• Teachers are the single most important factor affecting how much students learn. More than just conduits of information, they equip children with the tools to analyze, problem solve, and effectively use information—skill necessary to lead healthy and productive lives. But many education systems worldwide, especially in less developed countries, are failing to prepare, support, motivate, and manage their teachers. As a result, many children attending school still lack foundational literacy, numeracy, and socio-emotional skills necessary to reach their full potential.

    Lost teaching time is a challenge facing many school systems: In Latin America, about 20 percent of potential instructional time is lost—the equivalent of one fewer day of instruction a week. These problems are more severe in remote communities, amplifying the disadvantages already facing rural students.

    The challenges are particularly salient because absenteeism wastes considerable resources. Data from 1,300 villages in India shows nearly 24 percent of teachers were absent during unannounced visits—which costs the country about $1.5 billion per year. Reducing absenteeism in these schools would be more than ten times more cost effective at increasing student-teacher contact time than hiring additional teachers.

    Another challenge is the short supply of high-quality teachers. In many countries, teachers don’t know the subjects they are tasked with teaching. A recent World Bank study of seven African countries found that nearly a quarter of primary school teachers cannot subtract double-digit numbers and one-third of the teachers cannot multiply double-digit numbers. Teachers also lack pedagogical skills to better transmit knowledge to students: the same study found that less than 10 percent of teachers deploy best practices in their teaching.

    As governments across the world look to increase student learning, supporting teachers and giving them the right tools is a critical first step. 

  • The World Bank Group (WBG) is working with governments, development experts, and education specialists to ensure every classroom has a competent, supported, motivated, and caring teacher who can help students learn. Based on extensive research, including the 2018 World Development Report, Learning to Realize Education’s Promise, the WBG has identified several teacher policy goals:

    Attracting the best into teaching. Currently, most education systems do not attract applicants with strong backgrounds. Talented, mission-oriented individuals will be more inclined to enter teaching if entry requirements signal that it is a well-regarded profession, if compensation and working conditions are supportive, and if teachers have attractive career opportunities to develop as professionals. Better selection and retention, alongside policies that transition ineffective teachers out of the teaching force, will have positive long-term effects on teacher quality. 

    Motivating teachers to perform. Incentives are essential for effective teaching, and systems need to find ways to support teachers’ motivation. This may mean providing opportunities for career development, rewarding teachers not just based on seniority but also based on their commitment and effectiveness, increasing the prestige of teachers within the community, and supporting them consistently in the classroom.

    Providing more effective training. While professional development programs are widespread, they are often one-off methods that are not evidence-based and largely ineffective. Programs need to be targeted and repeated, with follow-up coaching and ongoing mentorship. A survey of 38 countries found that 91 percent of teachers had participated in professional development in the previous year. But training is often short, theoretical, and of low quality, with little to show for it. To be effective, teachers need to be trained with concrete techniques, such as how to manage the classroom, engage students, reduce transition time, and effectively check student comprehension.  

    Improving metrics to support teaching. Most education systems do not assess learning and without metrics, teachers cannot teach to student ability. In many classrooms, learners are falling behind and only the most advanced students are continuing to learn. Struggling students, meanwhile, reach a point where they can’t catch up. A key principle to leave no student behind is to help teachers teach students at their level, often by relying on community teachers to provide remedial lessons to the lowest performers, reorganizing classes by ability, or using technology to adapt lessons. Often, it doesn’t require more teacher effort, but rather the tools and know-how to restructure the classroom.


    The WBG is working with countries to create knowledge around what works and what doesn’t in improving teacher training and development. A recent report, What do teachers know and do? Does it matter? Evidence from primary schools in Africa, examines the learning crisis in African schools and uses data from nationally representative surveys to quantify teacher effort, knowledge, and skills. It found that, on average, students receive two hours and fifty minutes of teaching per day—or just over half the scheduled time. In addition, large numbers of teachers do not master student curricula, basic pedagogical knowledge is low, and the use of good teaching practices is rare.

