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Chapter 1: Background


At the World Education Forum in Incheon (Republic of Korea) in May 2015, the global education community, under the leadership of UNESCO, framed the priorities for a common education agenda within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the next 15 years. Participants in the Forum pushed for the Education SDG (SDG 4), aiming to

'Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and [to] promote life-long learning opportunities for all'.

To achieve this goal, the participants unanimously acknowledged the important roles of teachers and teaching for effective learning at all levels of education. That is why they 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'

The provision of such a teaching force on a sustainable basis within educational systems cannot be done without context-responsive, evidence-based teacher policies and regulations that are elaborated with the full participation of all relevant stakeholders.

Drawing on lessons learnt since its establishment in Oslo (Norway) in 2008, through its policy dialogue fora and the review of prevailing trends in teacher policies and practices, the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 has pulled together its resources to proactively develop the present Teacher Policy Development Guide. The objective is to support the realization of the teacher target in the SDGs and Education 2030 by putting at the disposal of Member States and partners a tool that will facilitate the development or the review of national teacher policies.

The abridged version of the Teacher Policy Development Guide was published in seven languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish) in 2015. Lessons learnt from its use in some countries have called for the need to publish this revised full version, including data, case studies and other illustrations that future users will find relevant. Available in English and French as an interactive tool to be adapted to country contexts and to the needs of users, this version will be a key instrument for the implementation of the Teacher Task Force’s 2018-2021 Strategic Plan, which aims to strengthen teachers and the teaching profession through, among others, the development of holistic national teacher policies.

The Guide includes five key sections: Chapter 1 presents the purposes, rationale, scope and intended audience of the Guide; Chapter 2 explains the need for framing the teacher policy within a sector plan and national development priorities; Chapter 3 examines the most important dimensions for a teacher policy, and their correlations; Chapter 4 describes the phases in the process of developing a teacher policy; and chapter 5 outlines the steps and issues to address when implementing the national teacher policy.

We call on governments intending to use the Guide to develop a national teacher policy to take participatory and inclusive approaches, especially to involve teachers and their representative organisations in the process.

We express our appreciations and thanks to the authors and all those who have contributed to the production of this valuable tool.


This Guide has been a team effort, with valuable contributions and inputs provided by a number of experts on teacher policies. It was written by Simone Doctors (Education Consultant), William Ratteree (former staff of the International Labour Organization – ILO) and Yusuf Sayed (Reader in International Education, University of Sussex and the South African Research Chair in Teacher Education, and Director of the Centre for International Teacher Education, Cape Peninsula University of Technology). The Guide was written under the supervision of Edem Adubra, head of the Secretariat of the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030, and the coordination of Hiromichi Katayama.

The production of this Guide was supported by the Steering Committee of the Teacher Task Force. Its funding was generously provided by the European Commission and the Government of Norway. Its translation into Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish was made possible with funding from the Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance and technical assistance from Humana People to People.

The concept of the Guide was framed by the following UNESCO staff and consultants at the workshop held in May 2014 at the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) in Paris: Jean Adote-Bah Adotevi, Endris Adem Awol, Aminatou Diagne, Gabriele Goettelmann, Maki Katsuno-Hayashikawa, Mathieu Lacasse, Hilaire Mputu, Arnaldo Nhavoto, Yayoi Segi-Vltchek, Florence Ssereo and Barbara Tournier.

