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The Importance of Indicators on Teachers and Teaching

Accurate data is an important component in the effective functioning of any system. Why? Data is needed to produce information on the characteristics, functioning and results of the system and it informs service providers and users of system performance. Indicators are used to measure progress over time and also compare the performance of a system with that of others.

When it comes to education, data is no less critical. For example, teacher and teaching indicators are crucial for monitoring and comparing the performance and progress of education systems towards achieving the Education for All (EFA) goals. 

In recognition of the need for comparable statistics and indicators on teachers and teaching, the International Task Force on Teachers for EFA, UNESCO’s Teachers and Higher Education Division and UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) convened “The Indicators for Teachers and Teaching Expert Group Meeting” at UNESCO Paris, 3-4 October 2012.  

The UNESCO Secretariat, UIS, UNICEF, the World Bank, OECD and the EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR) team presented their current initiatives and programmes for teacher data collection. Representatives from several UNESCO Regional Bureaus for Education provided regional perspectives on emerging teacher policy issues and their implications for developing teacher and teaching-related statistics and indicators. 

The Chief of the Education Policy and Reform (EPR) Unit of UNESCO Bangkok, Mr Gwang-Chol Chang highlighted some key issues for the region: 

Given its sheer diversity, the gathering of meaningful and comparable teacher indicators is a challenge to the Asia-Pacific region;

A number of emerging issues are likely to influence education development and teacher policies in the Asia-Pacific, including: regional integration (e.g. ASEAN), increased focus on learning and the need to reflect shifting population dynamics;

Sub-regional and subnational disparities in educational performance, policy trade-offs (e.g. class size, teaching hours), teacher training, private tutoring, support for teacher performance are just some of the issues and challenges that may be common to many countries of the Asia-Pacific and which may need closer attention in order to reach EFA goals.

The meeting also discussed what it will take to building a shared indicator framework for teachers and teaching and raised the following questions: 

What are the key education policy challenges and issues to be addressed?

How can these issues be addressed in the teacher data collection and indicator development?

What kind of new teacher/teaching data should be collected and which existing indicators should be redefined and refined in order to improve the quality of education?

Which of these indicators should be considered as part of a broader global data collection and what are the possible challenges and obstacles?

Can collective actions be taken by all relevant stakeholders to collect quality teacher/teaching data and how?

The meeting provided a platform for the exchange of information on various activities aimed at collecting teacher-related data and developing indicators. It also allowed for discussion on ways in which different regional and international agencies can join hands to develop a shared indicator framework for teachers and teaching. 

UNESCO Bangkok will continue its analytical work on teacher policies and related indicator development, including devising taxonomy of teachers and teaching and projecting the quantitative and qualitative needs of the teaching force and implications to achieve universal basic education in the region. It will also conduct mapping of education system policy and practice of the countries in the region to improve teaching for better learning and facilitate the capacity building and sharing of experiences across countries. In this endeavor, it will cooperate with other UNESCO entities and interested international and regional partner agencies. 

For more information, please contact Gwang-Chol Chang [gc.chang(at)] at the Education Policy and Reform Unit

Written by Rachel McCarthy [r.mccarthy(at)]  

Related links:

•  Education First

•  The Indicators for Teachers and Teaching Expert Group Meeting