    The WBG report, Great Teachers: How to Raise Student Learning in Latin America and the Caribbean, distills the latest evaluation evidence and practical experience with teacher policy reforms from both within and outside the region. It describes how teacher absenteeism, poor preparation, low skill level and pay, and weak school leadership deprive students of a quality education in the region. To help countries address these challenges, it presents evidence on how to enhance student learning, including improvements on how to recruit, groom and motivate great teachers.

    The WBG is also working with governments around the world on the SABER-Teachers program, which gathers and analyzes data on the teacher policies that govern public schools in education systems, in both developing and developed countries.

    Drawing on extensive global evidence, SABER-Teachers empowers countries with information they can use to align their teacher policies to promote greater teacher effectiveness. SABER-Teachers has been used to provide guidance in dozens of countries, with many more analyses underway, and has contributed to policy and program design in Yemen, Bulgaria, Morocco and Mozambique

    Additional WBG reports focus on teacher management in specific countries, such as Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Malawi, Indonesia, and Bihar, India. There are also impact evaluations on the effects of an at-scale teacher certification programs in Indonesia and a report that examines a teacher training program in Mongolia which, when delivered with the distribution of books, significantly improved student achievement.  

  • The WBG is supporting teachers around the world through financing, policy advice, technical support, and partnership activities at the country, regional, and global levels.

    Indonesia: In December 2005, the Indonesian government passed a Teacher Law to provide training and increase teachers’ salary as a means of improving the basic education quality. The law mandated all teachers to have four-year university degrees and to become certified before receiving a salary increase. The WBG’s Better Education through Reformed Management and Universal Teacher Upgrading (BERMUTU) program supported the implementation of the law, which included upgrading teachers’ academic qualifications, strengthening principals’ skills, and evaluating the reforms’ effects. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of teachers with the required four-year degree rose to 1.7 million— well above the 1.4 million target. An in-depth study of the project revealed ongoing teacher quality challenges, which the government is using to guide additional policy reforms.

    Pakistan: Although Pakistan has made progress in increasing enrollment, it still has the world’s second highest out-of-school population. It has 6.7 million youth out of school and more than half of them girls. The WBG’s Second Sindh Education Sector Reform Project and Third Punjab Education Sector Project are helping the governments of Sindh and Punjab improve access to and quality of the school system. The projects include new teacher training and innovative recruitment methods. As part of the Punjab project, classroom observations are being used to assess teacher coaching needs and provide every teacher in Punjab with appropriate support. The program builds on the positive experience in Ceara, Brazil, where classroom observation and teacher coaching improved student performance.  

    Malawi: The WBG is working with the government of Malawi to improve education through better teacher management policies. Teachers are concentrated in the country’s urban centers and in individual rural schools that have relatively better amenities. The result is that student-teacher ratios are one teacher for 57 students in urban areas, compared to one teacher for 152 teachers in rural areas. The WBG is working with the government and district officials across Malawi’s 34 districts to improve the distribution of teachers to the neediest schools and provide sustainable incentives to encourage teachers to remain in rural areas that need them most. In 2016, an additional 4,000 teachers were deployed to in-need schools, with the goal of further increasing the number of teachers in remote areas so that all students—regardless of where they live—can learn the skills to succeed.

    Cameroon: With support from the Global Partnership for Education, the government of Cameroon is improving the quality and access of primary education, by hiring additional contract teachers to reduce the student-teacher ratio. The program formalizes the role of contract teachers, particularly in underprivileged areas, and ensures that they receive training and regular salaries so that they can supplement the existing pool of civil servant teachers. The program aims to increase the overall number of teachers. Since 2014, it has hired more than 6,000 new contract teachers, with an additional 3,000 to be recruited by 2018.

  • The WBG fosters global partnerships to improve teacher development around the world and has partnered with governments, multilaterals, donor agencies, foundations, and international NGOs. Recent partnerships include:

    DFAT (Australia)

    DFID (UK)

    Global Partnership for Education

    International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 (EFA)

    Kingdom of the Netherlands

    UNESCO Bangkok