In addition to the above-mentioned individuals, comments on the initial draft of the Guide were received from Julie Bélanger (Organisation for Economic Cooperation – OECD), Kamel Braham (the World Bank), Dakmara Georgescu (UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States), Mark Ginsburg (FHI 360), Diana Hincapié (Inter-American Development Bank), Vaibhav Jadhav (Savitribai Phule Pune University, India), Liu Jing (UNESCO International Research and Training Centre for Rural Education, China), Olivier Labé (UNESCO Institute for Statistics), Oliver Liang (ILO), Takeshi Miyazaki (Japan International Cooperation Agency), Aidan Mulkeen (National University of Ireland Maynooth), Paz Portales (UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean), Robert Prouty (former World Bank staff ), Mohamed Ragheb (focal point for the Teacher Task Force in Egypt), Emily Richardson (Teachers College, Columbia University), Bonaventure Segueda (Ministry of National Education, Burkina Faso), Sheldon Shaeffer (former UNESCO staff ), Marcelo Souto Simão (UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning in Buenos Aires), Purna Kumar Shrestha (Voluntary Service Overseas International), Emiliana Vegas (Inter-American Development Bank) and Jesper Wohlert (Humana People to People). Our sincere thanks go to them all.

We also acknowledge feedback received from the participants in the presentation session of the initial draft of the Guide at the 17th UNESCO Asia-Pacific Programme of Educational Innovation for Development (APEID) International Conference held in October 2014 in Bangkok (Thailand) and the validation workshop organised by the Teacher Task Force Secretariat on 18 December 2014 in Rabat (Morocco). Eliza Bennett edited this Guide and Yvonne Rwabukumba provided administrative support throughout its preparation.


The Teacher Task Torce Teacher Policy Development Guide was developed by the International Task Force on Teachers for EFA (Teacher Task Force) in close coordination with UNESCO entities and external partners of the Teacher Task Force. The aim was to produce a tool that could help countries develop evidence-based national teacher policy.

Created in 2008 as a global partners’ alliance to fill the teacher gap, the Teacher Task Force has advocated for, and facilitated the coordination of, international efforts to provide sufficient numbers of well-qualified teachers to achieve EFA goals. The second phase of the Task Force programme (2014–2016) more specifically attempts to boost the performance and progress of education systems in addressing the critical shortage of qualified teachers to assist in achieving and monitoring the teacher-related target of the SDGs and the Education 2030 Framework for Action.

The Teacher Task Force Steering Committee, in its November 2013 meeting in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo), required the Secretariat to initiate the development of the Guide. To launch the process, the Secretariat convened a consultation meeting with relevant UNESCO entities on 19–20 May 2014 to discuss an initial concept and an outline. Three international consultants were then hired to produce the Guide. Further substantive consultation occurred during the process of preparing the Guide, both with UNESCO entities in all regions, and with a wider range of stakeholders, including teacher policy-makers in the Asia-Pacific region, experts from international organisations, including the OECD, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, and non-governmental organisations such as Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) International and Humana People to People.

The outcome was validated at the workshop organised in Rabat (Morocco) in December 2014, with additional inputs that the authors incorporated when submitting the final Teacher Policy Development Guide. A major recommendation of this final validation meeting was to publish both an abridged version of the document for a specific public and the full text with illustrations and country case examples for those interested in learning more on the topic while using the Guide for developing a national teacher policy.

