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The centrality of teachers in ensuring both access to education and quality learning outcomes is affirmed by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on Education. Target 4.c of the SDG 4 - Education 2030 Framework for Action is directly linked to teachers. The indicators for this target cover teacher training and qualifications, as well as their motivation, working conditions and remuneration.
Yet, on many critical dimensions of teacher policy and practice, beginning with the all-important dimensions of preparation for professional work – training and qualifications – the standards and processes that determine pre-service preparation and subsequent professional development are ill-defined, measured and reported beyond national or even local contexts. Comparisons are thus difficult, as are changes in policies and practices that draw on successful experiences in other countries. For example, fundamental issues are posed about the most elementary concepts of teacher training and qualifications - what does it mean to be a “qualified” or a “trained” teacher?
The lack of comparability in the definition of key concepts poses important challenges for the collection and dissemination of data that are comparable across countries. Similarly, analysing data on teacher training and qualifications in ways that are meaningful for policy and practice at national and international levels, as well as monitoring of progress towards SDG 4, are more difficult without a typology of teacher training programmes.
The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) has been assigned the lead role for monitoring of progress towards SDG 4. This paper explains the rationale for a proposal by the UIS to develop a universally accepted typology of teacher education or training. The typology would be the key classification tool to construct an easily understood and standard definition of both “trained” and “qualified” teachers that can be applied nationally and internationally.
Teachers are an essential – and arguably the most important – element to achieve SDG 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. This crucial role is acknowledged throughout target 4.c, which aims at a substantial increase in the supply of qualified teachers. Target 4.c is monitored with the following seven indicators, including five that are related to teacher training and qualifications:
- 4.c.1 Proportion of teachers in: (a) pre-primary education, (b) primary education, (c) lower secondary education, and (d) upper secondary education who have received at least the minimum organized teacher training (e.g. pedagogical training) pre-service or in-service required for teaching at the relevant level in a given country.
- 4.c.2 Pupil-trained teacher ratio by education level.
- 4.c.3 Percentage of teachers qualified according to national standards by level and type of institution.
- 4.c.4 Pupil-qualified teacher ratio by education level.
- 4.c.5 Average teacher salary relative to other professions requiring a comparable level of qualification.
- 4.c.6 Teacher attrition rate by education level.
- 4.c.7 Percentage of teachers who received in-service training in the last 12 months by type of training.
Beyond the importance of tracking whether there are sufficient teachers to reach SDG 4 at the global level, the SDG 4 framework shifts the focus from the number of teachers to how much of the teaching force is trained (4.c.1) and qualified (4.c.3). These indicators reflect the fact that a quality teacher should both be trained, meaning having received at least the minimum organized teacher training as required by national policies, and qualified, meaning having at least the academic qualifications - and where possible the professional competencies more broadly defined - required and necessary to teach and ensure quality learning at a certain level of education.
The UIS collects data for SDG target 4.c and thus the indicators can in theory already be produced, but great diversity in national qualification standards and teacher training requirements mean that the data collected are hardly comparable across countries. In the absence of information on the characteristics of teacher training programmes (pre-requisites, duration, content, etc.) it is very difficult for data users to interpret the indicators.
The proportion of trained or qualified teachers in the present context is therefore a poor measure of actual teacher preparation and quality. Some countries with lower standards of qualifications and/or teacher training requirements may have a higher proportion of qualified and trained teachers than others with more demanding policies, thus skewing the picture.
Successful development of a typology of teacher training would create a common understanding of teacher training and qualification policies and programmes, and therefore improved national and international coverage and quality of data on teacher preparation. The objective is based on better and more comparable definitions of teacher training and qualifications and more complete collection of data from all.
A typology would enable national governments and other stakeholders, including the UIS and its partners, to produce comparable data to effectively monitor SDG target 4.c and to serve as a basis for better national policy and practice concerning teacher support and management. The immediate objectives of the project are as follows:
1. Improved understanding of teacher training and qualifications at national, regional and international levels by finalising a typology leading to the creation of a taxonomy covering these subjects that can be applied with suitable adaptations in all countries and educational jurisdictions.
2. Collection and analysis of more comparable data of the highest quality at national and global levels.
3. Strengthened national and international capacity on teacher data collection by designing and implementing a global data collection on teacher preparation, based on the typology/taxonomy and methodology.
4. Greater use of collected data for policy and practices at international and national level by preparing and disseminating a global report on teachers based on the data collected that highlights how teachers around the world are trained, certified or licensed as qualified to teach.