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A massive and ongoing shortage of teachers around the world means significant work needs to be undertaken to address the challenge of providing quality education for all, according to new data released by UNESCO to coincide with World Teachers’ Day on 5th October.

The fourth of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development aims to provide every child with 12 years of education by 2030. But just to provide universal primary education by this date the world would need an additional 25.8 million teachers – 3.2 million new posts and 22.6 million to replace those leaving the profession.

UNESCO argues that if current trends continue, some countries will actually face a greater shortage by 2030 than they do today. Djibouti, Côte d’Ivoire and Nigeria, amongst others, all currently lag well below current demand.

On the other hand, many countries have made significant progress in filling the vacancies. Chad, Guyana and Mali are expected to reach their primary school teacher needs by 2022.

With the increasing demand for lower secondary education – between 1999 and 2011 the gross enrolment rose 10 percentage points – a corresponding increase in teacher numbers is also required. This is especially important because secondary education requires more teachers, who are more highly trained, due to subject-specific lessons and increased instruction time. By 2030, we will need 5.1 million new posts worldwide.

Despite lower secondary education now being compulsory in around 80% of nations, shortages mean that many countries are unable to provide this level of education. However, countries around the world are working hard to plug the gap, with Ghana (2016), Togo (2018) and Sierra Leone (2018) all expected to achieve sufficient numbers of lower secondary teachers by the dates provided.

UNESCO argues that the world cannot simply hire teachers with little or no training, because, as we at the Varkey Foundation strive to highlight, quality teaching is central to a quality education.

The organisation has produced two excellent resources to explore the data further – an interactive tool outlining global teacher demand and an eAtlas of worldwide teacher data.

Infographics courtesy of UNESCO.

Image credit: Namart Pieamsuwan /