List of Abbreviations and Acronyms

ADEAAssociation for the Development of Education in Africa
AITSLAustralian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership
CEARTJoint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel
CMECCouncil of Ministers of Education (Canada)
CPD Continuing/Continual professional development
CPTDContinuing professional teacher development
CTPDS Continuing Teacher Professional Development System
DBEDepartment of Basic Education (South Africa) and DHET Department of Higher Education and Training (South Africa)
DoEDepartment of Education
ECEEarly Childhood Education
EFAEducation for All campaign/framework/goals
EIEducation International
EIPEvidence-informed policy
EMISEducation Management Information Systems
ENHANSEEnabling HIV and AIDS, TB and Social Sector Environment Project (Nigeria)
ESDEducation for Sustainable Development
FTIFast Track Initiative
GDPGross domestic product
GEQAFGeneral Education Quality Analysis Framework
GPEGlobal Partnership for Education
HIV and AIDSHuman Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
ICTInformation and communication technology
IIEPUNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning
ILOInternational Labour Organisation
INEE Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies
INSETIn-service teacher education and training
IPETInitial professional education of teachers
ISCEDInternational Standard Classification of Education
ITTInitial teacher training
MCTEMinisterial Committee on Teacher Education (South Africa)
MoEMinistry of Education
MPMember of Parliament
MTEFMedium-Term Expenditure Framework
NGONon-governmental organisation
NPFTEDNational Policy Framework for Teacher Education and Development (South Africa)
OECDOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
OREALC/UNESCOOficina Regional de Educación para América Latina y el Caribe, UNESCO Regional Bureau of Education for Latin America and the Caribbean
PCPDPost-conflict and post-disaster
PTAParent teacher association
PTRPupil–teacher ratio
QTSQualified teacher status
RTERight to Education Act (India)
SABERSystems Approach for Better Results in Education
SACESouth African Council for Educators
SACMEQSouthern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality
SEAMEOSoutheast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation
SSASchool self-assessment
TALISOECD Teaching and Learning International Survey
TEMPTeacher Education Master Plan (Tanzania)
TESSATeacher Education for Sub-Saharan Africa
TMISTeacher Management Information System
TSCTeachers Service Commission
TVETTechnical and vocational education and training
UNESCOUnited Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
UISUNESCO Institute for Statistics
UNICEFUnited Nations Children’s Fund
UNRWAUnited Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
UPEUniversal primary education
UKUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
USAUnited States of America
USAIDUnited States Agency for International Development
VSOVoluntary Service Overseas
WHOWorld Health Organisation

1.1 Introduction

1.1.1 At the heart of learning: Teachers and teaching

International standards, expert bodies and reviews consistently place teachers at the centre of universal access to high-quality and equitable education. Government and education experts who framed the ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers (ILO/UNESCO, 1966, hereafter referred to as the 1966 Recommendation) based their work on the idea that, ‘advance in education depends largely on the qualifications and ability of the teaching staff in general and on the human, pedagogical and technical qualities of the individual teachers’ (ILO/UNESCO, 1966: 4).

Extensive research in diverse countries and education systems concludes that ‘teachers are the single biggest in-school influence on student achievement’ and that ‘teacher effectiveness is the most important school- based predictor of student learning’, often playing its most important role in overcoming the learning deficits of disadvantaged students (Asia Society, 2014: 7; OECD, 2014a: 32; World Bank, 2013: 5).

There are several good reasons therefore why teachers and teaching should be at the top of education and other policy-makers’ concerns:

  • The importance of education: education is one of the key human priorities, even in the poorest countries and communities. Education is associated with poverty reduction, improved health and life expectancy, quality of life and respect for human rights. Parents place great emphasis on (and make sacrifices for) the education they can give their children. Education depends first and foremost on human interaction between learners and their teachers; however, teachers are supported by learning aids, technology and other educational resources.
  • Learning quality and success: evidence shows that apart from factors that are external to schools and factors that are difficult for policy-makers to influence (for example the individual, family and community background), teachers and teaching are some of the most important influences on student learning. There is broad consensus that teacher quality is the single most important school variable influencing student achievement (OECD, 2005: 23–25; ILO, 2012: 1). Teachers are all the more important in relation to what is termed a ‘learning crisis’ facing millions of in- and out- of-school learners (UNESCO, 2014: 191). To maximize teacher effectiveness and help resolve these issues, an education sector plan should incorporate a good teacher policy (Chapter 2).
  • Human resources and budgets: teachers are one of the largest components of a nation’s labour force (2–3% or more of formal employment in many countries); they are both the principal human resource in any education system or learning environment and the largest single financial component of any education authority’s budget, accounting for anywhere from 60% to more than 80% of recurrent (non-capital) public education expenditures (OECD, 2014b: 280–283; UNESCO, 2014: 254; UNESCO, 2010: 81). Recent international policy tools (from UNESCO, the ILO, OECD, the World Bank and others, cited in this guide) reinforce the concept that high-quality teachers and teaching based on teacher professionalization and excellence in human resource policies yield the best learning results and reduce costs to education systems. These factors alone justify a comprehensive teacher policy that seeks to maximize learning outcomes and a nation’s investment in quality teachers.
  • Education objectives and reforms: estimates of difficulties in reaching countries’ overall education objectives, as well as reforms periodically launched to deal with major national challenges, regularly point to several factors related to teachers:
    • Teacher shortages are a major challenge, whether in specific education subjects, geographic areas or across the board. In 2013, it was estimated that an additional 3.3 million primary teachers and 5.1 million lower secondary teachers would be needed by 2030 to provide all children with basic education. However, chronic shortages of teachers are expected to persist for decades beyond 2015 if current recruitment trends continue (UNESCO Institute for Statistics – UIS, 2013: 1). This means that learners will not have access to an education, or will have a poorer-quality education than they need and deserve.
    • Teacher motivation and sense of professional responsibility are crucial factors in the success of individual learning and education systems. Dedicated teachers with empathy for and high expectations of each and every learner have significant impact on learner outcomes. Unmotivated teachers with little professional commitment lead to widespread absenteeism, high turnover and attrition rates of both good and ineffective teachers, and poor teacher performance, all of which undermine the very foundations of quality education.
    • Lack of teacher involvement in reforms — reforms are too often designed and put into place by education authorities unilaterally or with minimal stakeholder input. The individuals most directly concerned and most important to reform success are teachers and their representatives. At best, such top-down reforms work only partially, because they have not fully involved the professionals who are responsible for implementing them. At worst, they may be so strongly opposed by teachers and their representatives that they fail outright. The evidence, however, shows the positive role that teachers and teacher unions can play in successful, quality education reforms, if they are properly engaged from the beginning (UNESCO, 2014: 220–222).

