Globally, approximately 617 million children and adolescents, which is over 55% of the global total, lacked minimum proficiency in reading and maths in 2015. This is despite two-thirds of this group attending school, where they did not become proficient because they either dropped out or did not learn basic skills.
Although commendable strides have been made in the number of children attending school, proficiency rates remain unacceptably low.
This global learning crisis not only hinders an individuals’ ability to break out of poverty, but it stalls the upward socioeconomic mobility of nations as they struggle to compete in a highly complex and competitive global economy.
Noteworthy progress has been made towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 – to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all – but important steps remain.
One fundamental step towards the goal of good quality education for all is getting enough trained teachers into classrooms. Teachers are the most critical factor in student learning outcomes, so a shortage of well-qualified teachers jeopardises the quality, inclusiveness and equity of education.
This issue is starkest in sub-Saharan Africa, where although enrolment has increased, 88% of children of primary and lower secondary school age lacked proficiency in reading, and 84% lacked basic mathematical skills.
Since opening its first teacher training college in Maputo, Mozambique, in 1993, Humana People to People has been committed to meeting the educational needs in the countries in which it operates. Humana’s focus is on training teachers to become skilled, competent educators, who see themselves as agents of change within the wider community and strive to foster curiosity, critical thinking skills and openness to life-long learning in younger generations.
Our teachers also mainly take up and retain positions in rural communities, answering the teacher gap in remote and hard-to-reach areas. In Malawi, the majority of our teachers are located in rural areas, responsible for classes of around 100 children. Our approach to training, which focuses on both academic and practical skills, means teachers are equipped to develop and deliver inclusive structures for children at disparate grade levels.
Due to the emphasis on building both knowledge and citizenship, our teachers often play a major role in these communities, helping to build latrines, wells and houses. Teachers work with communities to address sanitation problems, identify out-of-school children or assist with emergency work after floods.
Over the years we have found that this holistic approach to teacher training instils a sense of pride in our teachers, which has resulted in a decline in absenteeism and improved education systems in the communities in which the graduates have served.
We believe that quality education is a core component of sustainable development and that a number of the globe’s most pressing issues – poverty, inequality, climate change – will only be overcome through holistic action, which includes the provision of an inclusive and quality learning experience.
There is cause for celebration today, on World Teachers Day, as important strides have been made in improving education rates globally. However, as school enrolment grows, more emphasis must be placed upon the quality of education. Currently, standardised testing and streamlining of curricula do not take into account the reality of education levels. We would like to see the needs of the children at the centre of educational policies, as well as well-trained teachers who can adapt to meet the individual needs of children, committed to unlocking their student’s interest and energy for learning.
By Snorre Westgaard, Chairman of the global international development charity, Humana People to People (HPP). HPP is a federation of 30 locally registered and managed non-governmental organizations active in 45 countries on 5 continents.