3.1.2 Attracting and retaining teachers

A teacher policy should have a recruitment strategy in place to ensure that an adequate number of the ‘right’ teachers enter the profession. It should identify the characteristics required of teachers and determine how to attract candidates with the desired profile. Likewise, the strategy should include plans to retain teachers: it is not efficient for education systems to use precious human and financial resources to train and recruit teachers who will not remain in the profession for at least a minimum duration. Strategies to retain teachers include:

  • Targeted recruitment to ensure the future or trainee teachers selected are committed, motivated and aware of the realities of teaching, rather than simply seeking to obtain a qualification
  • Ensuring employment and work conditions are attractive and conducive enough to retain teachers
  • Providing real options for career advancement, linked to CPD and access to increased responsibilities, along with appropriate incentives
  • Making a minimum period of exercise a requirement for benefiting from state-funded teacher training (so that teachers who do not teach for a minimum number of years after qualifying are required to reimburse part of their training cost).

A growing body of evidence shows that teacher attrition and low motivation are closely linked to factors such as work and employment conditions, remuneration, career prospects, administrative support for teachers (for example, timely payment of salaries), PTRs/class sizes, living conditions (especially housing and transport) and access to health care (Bennell, 2004; Bennell and Akyeampong, 2007; Mulkeen, 2010; Mulkeen and Chen, 2008; VSO, 2002 and 2008). Where country-specific information is not already available, research may be commissioned on the factors impacting on teacher recruitment, retention and motivation in a particular context.

A strategy to attract and retain teachers will be specific to a particular context and should directly address those factors that have been shown to minimize the attraction of teaching, hinder recruitment and contribute to attrition (Box 3.1).


Absence of access to suitable housing is one reason cited by teachers for leaving the profession. It is also frequently a barrier to deployment in remote rural zones. Provision of housing, either by the education authorities or by communities, has been used to retain teachers in a number of Anglophone African countries:

In the Gambia, where about 25% of teachers have some form of school housing, the government is using donor funds to provide permanent teacher housing in rural areas, at no charge to teachers. In combination with a significant hardship allowance for rural posting (up to 40% of basic salary in some cases), this is having a significant impact on the attraction and retention of teachers to rural schools.

In Lesotho, teacher housing is provided for some secondary school teachers, but rarely for primary teachers.

In Malawi, some schools provide houses for teachers. Teachers pay a rent, which is used for maintenance or other school activities, at the discretion of school management.

In Zambia, innovative schemes to attract and retain teachers are being used including, in Gwembe district, loans to female teachers in the most rural schools to purchase solar panels.x .

Adapted from: Mulkeen, Aiden, 2010. Teachers in Teachers in Anglophone Africa: Issues in Teacher Supply, Training and Management. Washington DC, World Bank. © World Bank https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/13545 License: Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY 3.0 IGO)This is an adaptation of an original work by UNESCO. Responsibility for the views and opinions expressed in the adaptation rests solely with the author or authors of the adaptation and are not endorsed by any member institution of the World Bank Group.

A recruitment policy may also encourage qualified, experienced teachers who have retired, taken career breaks or changed profession to return to teaching. Evidence shows that such a policy can provide a wealth of experienced teacher talent, particularly from the pool of qualified female teachers – often relatively young – who have taken career breaks for family reasons (OECD, 2005). Such returns should be structured as part of education human resource policies and should especially be accompanied with refresher training and ongoing CPD, in addition to induction and other appropriate professional support. Several states of Australia, such as Queensland (QCT, 2013), have organized and detailed programmes in place that clearly set out the requirements and conditions for returnees to reintegrate teaching.

3.1.1 Evidence-informed recruitment and retention strategies

3.1.3 Contract, para- and community teachers