1.1.2 Comprehensive policies work best

To achieve maximum learning benefits, a teacher policy must have a vision for the way forward and a comprehensive (holistic) approach that encompasses a broad range of interlocking dimensions affecting how individuals choose to become and remain teachers, train for their work and perform effectively. As Chapter 2 suggests, a teacher policy that considers only some of the key factors is not very effective in reaching priority education objectives. At a minimum, a comprehensive teacher policy includes:

  • Thorough and relevant initial teacher and school leadership education (including good pedagogical theory and practice for a range of learners)
  • Continual professional development and support for all teachers, school leaders and support staff
  • A remuneration and material incentives package that attracts and retains the best candidates in the profession compared to similar professionals
  • A safe, healthy, stimulating teaching and learning environment.

This Guide addresses these issues, and more. For example, what teacher policies work best to ensure quality teachers and teaching? The evidence from OECD countries supports policies that create an environment for high levels of teacher effectiveness. These, in turn, are positively associated with teacher job satisfaction, positive teacher behaviours, as well as student motivation and achievement (OECD, 2014a). Other research shows that high-performing education systems build their human resources by focusing on attracting, training and supporting good teachers, rather than on attrition or firing weak teachers (Asia Society, 2014: 8). Resource-poor, low-income countries often have to balance cost consideration issues more carefully in deciding on teacher recruitment, education and employment terms to meet access and quality demands; yet they still depend on policies to attract, retain and motivate the best individuals to teaching. The Guide summarizes such options and offers recommendations on integrating various policies so that they can work in a wide range of countries and education systems – rich or poor, large or small, largely urban or still very rural.

A holistic, national teacher policy that is adequately resourced and implemented with the necessary political will and administrative skill can be a vital first step on the road to achieving a highly motivated, professional teaching corps. Achieving this objective is arguably the best investment in learners’ education that a country can make.

The next chapter of this Guide discusses the importance of formulating a teacher policy, how it should be aligned with other policies, and some of the main principles that should underpin a policy.

1.2 Purpose and Scope

1.2.1 Purpose

This Guide is designed to assist national policy- and decision-makers and education officials to develop an informed teacher policy as an integrated component of national education sector plans or policies, aligned to national development plans and strategies.

