Teacher Shortages Research Paper Starter

Teacher Shortages

(Research Starters)

Education is becoming increasingly focused upon in virtually all countries worldwide. The United Nations has declared this decade to be the "Education Decade" and has the goal of seeing all people in the world possess at least a primary education by 2015. This has created an explosion of interest in primary education, but secondary and college-level education has also become more important in most countries. Many countries around the world are experiencing an increasing need for teachers. Higher numbers of student enrollment and large percentages of teachers facing retirement are just two of the many reasons why there is a global shortage of teachers.

Keywords Gross Domestic Product (GDP); Education for All; Primary Education; Secondary Education; Special Education; Teacher Retention; Tertiary Education; World Education Indicators

International Perspectives: Teacher Shortages


Education is becoming increasingly focused upon in virtually all countries worldwide. The United Nations has declared this decade to be the "Education Decade" and has the goal of seeing all people in the world possess at least a primary education by 2015. This has created an explosion of interest in primary education, but secondary and college-level education has also become more important in most countries. Around the globe, more children are achieving education but so are women, adults, the handicapped, the poor, and those who have previously had little access to education. In the words of the UN, education truly is for all people, and in the world today, this is becoming more and more a reality.

However, the practicality of implementing "Education for All" (EFA) comes with many pitfalls; one of the biggest is lack of resources. Poverty is also one of the greatest barriers to education. According to Chen and Ravallion (2007), if present trends continue, there will be 800 million people surviving on $1 a day and 2.8 billion surviving on $2 a day by 2015 (p. 9). While this represents a drop overall in extreme poverty, poverty is still a significant education deterrent. Other resource issues such as a lack of teaching supplies, school facilities, technology, and transportation for teachers and students are other significant barriers to education.

An Increasing Need for Teachers

One of the primary difficulties that countries and educators around the globe face is a lack of the most valuable resource of all: teachers. Without properly trained teachers, education simply cannot be furthered. Teachers are desperately needed at the primary level. UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, has been charged by the UN to help make EFA possible by 2015. Williams (2006) has stated that this goal requires at least 18 million teachers worldwide in order to be accomplished. This large number is primarily concerned with primary level teachers to provide basic education to the world.

There is also an increasing need for quality secondary and tertiary teachers to serve a growing number of higher level and college level students around the world. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (2001) reported that many countries have seen "an increased population of secondary-school age" students (p. 9). Additionally, teachers with multilingual skills are most desired, particularly in areas with a high migratory population or an ethnically diverse student body. Vocational teachers and adult teachers are needed to serve the adult/worker population. Van Kraayenoord (2001) said that there is a worldwide need for teachers of special education, science, and math: these three areas are becoming more crucial for students to master but less popular among teaching professionals. Additionally, she stated that there is an increased need for teachers with technological information skills; however, these individuals often receive more lucrative job offers in the business sector and are therefore drawn away from teaching.

Van Kraayenoord (2001) also said that many Western countries have been focusing on reducing class size - which requires more teachers - in order to improve student performance. For non-Westernized and less developed nations, the problem is often a high student-teacher ratio. Postlethwaithe (1998) said that in a study of 14 of the least developed countries in the world "Class sizes of 40 to 70 were common" (p. 290). OECD (2001) said that 40 students or more per teacher is common in some World Education Indicator (WEI) nations (p. 13). Since there has been a worldwide interest in both access to education and improvement of education, it is clear that more teachers are needed both to teach incoming numbers of students and to ease the burden of overworked teachers today.

Retiring Older Teachers

Finally, many countries around the world have a large percentage of teachers who are over the age of forty and are facing retirement soon. This will likely result in a significantly smaller number of qualified, seasoned teachers to instruct an increasing number of students. New teachers will be needed to fill the vacancies left behind by retirees, but these new teachers will also need to match the quality of education that these veteran teachers possess.

Teachers, both in quantity and quality, are needed in many different sectors and skill levels around the world. However, one of the main problems facing many nations, particularly developed/Westernized nations is teacher retirement. Many countries are faced with the problem that in the next decade or so, a significant number of veteran teachers will retire and leave a huge void behind them. Eurydice, the information network on education in Europe, stated that the problem is, most teachers retire as soon as they can, so the teaching crisis due to retirement is particularly strong. For example, 70% of secondary teachers in Germany and Italy will retire within 20 years ("Key Data," 2005). Gavrielatos (2005) said that at least a quarter of New South Wales' teachers are expected to retire within five years and over half will retire in the next fifteen years.

Obviously, countries around the globe will need to recruit and train new teachers. However, there are many circumstances that can make teaching a less attractive career route such as long work hours, low salaries, and high levels of responsibilities. Many Westerners have access to other, better-paying career options than teaching, and the education field is often in fierce competition for workers with the business and technology industry. Turnover is high in some countries, especially America, and new teachers are hard to retain. To help meet the growing demands for teachers, nations across the world will need to tackle challenges present within the teaching profession so that more new teachers can be recruited and retained.

Further Insights

Teacher shortage is a varied problem. For many nations, specifically less-developed ones, primary education is the main focus and there is a desperate need for primary teachers. According to Williams (2006), sub-Saharan Africa faces the greatest teaching shortage, as it will need to increase its number of teachers by 68% to reach EFA goals. South and West Asia will need 325,000 teachers, and 450,000 new teachers will be needed in the Arab States.

Teachers are also needed on a secondary and tertiary level. OECD (1999) reported that most of the 19 countries participating in the World Education Initiative have achieved universal education. Virtually all children in these countries achieve a primary education, and an increasing number of them also attain a secondary education (p. 9). It is generally accepted that a primary education is the minimum level of achievement people need in order to be functional participants in a global society. Yet education tends to create an increased desire for more: it is foolish to assume that marginalized sectors of the world's population, once given access to a primary education, will be content to stay at that minimum level. This increased demand for primary teachers will likely be met in the future by a mirrored demand for secondary and tertiary teachers.

Need for College-Level Teachers

College enrollment is also becoming a possibility for more and more people around the world, and students have increasingly more opportunity for college-level education, either in their home countries or abroad. Gerald and Hussar (2000) have estimated that by 2010, college enrollment in the US will be up by 20% from 1998. According to McMurtrie, Bollag, & Maslen (2001), nations around the world such as Australia, Great Britain, Japan, and Hong Kong are seeing an increasing amount of international students at their universities. As opportunities open up, particularly for women and other people who have been traditionally restricted from higher education, there will be an increased desire for college level achievement, and teachers will be needed to fulfill this demand.

Lack of Education

However, filling teaching ranks is difficult. One of the challenges for many nations, particularly non-industrialized ones, is the general lack of education among the population, meaning that there are fewer people who have the...

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