3.1.3 Contract, para- and community teachers

A growing number of countries in Africa, South and Southeast Asia and Latin America have moved away from a teacher corps largely or exclusively devoted to permanently employed teachers (civil service or other) to engage large numbers of contract teachers. Contract teachers are recruited for a variety of reasons in different country contexts:

  • Equity and access: to extend education access, especially in rural and remote regions facing difficulties to recruit qualified teachers
  • Economic: as a low-cost means of meeting budgetary constraints in teacher hiring
  • Accountability: to enhance local accountability by reducing teacher absenteeism and improving performance
  • Diversity: to recruit local teachers from the same ethnic or language group as learners from disadvantaged groups to improve their learning outcomes.

Contract teachers are usually recruited on temporary or fixed-term (usually annual) contracts. They may not possess a teaching qualification, often have minimal pedagogic training (from a few weeks to three to six months at most) and are paid much lower salaries than regular teachers (as low as one-eighth of a regular teacher’s salary). In many countries, contract teachers are younger, often less experienced and sometimes more of them are female, but these profiles are not uniform (Duthilleul, 2005; Fyfe, 2007; Kingdon et al., 2013).

The results of the various regimes are mixed. Contract teachers have permitted substantial increases in enrolments and lower PTRs in West African countries, where they were first introduced on a massive scale. However, these countries still rank at or near the bottom of international classifications for access to education and learning. On the other hand, India’s increased hiring of contract teachers has not worsened the quality of education, and in some local contexts may even have improved learning outcomes. The lower levels of training for contract teachers have reportedly been offset by an increased school and teaching effort, but the differences are often very small and the overall impact is minimal. Contract teachers are more likely to attend school than civil service teachers in Benin and India, but more likely to be absent in Indonesia and Peru (Alcázar et al., 2006; Bhattacharjea et al., 2011; Chaudhury et al., 2006; Senou, 2008). Absenteeism may be lower among contract teachers in countries such as Benin and India partly because they typically live in the communities where schools are located and have fewer non-teaching responsibilities than civil service teachers (UNESCO, 2014a: 268).

Several conditions ensure the successful use of contract teachers that are not simply related to their status. Among these is greater parental or community involvement, because the teachers are recruited locally. In one experiment in Kenya, the benefit of halving class size by hiring a contract teacher was observed only in communities where parents had been trained to monitor teachers, and relatives of local civil service teachers were not allowed to be hired as contract teachers (Duflo et al., 2012). Similarly, in Mali, the language and mathematics scores of Grades 2 and 5 students were consistently higher under contract teachers who were closely monitored by the local community (Bourdon et al., 2010; UNESCO, 2014a: 259).

Several initiatives have been developed to integrate progressively contract teachers into national teaching forces. Contract and community teachers in Benin have been absorbed into the civil service with the necessary training to meet national pre-service standards. Indonesia has an ambitious teacher appraisal, professional development and career programme to integrate its large percentage of contract teachers into the civil service, at the cost of a sizeable increase in the government’s education expenditure (Chang et al., 2014; UNESCO, 2014a: 258).

Several promising initiatives provide professional development support to untrained teachers through distance education. In Ghana, the Untrained Teacher Diploma in Basic Education programme provides support for more than half of the untrained teachers in the fifty-seven most disadvantaged districts (UNESCO, 2014a: 249).

Recruiting underqualified and undertrained community teachers can provide support for schools in remote areas and marginalized communities. In Viet Nam, the Teaching Assistants and School Readiness programme launched in 2006 has provided learning for over 100,000 children. Over 7,000 locally recruited bilingual teaching assistants in 32 provinces were deployed to help ethnic minority children in remote locations prepare for school through early childhood education activities for two months prior to their entry into Grade 1; the children were also provided additional instruction once they were in school, including help with learning Vietnamese (Harris, 2009; UNESCO, 2014a: 280). In Cambodia, teacher trainees normally have to complete Grade 12 for entry into teaching; however, this requirement was relaxed for remote areas where upper secondary education is unavailable, resulting in an increasing supply of teachers who are motivated to stay in remote areas and able to teach in the local language (Benveniste et al., 2008; UNESCO, 2014a: 235).

Some high- and middle-income countries have developed similar systems recruiting top-level tertiary graduates as teachers directly from higher education. These alternative entry routes, first initiated in the United States with the ‘Teach for America’ programme, recruit university graduates who are motivated to teach in disadvantaged urban and rural schools, providing them with limited initial training and induction prior to beginning teaching. These programmes have spread to several other OECD and Latin American countries. Independent reviews of the ‘Teach for America’ programme have shown that the teachers are as effective in achieving learning outcomes based on standardized tests as other similarly untrained teachers, but not as effective as certified beginning teachers who have undergone traditional teacher education preparation. Moreover, 50% of these young people leave teaching after two years and 80% after three years – an even higher ratio than the average attrition rates in the USA. This high turnover rate is costly in terms of providing stable learning environments for disadvantaged pupils and the added recruitment costs to the educational authorities employing them (Vasquez Heilig and Jez, 2014: 1, 13–14).

A teacher policy should carefully weigh the pros and cons of large-scale recruitment of contract teachers in relation to education access, quality and diversity objectives. Although often necessary and beneficial for greater access in rural and remote areas in low-income countries, two different entry qualifications and standards lead to a reduced professional status that hinders recruiting high-quality candidates in the long run. Such a programme can also lead to a poorer teaching and learning environment in schools, created by tensions and reduced cooperation between contract and permanently employed teachers. Although some of the examples discussed above show that it is possible to formulate good policy in less than ideal circumstances, when developing an appropriate policy for contract/community teachers, it is advisable to:Footnote 9

  • Establish a timeline for ensuring parity between contract/community and civil service teachers
  • Provide the professional development these teachers require and need
  • Institute induction, mentoring and supervisory programmes by qualified, experienced teachers or school directors to improve teaching practices
  • Ensure that contract/community teachers have similar rights and benefits compared to regular teachers
  • Involve teacher union representatives in decisions on such policy.

3.1.2 Attracting and retaining teachers

3.1.4 Teacher licensing or certification