More specifically, the Guide is a tool designed to contribute to the elaboration of an evidence-informed national teacher policy, specific to each national context and drawing on the evidence of good practices from a wide range of countries and organizations.Footnote 1

Based on the best available evidence on teacher policy and the teaching profession, the Guide aims to:

  • Present an overview of teacher-related policy dimensions and issues that need to be considered when elaborating a national teacher policy and how they are interrelated
  • Outline policy responses that need to be considered
  • Suggest steps to elaborate and implement a national teacher policy.

The Guide is not a diagnostic tool as such – it assumes that a careful diagnosis of the status of teachers and teaching has already been completed prior to policy development, or is to be conducted as part of the teacher policy development process. Chapter 2 (Section 2.3) provides examples of some diagnostic tools or instruments developed by international organisations.

1.2.2 Scope

The Guide covers:

  • ‘Teachers’ as defined by the international standard specific to teachers, the 1966 Recommendation: ‘all those persons in schools or other learning sites who are responsible for the education of children or young people in pre-primary, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education’.
  • Teachers or educatorsFootnote 2 in early childhood education (ECE) for learners 0–3 years old, and teachers in lower or upper secondary vocational education, where either are provided in a formal school setting, as defined by the respective International Standard Classification of Education (International Standard Classification of Education – ISCED 2011) levels 0, 2 and 3 (UIS, 2012:79, 83).
  • Teachers in both public and private institutions (including non-governmental organisations)
  • School heads, directors or principals and deputies as part of school leadership and governance
  • Holistic teacher policy dimensions and issues (see Chapter 3).

The Guide does not cover the following categories of teachers although much of the analysis applies to these groups:

  • Early childhood ‘care’-oriented settings where the education component does not meet the minimum intentional education component, as defined by ISCED 2011 (UIS, 2012: 33–34; also ILO, 2014: 2–3, for distinctions between ECE educators and caregivers)
  • Training staff providing technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in specialised training institutions not considered schools as defined by ISCED 2011, in workplaces providing work-based education and in informal learning places (UIS, 2012: 83–84)
  • Any post-secondary teaching staff, including higher education teachers as defined by the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel, 1997 (it is foreseen that higher education will be the object of a separate or extended version of this guide at a later stage)
  • Teachers or educators in non-formal education, as described in ISCED 2011 (UIS, 2012: 81).

The Guide is intended to help policy- and decision-makers integrate a national teacher policy within the national education sector plan or policy, avoiding fragmentation and lack of cohesion in their respective implementation. Other relevant policies – for example those targeting children’s welfare and rights or human rights more generally, or those designed to address specific issues such as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) – are to be considered alongside the Guide’s recommendations on framing teacher policy (discussed in greater detail in Chapter 2).

1.3 Target Audience

1.3.1 Public education authorities

In the first instance, this Guide should assist national authorities responsible for education and teacher policy, planning and practice. At a national level, potential audiences may include:

  • Ministries or departments of education
  • Ministries or departments of labour, or civil or public service
  • Ministries of finance
  • Teaching or public service commissions or equivalent bodies dealing with any of the major dimensions of a national teacher policy, especially teacher recruitment, initial education, professional development and all facets of employment
  • Professional bodies involved with teachers, such as teacher professional councils or statutory quasi-government bodies, such as joint bargaining forums, including unions and governments.

Although designed to facilitate a national policy, the Guide should by extension also assist those at the sub-national level – regional, provincial or state, and local, municipal or village – who are responsible for teacher-related issues.

1.3.2 Private education providers

The Guide applies equally to public and private education providers and teachers – all of whom, as discussed in Section 1.1.2 above, should be included in a national policy. Private education providers include those for whom the government has a supervisory or regulatory function as part of its national responsibilities, including:

  • Private for-profit or non-profit schools or networks of schools or other learning centres, including faith-based or religious schools, established to complement public education policies
  • Non-governmental organisations or communities responsible for providing education in situations where funding gaps exist, or in emergency, disaster, war or civil conflict situations.

