Education is one of the main pillars of sustainable economic growth and social development. Every dollar invested in education translates into job opportunities, higher productivity, and stronger social capital. Children of educated parents have better nutrition and care. Children who are in school have a better chance of avoiding the trap of child labour.
For this reason I’m pleased to join other organizations in taking a moment to honor the women and men who deliver education to learners around the world. Whether it’s for toddlers in pre-school or adults in vocational training, teachers and trainers are responsible for providing the knowledge, skills and values that build strong and stable communities. Teaching is truly a noble profession.
Yet, sadly, it’s also a profession under siege. Many countries are facing significant teacher shortages. In the wake of the economic crisis, the number of students in each classroom has risen, funding for support services and materials for schools has dropped, and some countries have had to resort to hiring uncertified or poorly qualified teachers to fill the gap. Teaching hours have gone up, yet salaries for teachers remain uncompetitive. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining remain limited for teachers in many countries.
All this has resulted in a decline in the status of teachers, and further flight from the profession.
We need to take urgent action to foster sound social dialogue with the aim of improving the status of teachers, and devise policies and strategies that attract and motivate capable men and women to the profession. The education community, including governments, employers, trade unions, educators, parents and students, need to work together to ensure high initial and continual training standards, competitive remuneration, and attractive working and learning conditions for teachers. We need to promote gender equality at all educational levels, not only to ensure equality of opportunity and treatment for teachers, but also to provide appropriate role models for learners throughout their schooling. More also needs to be done to bring underrepresented minorities into the profession. It is also critical that teachers and trainers enjoy respect for rights and principles of freedom of association, organization and participation in decision-making as set out in international labour standards and international standards on teachers.
Our future depends on teachers. That’s why today I’m proud to take a stand for them.