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Aid Group Calls for Tougher Global Teacher Standards

The anti-poverty group Action Aid is calling for tougher global standards for teachers. Tendai Maphosa has more in this VOA report from London.

In a statement marking International Teachers' Day, the anti-poverty agency Action Aid called for the recruitment of properly trained teachers across the world if children are to get quality education.

Action Aid says some governments are responding to the growing numbers of children in schools by employing untrained teachers. This, the organization said is a "low cost" solution as the untrained teachers earn much less than proper teachers, have no employment rights, and cannot join unions.

The statement mentions India where over 500 thousand untrained teachers have been recruited in recent years, and the practice is also on the rise in other developing countries.

Action Aid spokesperson David Archer says the problem is not always a shortage of trained teachers. Archer says the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other donors are involved in the restructuring of many economies in developing nations and impose conditions on how those countries should run their economies.

"The impact of that is that governments decide if they are going to employ a teacher, it's much better to employ somebody whom they can pay a third of the salary of a trained teacher so that they can get three teachers for the price of one," he noted.

The Action Aid statement says the IMF treats spending on education as short-term consumption rather than recognizing spending on trained teachers as one of the soundest long-term economic investments a country can make.

It says the effect of these IMF policies is a dual education system across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Urban schools attract the trained teachers, while untrained teachers who are barely literate teach children in many rural schools.

However Archer said the problem is not limited to developing countries.

"There are similar challenges about governments in developed countries seeking to sort of cut corners and bring in teaching assistants into the classroom and this is being vigorously challenged in many places," he added. "If the additional assistants were there who can help to support small groups of children who can help in certain ways, that's great. It's good to have additional adults to assist and to help, but they are not properly trained teachers and shouldn't be given responsibility for whole class teaching, because that undermines quality."

Action Aid warns that if the notion that untrained people can teach becomes accepted, few people will choose teaching as a career. And if this happens, the organization says, childrens' right to an education will be violated.