Follow Us:

"No Education System is Better than Its Teachers"

“Teachers are the foundation of good schools. […] Teachers are the keys to reaching the Education for All goals. […] Teachers need to be supported in fulfilling their responsibilities to students. […] Teachers, in turn, must be accountable to their students and communities. … The world expects a lot from teachers – they, in turn, are right to expect as much from us.”

This was the Joint Message issued by UNESCO, UNDP, UNICEF, ILO and Education International on the occasion of World Teachers’ Day, 5 October 2012.

While the teaching profession has traditionally been highly regarded in many countries, some argue that reputation of teachers and the teaching profession is in decline. It is clear, for example, that teaching is no longer the ambition of many new graduates, that the quality of teacher education and training is far from consistent and that teacher remuneration is often lower than in other professions. Indeed, teacher shortage has become a serious challenge in several countries here in the Asia-Pacific.

“No education system is better than its teachers,” often say global leaders and educationalists. The high performance of some education systems corroborates this statement: no short-cut to quality of teaching and learning without the quality of teachers. Given that the world does indeed expect a lot from teachers, do we pay enough credit to our teachers and to the teaching profession? And are we doing enough to attract the best to educate our children, our future leaders and the generations of tomorrow? 

In support of teachers, UNESCO has recently developed a teacher strategy setting the following three priorities:  addressing teacher shortage, improving teacher quality, and promoting global debate on public policy. For Ms Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, “We need more teachers and we need better quality teachers.”

Here in the Asia-Pacific, UNESCO Bangkok has been working hard to help improve teacher policies for quality education and teacher education and training, ensuring that teachers - no matter what country, and no matter what background - are developing the skills they will need for the 21st century. Recent activities include: 

A regional expert meeting on Inclusive Education through Quality Teacher Education in the Asia-Pacific held in July 2012 to discuss the status and policy of pre-service teacher education systems. 

UNESCO-KEDI policy seminar 2011 on 'Towards Quality Learning for All in Asia and the Pacific' devoted to teacher management. 

Regional comparative studies on secondary education teacher policy assessing how countries in Asia respond to the increasing demand of expanding access to quality secondary education which have been published as a series of Secondary Teacher Policy Research in Asia.

On the occasion of the World Teachers’ Day, Ms Bokova closed her speech with the words of William Butler Yeats: “Teachers are the greatest sparks of all.  Each of us remembers our favorite teachers.  Each of us recalls the feelings of wonder and curiosity they fueled in us.  This is why today, we must all take a stand for the teacher”  

For more information about teacher policies, please contact Satoko Yano [s.yano(at)] and Ramya Vivekanandan [r.vivekanandan(at)] at the Education Policy and Reform Unit. 

Written by Ratchakorn Kulsawet [r.kulsawet(at)] and Rachel McCarthy [r.mccarthy(at)] 

Related Links:

•  World Teachers’ Day 2012, Celebration Around the World
•  United Nations Secretary-General Message on World Teachers Day
•  UN Joint Message on the Occasion of World Teachers’ Day 2012
•  Director-General of UNESCO Speech on the World Teachers’ Day 2012
•  UNESCO Teachers’ Strategy: supporting teachers for quality learning (2012-2015)