1.3.3 Education stakeholders

In addition to public and private education authorities, this Guide should be of assistance to all stakeholders who may be involved in a policy dialogue with a government as part of developing and implementing a sound national teacher policy, including representatives of the following (see Chapter 4 for a more detailed list):

  • Teachers, i.e., their unions or associations
  • Head teachers/principals and their associations
  • Teacher education institutions
  • Learners,Footnote 3 for instance student associations.
  • Parents or guardians, for example parent-teacher associations (PTAs) or equivalent bodies
  • Private sector organizations and providers involved in teacher education
  • International agencies and organizations.

Now go to Chapter 2 Contextualisation.


International standards
ILO/UNESCO. 1966. Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers. Geneva, ILO and Paris, UNESCO Publishing. sector/ Resources/ sectoral-standards/ WCMS_162034/ lang--en/ index.htm (Accessed 21 March 2015.)
UNESCO. 1997. Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel. Paris, UNESCO Publishing. en/ ev.php-URL_ID=13084&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html (Accessed 21 March 2015.)
UIS. 2012. International Standard Classification of Education – ISCED 2011. Montreal, UIS. Education/ Documents/ isced-2011-en.pdf (Accessed 21 March 2015.)
Policy guidelines, manuals, handbooks
ILO. 2012. Handbook of Good Human Resource Practices in the Teaching Profession. Geneva, International Labour Organization. sector/ Resources/ publications/ WCMS_187793/ lang--en/ index.htm (Accessed 21 March 2015.)
ILO. 2014. ILO Policy Guidelines on the Promotion of Decent Work for Early Childhood Education Personnel. Geneva, International Labour Organization. sector/ Resources/ codes-of-practice-and-guidelines/ WCMS_236528/ lang--en/ index.htm (Accessed 21 March 2015.)
UNESCO. 2010. Methodological Guide for the Analysis of Teacher Issues: Teacher Training Initiative for Sub-Saharan Africa (TTISSA) Teacher Policy Development Guide. Paris, UNESCO. images/ 0019/ 001901/ 190129e.pdf (Accessed 21 March 2015.)
World Bank. 2013. What Matters Most for Teacher Policies: A Framework Paper. Washington, DC. documents/ hdn/ ed/ saber/ supporting_doc/ Background/ TCH/ Framework_SABER-Teachers.pdf (Accessed 21 March 2015.)
Research, reports, studies
Asia Society. 2014. Excellence, Equity, and Inclusiveness – High Quality Teaching for All: The International Summit on the Teaching Profession. New York, Asia Society. teachingsummit (Accessed 21 March 2015
Commonwealth Secretariat. 2013. Educators in Exile: The Role and Status of Refugee Teachers. London, Commonwealth Secretariat.
OECD. 2005. Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers. Paris, OECD Publishing. edu/ school/ attractingdevelopingandretainingeffectiveteachers-homepage.htm (Accessed 21 March 2015.)
OECD. 2014a. Talis 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning. Paris, TALIS, OECD Publishing. 10.1787/ 9789264196261-en
OECD. 2014b. Education at a Glance 2014: OECD Indicators. Paris, OECD Publishing. edu/ Education-at-a- Glance-2014.pdf
UNESCO. 2014. Teaching and Learning: Achieving Quality for All – EFA Global Monitoring Report, 2013/14. Paris, UNESCO. new/ en/ education/ themes/ leading-the-international-agenda/ efareport/ reports (Accessed 21 March 2015)
UIS. 2013. A Teacher for Every Child: Projecting Global Teacher Needs from 2015 to 2030. UIS Fact Sheet No. 27, October 2013. Montreal, UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Education/ Documents/ fs27-2013-teachers-projections.pdf (Accessed 21 March 2015.)


  1. 1 Where considered useful for policy development, the Guide also refers to practices that do not appear to support good teacher policy.Back to main text


  1. 2 While in some countries, such as South Africa, the term educator is used, this Guide uses the word teacher as defined in the text.Back to main text


  1. 3 Learners’ in this guide refers interchangeably to ‘students’ or ‘pupils’.Back to main text