Teaching in Developing Countries Research Paper Starter

Teaching in Developing Countries

(Research Starters)

Teachers in developing nations face numerous obstacles in the pursuit of their profession. Many developing nations do not have enough teachers to cope with the rising demand for education and the increased number of students in classrooms. Teachers in developing nations often do not possess college educations and many more have no pedagogical training. Even educated and reasonably well-trained teachers often have students in their classrooms who speak multiple languages or have disabilities, and these teachers are usually ill-equipped to instruct these students. Practical issues such as a lack of teaching resources, facilities, or transportation often plague teachers in developing countries and hinder their effectiveness. Even with the best of intentions and the most passionate commitment to teaching, teachers in developing countries have many barriers that significantly hinder them from providing quality education to their students.

Keywords Developing Country; Developed Country; Education for all; Globalization; International Teaching; Pedagogy; Primary Education; Secondary Education


The years 2005–2014 have been declared the United Nations Decade for Sustainable Development. UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Social, and Cultural Organization) and the United Nations have set a goal of Education For All (EFA), aiming to see all people in the world have access to a primary education by the year 2015. Because of the UN and UNESCO's vision, hundreds of countries around the world are making the education of their citizens a high priority, and multiple organizations and individuals are working to see this goal accomplished.

Much of this focus on education stems from a humanitarian perspective: education equips people for employment, helps eradicate poverty, empowers people, removes barriers such as gender discrimination, and is one of the primary factors in reducing suffering and improving people's lives. Countless philanthropic-minded organizations, individuals, and governments have recognized the powerful impact education has in people's lives. Increased globalization of our world and the flux in the labor market means that education is becoming more crucial for employment. Increasingly, the world's population needs to become educated in order to compete in the job market and be flexible enough to adapt to constant changes on the job and in life.

The increased demand for education creates a parallel demand for teachers, and both demands present a tremendous number of challenges to world education. Many nations, particularly developed nations, will be faced with large numbers of teachers retiring in the next decade, and filling the spots left by these experienced and qualified teachers will be a challenge. Developing nations in general will not see mass amount of teachers retiring in the future; their teacher quantity concerns stem more from rising rates of school enrollment and a lack of teachers in general.

Lack of Qualified Teachers

Developing countries are at a particular disadvantage when it comes to teacher quantity. Obviously, potential teachers need to be well-educated with sound backgrounds in pedagogy in order to qualify for teaching positions. However, in many developing nations, higher education levels among citizens remain low and there simply is not a large number of people who are educated enough to be teachers. The challenge in many developed nations is finding educated people who are interested in becoming teachers: for developing nations, the challenge is often educating interested people in order that they may become teachers.

Unfortunately, as the demand for education increases around the world, desperate governments too often fill their teaching ranks with people that are not qualified as teachers. In the face of the increased demand for quantity of education, quality of education often falls. Vegas (2007) stated that "Children in developing countries have the lowest mean test scores in international assessments of student learning, and they often show the largest variation in test scores as well" (p. 220). While poor education dispensed by under-qualified instructors is better than no education at all, low-quality education robs students of many of the benefits a high-quality education brings.

Additionally, teachers in developing countries may possess secondary and tertiary education but not have any specific pedagogical training prior to beginning a teaching position; nor do they have continued teacher education support and training available during their teaching careers. Of particular importance is a broad pedagogical approach: Atlbach (1987) said, "Virtually no one advocates providing teachers with education in their subject specialties alone — all stress the importance of a distinctive training specifically for teaching" (p. 326).

Other Challenges

Even if teachers in developing countries are properly educated and trained, logistics and other issues can affect their quality of teaching. A high ratio of students per teacher has a direct effect on the quality of education students receive, and high student/teacher ratios are common in developing countries. Low teacher salaries may mean that teachers must take on additional jobs and have less time to devote to teaching, and low salaries can tempt teachers to look abroad for better paying positions. War can destroy school buildings, and poverty can prevent school infrastructure from being built. Lack of school supplies hinders education, and lack of access to technology prevents students from accessing educational resources and keeps them from becoming technologically savvy. Hunger interferes with learning, remote schools and poor roads make it difficult for teachers to get to their schools, and disease kills teachers and students alike.

The Good News

This is not to say that the quantity and quality of teaching in developing countries is without merit. There are qualified teachers in developing countries that are doing an outstanding job of providing high-level education to their students. The increased globalization of the world means that countries can seek abroad for qualified teachers and the teaching profession is becoming more mobile. Technology brings many important pedagogical resources to remote areas of the world. Numerous organizations are seeking to provide funding, training, and resources for teachers in developing nations.

Education is becoming a reality for more and more of the world's people. Literacy rates are improving, primary and secondary educational achievement is increasing, and fewer children and adults must face a life devoid of any educational opportunity at all. Much of these success rates are the direct result of committed, dedicated teachers working in extremely difficult circumstances and with very few resources at their disposal.

Further Insights

The need for teachers worldwide is acute and growing. UNESCO (2013) has stated that 1.6 million new primary teachers and 3.5 million middle school teachers will be needed worldwide in order for EFA to be achieved by 2015; by 2030 those numbers rise to 3.3 million and 5.1 million, respectively. The need for teachers is especially great in developing countries. For example, about two-thirds (2.1 million) of the new primary school teachers needed by 2030 will be needed in sub-Saharan Africa (UNESCO 2013).

Difficulties in Recruiting

Recruiting such an large number of new teachers will be a huge challenge. Developing countries face specific challenges in recruiting teachers. Teachers need to be educated, and a significant percentage of the population in developing countries goes without even a primary education. Those who possess secondary or postsecondary education are even rarer, and unfortunately, there are many people teaching in these countries that do not have the education background they should.

The lack of qualified teachers has a direct impact on the quality of education a country can offer. Vegas (2007) said that the state of education in developing countries often resembles the state of education in impoverished and urban school areas in the U.S., except that in the developing countries the urban schools are usually the best and most preferred by teachers, partially because many teachers are single women who prefer the relative safety of cities. If the best and most valued teaching jobs in developing countries are comparable to inner city school districts in the U.S., it is clear that the situation teachers in developed countries face is particularly dire.

Vegas (2007) also said that many developing countries are stuck in a quandary: on one hand, they are increasing their standards for teachers and teaching credentials. On the other hand, their governments are shutting...

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