Teachers, the change makers!

Address by Irina Bokova,
Director-General of UNESCO
on the occasion of World Teachers’ Day
‘Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers’
UNESCO, 5 October 2017
Ms Anita Lehikoinen, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Culture,
Republic of Finland,
Mr David Edwards, Deputy General Secretary of Education International,
longstanding partner of UNESCO
Mr Oliver Liang, Head of Public and Private Services, International Labour Office,
Dear Educators,
Dear teachers and students,
Ladies and gentlemen,
This is my last celebration with you of World Teachers’ Day in my capacity as
Over the past 8 years I have cherished this Day, a UNESCO flagship, because it is
a day to celebrate women and men working on the frontlines in cities, in villages, to
build stronger societies and a better future.
Teaching is not just another job — it’s a commitment, it’s a vocation.
Teachers impart skills and knowledge to allow women and men to withstand the
pressures of change and make the most of its opportunities.
They also share values and wisdom.
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They share wonder and curiosity, providing keys that open up the world.
All societies today are undergoing transformation and seeking new sources of
dynamism to take forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
They need look no further than classrooms.
Classrooms are the barometers of a nation’s creativity.
They are the crystal balls of a society’s future.
This is why teachers matter.
Teachers are change-makers, for human rights and dignity, for inclusion, for
For this, they deserve respect and support – they deserve the right training and
conditions — they deserve the appropriate status and qualifications.
This is why the UNESCO / International Labour Organisation Recommendation on
the Status of Teachers is so important, and I recall the wonderful celebration we held
last year of the Recommendation’s 50th anniversary, in New York on the margins of
the United Nations General Assembly and here at Headquarters.
This is also the importance of the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status
of Higher Education Teaching Personnel, whose 20th anniversary we celebrate today.
Building on these, the 2015 Incheon Declaration was clear, with Member States
committing to “ensure teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited,
well-trained, professionally qualified and supported within well-resourced, efficient
and effectively governed systems.”
This sets the bar high, and this is only right… because in too many cases, teachers
are not getting the support they deserve, they face restrictions and barriers, they are
excluded from decisions that matter to them.
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Across the world, we see the teaching profession is sometimes under pressure…
from increasing management demands… from the rise of new technologies… from
exploding workloads and insufficient support.
These challenges are explored in UNESCO’s new Global Education Monitoring
Report, launched later this month, which highlights the urgent need to prepare
teachers to cope with increased demands for more accountability so learning doesn’t
Across the world, we see learning in crisis — new data from the UNESCO Institute for
Statistics shows 617 million children and adolescents worldwide are not achieving
minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics.

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