Gaza, stated.

“In spite of the challenging environment, we are determined to ensure that our reforms and our drive for excellence in UNRWA schools will be successful,” he added.