Wanted: The Best Teacher for Every Class

By Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS)

Tracking progress on teacher training is vital to progress towards SDG 4

It could be a classroom in the heart of Tokyo or New York. It could be deep in the Amazon rainforest, the mountains of Bhutan or in the townships of Johannesburg. But wherever the classroom, much of its success relies the teacher.

Ideally, this teacher has been properly trained, and has every skill they need to inspire and enthuse their pupils. And ideally, they will teach generation after generation of children, becoming one of the teachers people remember with gratitude for the rest of their lives.

This vision will be celebrated on 5 October, when World Teachers’ Day focuses on the world’s young teachers, exploring ways to attract and keep the brightest minds and young talents. Here at the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), we see effective reporting on teacher training as a vital part of this process. Its importance has also been recognized in the SDG 4 monitoring framework: Indicator 4.c.1 requires data on the proportion of teachers in pre-primary right through to upper secondary education who have received at least the minimum amount of formal teacher training, whether pre-service or in service, to do their job.

There is, however, debate on how to measure this in a way that gives us a global perspective on what is happening in classrooms. While Indicator 4.c.1 is conceptually clear, it spans very diverse programmes and pathways to the teaching profession. One challenge is the current focus on the percentage of teachers who are trained in line with national training standards. It is impossible to compare standards that differ from country to country and, therefore, to build up a clear picture of the training levels teachers are expected to achieve.

In one country, you may need an undergraduate degree plus specialized teacher training to become a teacher. In another country, an undergraduate degree may be enough. As a result, current international data collection on teacher training is poorly defined from a cross-country comparison perspective, which makes it hard to chart a course for its future.

The definition of a ‘trained teacher’, for example, should imply a teacher is trained to ensure that pupils learn. In practice, however, some countries may have high shares of trained teachers (according to their own national definitions), and high shares of children who do not achieve minimum levels of learning. At the same time, there are countries that achieve high levels of learning despite low levels of trained teachers (Figure 1).  It is difficult to draw any conclusions on what is happening in classroom partly because the data on teachers does not accurately reflect the quality and levels of their training.

Figure 1: Share of trained teachers (national definitions) and learning achievement, primary, most recent yearteachers-taxonomy-blog-figure1Source: UIS database

The proposed solution: the International Standard Classification for teacher training programmes

 As the custodian for SDG 4 data, the UIS is developing a framework to help bridge the gap between the current indicators: the International Standard Classification for Teacher Training Programmes (ISCED-T). Welcomed at the 6th meeting of the Technical Cooperation Group (TCG) on the Indicators for SDG 4 in Yerevan, Armenia, in August, the framework builds on and extends the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED), responding to both a longstanding demand for more data and the policy window opened by the new and prominent position of teachers in the Education 2030-SDG 4 Agenda.

The ISCED-T draws on an extensive review of 170 teacher training programmes reported in the ISCED database. The initial proposal is to classify teacher training programmes according to entry requirements and duration, which are already available and measurable. Following further discussions, ISCED-T will then expand the current ISCED coding from three digits to a six-digit code; with the three last digits coded for the following dimensions:

  1. Target level for which teachers are trained to teach;
  2. Minimum entry requirement as represented by the highest ISCED level completed needed to enter;
  3. Duration of the programme in years.

Table 1 presents the three digits for categorization with their proposed values. The first column also proposes a grouping for the initial ISCED classification of teacher education programmes.

Table 1. ISCED-T: Categorization of pre-requisite, duration and ISCED classification for teacher training programmes, initial proposal

ISCED classification of the programme (Grouped) First Digit: Target level Second Digit: Pre-requisite: Minimum educational level completed Third Digit: Duration
S: ISCED 2 and 3: Secondary Education 0: ISCED 0; Pre-primary 2: ISCED 2 1: Short (1 year or less)
PS: ISCED 4: Post-secondary non-tertiary 1: ISCED 1; Primary 3: ISCED 3 2: 2 years
TB: ISCED 5,6: Tertiary, bachelor’s degree 6: ISCED 0-1; Multilevel Pre-primary and primary 4: ISCED 4 or some tertiary (ISCED 5 or 6, incomplete) 3: 3 years
TM: ISCED 7 and higher: Tertiary, master’s degree 2: ISCED 2; Lower secondary 5: ISCED 5 and 6 4: Long (4 years or more)
3: ISCED 3; Upper secondary 7: ISCED 7
7: ISCED 2-3; Secondary
8: ISCED 1-2-3; Multilevel Primary and Secondary

Source: Classification framework for trained and qualified teachers, TCG6/REF/6.

Two examples for the primary level are shown in Table 2. The Diplôme d’Instituteur in Burundi is a four-year teacher education programme entered at age 16 with the requisite that ISCED 2 is completed. The programme is classified as 354 according to its ISCED mapping. Its ISCED-T coding would be 354-124 while the short code would be S-124. In comparison, the Diplôme d’Instituteur adjoint in Côte d’Ivoire is also entered after completion of lower secondary but is only two years long. Its classification would be 353-122 or S-122. While these programmes have the same entrance requirements and classification, their durations differ and ISCED-T shows this at a glance.

Table 2: Examples of ISCED-T coding in practice

Burundi Diplôme d’Instituteur: Enseignement post fondamental pédagogique, theoretical entrance age 16, trains teacher for the primary level and has a theoretical duration of 4 years. Initial ISCED classification 354.
Initial ISCED mapping Target level Min. ISCED level required Duration
Long 3 5 4 1 2 4
Short S 1 2 4
Côte d’Ivoire Diplôme d’Instituteur adjoint: Formation des Instituteurs adjoints, theoretical entrance age 16, trains assistant teachers for the primary level and has a theoretical duration of 2 years. Initial ISCED classification 353.
Initial ISCED mapping Target level Min. ISCED level required Duration
Long 3 5 3 1 2 2
Short S 1 2 2

This will not impose any fresh burdens on the world’s already over-stretched statisticians. All of this information is already being reported for ISCED mappings of the education system. What it will do, however, is add much-needed precision.

Next steps

At the UIS, we are delighted that TCG members see ISCED-T as a positive step towards an international public good: global policy dialogue on teachers that links national definitions of trained teachers with international standards and recommendations.

The TCG is supporting our efforts to mobilize all interested partners and stakeholders to finalize ISCED-T and generate an official endorsement and dissemination process over the next two years. We stand ready to do so, recognizing that this will take dedicated resources and strong, collective support. It will also be just the first step towards sound data collection on teachers: it is essential to build capacity to produce and respond to teacher-related surveys, so that we can gauge whether the world’s teachers have the training they need to help every child reach their full potential.


Get the latest UIS data to celebrate World Teachers Day:

1 thought on “Wanted: The Best Teacher for Every Class

  1. “A properly trained teacher with every skill surely inspire and enthuse their pupils”, a real truth by Dr. Silvia. You have provided the much needed data and the process of tracking teacher training program. I have observed that LSUSD have well trained teachers and their way of imparting education is great.

    Liked by 1 person

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