Page description:

This page is about "Teacher Shortages from International Perspective." We will

(a) discuss how teacher shortages are defined and discussed,

(b) collect and storage information on current situations and projections of teacher shortages all over the world, and

(c) summarize how international organizations such as UNESCO and OECD have tried to address teacher shortages,

in order to develop a community where MSU-MAT program and other policy-makers and researchers can share their thoughts and learn from each other's experience.


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Cambodian rural school, (2005)



(a) What is "Teacher Shortage"?

This section will be served as a basis for our common understanding about the issue of teacher shortages.


1. What is teacher shortage? How can teacher shortage be defined?
"Teacher shortage" cannot be defined without examining who are "teachers" and how "shortage" is defined. In this sense, teacher shortage is socially, politically, and historically constructed concept, which includes huge variations across countries.

Certifying teachers is not a universal or natural practice. In some countries, there are no official “certifications” for teachers (such as Pakistan), whereas other countries consider teachers as exclusively those who have teacher certification and are currently teaching.


Teacher certification has distinct meaning across systems.
In some countries, teacher certifications are equal to completing certain teacher preparation or training (such as Japan and Cambodia), which do not require any exams. In these countries, teacher certification process is not used as a mechanism of sorting, or judge whether one has enough qualification to become a teacher. Rather, teacher certification serves as pooling people who possibly become teachers. For example, in Japan, final judgments on whether person with certification can actually teach in schools will be decided by exams held in each prefecture, and certification is just a necessary qualification to be seated in these exams. Thus, just being certified as a teacher does not require too many burdens under this system.

Shortage (of teachers) can also be defined in various ways.
Because we have diverse definitions of “teacher” across world, shortage of teachers can also be defined quite differently. “Shortage” is also socially, politically, and historically constructed. For example,

  1. Suppose we have 100 science teachers, and 100 is balanced point of supply and demand in the current education system. But after election, new government is trying to strengthen science education, and it requires 50 more science teachers. Here “teacher shortage” happens.

Thus, teacher shortage is not a phenomenon which happens naturally, but lead by changes in either demands or supplies, or both. What it has been recognized as adequate can possibly come to be problematic as "shortage" according to how "shortage" is defined and who define it. Shortage is therefore political, historical, and social construction.

“Teacher shortage” means different things according to how you define teachers. We should be careful which definitions are applied in the discussion. Here are some possibilities:

  • Shortage of people who enter teacher preparation programs
  • Shortage of people who have teaching certificate
  • Shortage of people who are actually teaching in classrooms
  • Shortage of people who are teaching with proper certificate
  • Shortage of people who are teaching in specific geographical areas
  • Shortage of people who are teaching specific subject areas
  • Shortage of people with specific characteristics (such as gender and ethnicity) in teaching force

2. Why does teacher shortage happen?
Teacher shortage happens when unbalance occurs between supply and demand.
In general, teacher shortage happens under the condition that rapid increase of demands, or gradual (less likely rapid) decrease of teacher supplies.
<Rapid increase of demands may happen because of>

  • Policy change
    • Change of emphasis subject areas
    • Abolition of school fees (like in Kenya), which lead the increase of enrollments
    • Change of standard class-size
    • Increase of schools

  • Societal change
    • Change of social expectations and needs (such as English over French in Cambodia)
    • Expansion of enrollment

<Gradual decrease of supplies may happen because of
>
  • Teacher side factors
    • HIV/AIDS and health issues (mainly in Africa)
    • Aging among teachers
    • Leave teaching to seek better paid jobs

  • School side factors
    • Low pay and low social status of teachers
    • Serious school conditions

3. What happens if teacher shortage occurs?

Teacher shortage will result in unequal distribution of teachers; lowering quality of teaching and learning...
  • Inequalities
    • Darling-Hammond (2004) discussed the issue of inequality caused by teacher shortages (in terms of shortage of certified teachers) in case of California.

  • Quality
    • Crowded classrooms



(b) Current situations of teacher shortages all over the world, and future projections

We will collect and storage documents and statistical data on teacher shortages.

Here are some links to website with documents and statistics about teachers and teacher education all over the world:


  • OECD website: OECD has collected and analyzed significant amount of information on education. They have rich data on teacher salary.

Future projection
  • "Across the world, countries are committed to reaching the goal of Universal Primary Education (UPE) by 2015. The UIS has identified the countries that need to expand their teaching forces in order to be able to enrol all primary school-age children by this target date. According to UIS estimates, 96 out of 195 countries will need at least 1.9 million more teachers in classrooms by 2015 than in 2007.
    The projections by the UIS indicate that 27 out of 45 countries in sub-Saharan Africa face a critical teacher gap. In these countries, 2.6 million teachers were in the classrooms in 2007. This number must grow to 3.7 million in just eight years to meet the UPE goal. This means that for every two teachers teaching in 2007 in the region, there must be three in 2015." (UNESCO Institute of Statistics, Apr. 8, 2010)
  • UIS Information Sheet: (Especially see: P.3)




(c) Policy options to address teacher shortages from other countries

Collect and storage policy options which are currently implemented in other countries, and suggested by international organizations.

Here are some links to website which provides country-specific efforts to address teacher shortages:
  • Directly address actual shortage of classroom teachers
    • Cambodian case (hiring "community teachers" in ESCUP project): ESCUP Toolkit


We need to be careful about the term! Teacher training or teacher education? I prefer to use teacher education than teacher training, because "teacher education" seems to me more professional and humanistic process than "training". What do you think?


This page is organized by: Takayo
Copyright © College of Education Michigan State University , East Lansing, MI 48824