Education Unions’ Voices on the Status of Teachers and the Teaching Profession

On World Teachers’ Day, 5 October, Education International (EI) launched “The Status of Teachers and the Teaching Profession – A Study of Education Unions’ Perspectives”. The report was commissioned by EI in 2014. It was carried out by Vasileios Symeonidis and is based on a literature review and an extensive survey of 73 EI member organisations from across the world.

The education workforce plays a central role in providing quality education.  In May 2015 at the World Education Forum (WEF) in Incheon, Korea, governments and international organisations committed to “ensure that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems” (Incheon Declaration). Furthermore, the importance of education and teachers is recognised in the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit September 25–27, 2015 in New York, USA (click here to read more about the SDGs and how EI views them).

World Teacher Day was celebrated under the slogan “Empowering Teachers –Building Sustainable Societies” this year.  On this occasion the international education community highlighted the critical role that teachers and education support personnel play in providing quality education and fostering the development of just and sustainable societies.

However, as revealed in the teacher status report, the professional status of teachers is far from ideal and there is still a long way to go in order to improve the prestige and status of teachers. Austerity policies have often resulted in less favourable working conditions and wages, limited fundamental professional freedoms, and cutbacks of teacher training. Despite the increased awareness of the need to close the teacher gap, the report showed that there has been a decline in teacher status, particularly in early childhood education, vocational education and training and among education support personnel.

The main causes and signs of the decline in teacher status are:

  • sub-standard teacher preparation programmes and the recruitment of unqualified personnel,
  •  infringements on academic freedom and professional autonomy,
  •  serious violations of teachers’ human and trade union rights,
  • poor salaries and working conditions, quite often less than those of professionals with comparable qualifications in other sectors, and 
  •  increasing privatisation in and of education leading to “competitive attitudes, precarious employment, and high-stakes evaluation”.

The study is yet another piece of evidence of how austerity policies negatively impact the education sector, the teaching profession and, the right to free, quality education for all. As such, if we want to achieve the targets of the new 2030 Agenda for the education sector and beyond, we have to take the concerns expressed in this survey seriously and mobilize in order to improve the status of teachers and the teaching profession. 

The full report in English as well as a summary in Spanish and French is available on the Education in Crisis webpage under EI Publications.


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Nikola Wachter

Nikola Wachter is a research officer at Education International (EI), where she coordinates research on inclusive education as well as political economy issues including education privatisation and its impact on education systems. She is a certified teacher and former union activist concerned about strengthening equitable access to quality public (education) systems and promoting the democratisation of knowledge within and beyond education. As an open education advocate, Nikola coordinates EI’s work on copyright and Open Educational Resources.

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