With over 63 million teachers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, on World Teacher’s Day, UNESCO urges increased investment in teachers for Learning Recovery

Paris: Celebrating the central role of teachers to support students during the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s World Teachers’ Day (5 October) will highlight the need for better training, professional development and leadership skills to mitigate learning disparities and support inclusive education at all levels through the recovery and beyond.

The occasion will be marked by an online conference on this year’s World Teachers’ Day theme, Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future and the award of UNESCO-Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers to programmes in Brazil, Egypt and Portugal, opening a week of online events around the world encompassing all aspects and levels of education in a lifelong learning perspective.

Warning that “without urgent action and increased investment, a learning crisis could turn into a learning catastrophe,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder, and Education International General Secretary David Edwards call in a joint statement for the protection of education financing, investment in high-quality initial teacher education, as well as continuing professional development. “To build a resilient teacher workforce in times of crisis, all teachers should be equipped with digital and pedagogical skills to teach remotely, online, and through blended or hybrid learning, whether in high-, low- or no-tech environments,” reads the statement.

The statement recognizes the impact of the COVID-19 crisis which has affected over 63 million teachers, highlighted persistent weaknesses in many education systems and exacerbated inequalities.

A joint survey by UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank on responses to COVID-19 found that only half of all countries surveyed offered additional training on distance education for teachers, and fewer than one-third offered psycho-social support to help them handle the crisis.

Meanwhile, recent data published by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the International Task Force on Teachers and the Global Education Monitoring Report, shows that 81% of primary and 86% of secondary teachers have minimum required qualifications, with substantial regional variations, which leaves many teachers ill prepared to handle the challenges they face.

In sub-Saharan Africa, just 65% of primary and 51% of secondary teachers had the minimum required qualifications, figures that stand at 74% and 77% in South Asia. Globally, an estimated 69 million teachers, were needed to achieve universal education in 2030, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (over 24 million for primary education and over 44 million for secondary), a figure that is close to the entire global primary and secondary teacher workforce of 2019.

Furthermore, with learning inequalities at risk of widening, a new UNESCO policy paper to be published on 5 October shows that fewer than two thirds of countries train their teachers on inclusion. Produced by UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report and the Teachers Task Force, the paper shows that only around 4 in 10 countries address training on inclusion in their laws and policies and calls for training on inclusion to be mainstreamed into all teacher education.

On World Teachers’ Day, the UNESCO-Hamdan Prize, supported by Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates to enhance the effectiveness of teaching and learning, will be awarded to the following programmes:

The Escolas Conectadas platform of the Telefônica Vivo Foundation, launched in 2015 to promote the inclusion of educators in digital culture and foster the development of 21st century skills among students. Offering 38 distance education courses, the project reached 65,000 educators across Brazil in 2019.


School Transformation Journey of the Educate Me Foundation, a 3-year programme that seeks to develop the capacities of educators to become experts in 21st century learning, with emphasis on a culture of self-reliance. To date, the programme has reached 6,000 educators, 430 public schools and 7 Governorates across Egypt.

Apps for Good, implemented by the Centre for Digital Inclusion in Portugal since 2015, challenges students and teachers to develop applications for smartphones or tablets, showing them the potential of technology to transform their communities. Over the past six years it reached 13,080 students and 1,133 teachers from 448 schools, who in turn have developed over 1,000 technological solutions.