According to the United Nations SDG 4 on Education, teachers are a fundamental condition for guaranteeing quality education and therefore, they (teachers and educators) should be empowered, well recruited and remunerated, motivated, professionally qualified, and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems. The importance of teachers to educational systems can further be interpreted through the reliance of all the SDG4 targets for actualization. Based on the foregoing, it is crucially important to stress that the teacher quality and quantity issue within the global education agenda requires urgent attention. More than before, now with a more immediate deadline, the equity gap in education is widening as a result of the shortage and uneven distribution of professionally trained teachers, especially in disadvantaged areas.
For instance, in Nigeria, access to quality education in rural areas is disheartening and sad. Millions of children are out of school while many attending is been left catered for in schools with extremely porous security measures, inadequate furniture, poor and dilapidated infrastructures, no access to portable and clean water, no access to technology and above all unconducive learning environments.
Amidst the several challenges that battles the country’s educational system, lack of qualified and trained teachers remains a major bottleneck that affects academic attainment and educational outcomes. It is critical to note that recruitment processes are not fair and credible as nepotism, religion, and tribal links plays a deciding factor or requirement for employability rather than competence. This has consistently resulted to poor teaching and mass failure of the students when competence is being substituted for parochial tribal and religion interests. Also, the few teachers whom we still find in the classrooms today are either poorly remunerated and untrained. They lack basic teaching techniques and as such, they make teaching complex and cumbersome for the students to comprehend and learn. Meanwhile, as a result of this huge deficiency, the targets of UN by 2030 for 69 Million new teachers needs to be addressed. The absence of qualified and trained educators has continually affected the growth and development of some communities.
Another major challenge is that there are little or no learning materials and resources for the educators and students. While learning and teaching materials are unavailable to the students and teachers due to unequal allocation and distribution of resources, this is often heightened by the poverty levels in rural areas. Parents in low-income communities cannot afford to purchase writing materials and textbooks for their children. As a result of all these, teachers and student have access to outdated texts, resources and learning guides that do not meet the recent teaching or learning targets or enable learners develop skills and competencies for the 21st century and the future of work. This hinders our students from being globally competitive and employable upon graduation. All of these can be addressed if the Quality of teachers is being improved through various channels. Using Nigeria as a case study, there are certain actions that needs to be set in motion to achieve sector-wide results.
First and foremost, the institutional framework of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, a critical stakeholder in ensuring quality teachers, must be revised. This council is charged with the responsibility of ensuring training and retraining, instructional material development, periodic renewal of teacher’s licenses, capacity building of supervisors and inspectors of education amongst other things. If the council’s operations can be revamped and its processes are genuinely administered and monitored without nepotism, the quality of teachers in the classrooms will surely be improved leading to rapid progress of educational outcomes for the educational system.
Furthermore, if every teacher has continuous and unhindered access to professional development courses, quality is ensured. Through exposure to recent learning and teaching trends, particularly innovative curriculum design, development and delivery strategies, the quality of teachers will be maximally upturned. Therefore, when teachers are recruited with the minimum teaching qualifications, they should be allowed to seek further trainings and professional courses that will in turn broaden their knowledge and expertise in areas of specific interests.
Most significantly, it is crucial to mention that teacher education holds a significant effect on the quality of teachers. Since competence and efficiency sits at the heart knowledge delivery and transfer, it is fundamental that teacher education is prioritised and geared towards producing highly motivated, conscientious and efficient classrooms teachers. As a matter of urgency, Nigeria needs to put in place a functional and comprehensive teacher education scheme that must be adopted nationally as a guide and agent of change to promote probity, equity and quality teachers.