2.1.3 Teacher policy across education levels and priorities
Aligning teacher policy within a country’s different education levels – early childhood, primary, general and vocational secondary – and according to evolving priorities can enhance adaptability to ensure more cohesion in meeting changing education needs. Governments tend to compartmentalize teacher recruitment and preparation by education level. When deciding to enter the teaching profession, individuals usually seek a career at a certain education level. However, personal, professional and material conditions change and influence mobility among levels.
International standards encourage such possibilities. Government policy and planning should take into account that teachers choose to leave one level of education for another, or leave classroom teaching for other educational responsibilities in management, research or teacher preparation (ILO/UNESCO, 1966). By accommodating forward-looking planning to meet changing education needs, teacher policy can help avoid unnecessary shocks that lead to quantitative or qualitative shortages. Examples include:
- Assuring parity or comparability in salary and other employment conditions at different levels of education, according to skill requirements and education need – the growing importance of ECE and the need to recruit, educate and retain increasingly qualified teachers at this level in relation to primary schools is one example (ILO, 2014: 10–20 – see also Section 2.1.4)
- Reflecting the importance of primary or basic education (inclusive of lower secondary education) in terms of salaries, school resources and teaching conditions, compared to more subject-specialized higher secondary teachers. While the latter tend to be educated differently and remunerated at higher levels, there is an equal need for highly qualified, motivated and resourced primary or lower secondary school teachers (OECD, 2014a: 46–48)
- Putting policies in place to address teacher shortages at different levels originating from a generalized lack of qualified teachers or gaps in specific skill profiles (in terms of subject areas, languages, or pedagogical competences to meet specialized needs, such as those of young children and marginalized populations) (UNESCO, 2014a: 239–240)
- Planning for changing demographics in staffing needs and preparing for new education priorities, which requires:
- Recruiting more males to ECE or female teachers for primary and secondary schools in countries and areas where they are underrepresented, to facilitate girls’educational access
- Achieving a greater balance in rural/urban teacher deployment, including hard-to-staff disadvantaged schools in urban or remote areas (one of the thorniest problems facing policy- and decision-makers in a wide range of countries)
- Rejuvenating the profession when the teaching corps ages, adjusting for factors that drive attrition rates among young teachers or discourage new entrants
- Achieving inclusive education for disadvantaged populations, such as learners from ethnic minorities, nomadic or minority language communities, or learners with special education needs (OECD, 2005: 54–60; OECD, 2014a: 32–33, 40–43; UNESCO, 2014a: 22, 25, 28).
A forward-looking teacher policy, capable of anticipating and addressing potential difficulties and offering solutions to ensure effective teaching and learning despite resource constraints, is particularly important in exceptional crisis situations, where significant numbers of both teachers and learners may be internally displaced or refugees (Education International – EI, 2014a; Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies – INEE, 2009; Teacher Task Force, 2011a; UNESCO, 2014a; see also Section 3.1). These situations include:
- Civil strife or armed conflict zones, internally or externally generated
- Emergencies created by natural or human-made disasters
- Exceptional public health challenges, such as the 2014 West African Ebola crisis or the continued fall-out from HIV in a number of countries.