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Globally, most teachers are trained but in sub-Saharan Africa, the percentage of trained teachers fell gradually from 84% in 2000 to 61% in 2016.


2030 Target

100% of teachers are trained

Good quality education cannot be equated with, or reduced to, learning outcomes. Too many children are denied sufficiently trained teachers, good school infrastructure or a safe, non-violent learning environment.

It is hard to monitor good quality education because each country understands and defines it in different ways. Apart from learning outcomes, there are not many indicators for measuring quality in the global education goal, SDG 4.


Teachers are the cornerstone of quality in education. However, after 2000, in the push to achieve universal primary education, many more students entered the classroom and the recruitment of teachers did not keep pace. There are over-crowded classrooms as a result, and the quality of education is suffering.

Learn more about the framework for education quality

The below graphs look at the ratio of pupils to teachers in school. In some sub-Saharan African countries, while the ratio has improved since 2000, the pupil per teacher ratio is still worse than in 1990.

The number of pupils per teacher has generally been declining outside of phases of rapid school expansion

In sub-Saharan Africa, after the push to make primary school free between 1990 and 2000, children entered classrooms faster than countries could recruit new teachers. Pupil-teacher-ratios increased often fairly dramatically as a result.

In Northern America and Europe, meanwhile, the ratio has been constant at about 15 students per teacher since 2005.

Teaching is a challenging task and teachers who are not well prepared enter the classroom with a serious deficit. There are two main ways that countries measure how well prepared they are. Teachers are assessed by:

  • Firstly, whether they are qualified, which indicates whether they have the expected academic credentials according to national standards or not.
  • Secondly, whether they are trained, which, regardless of their qualification, assesses if they received appropriate teacher training or not.

Being trained means that teachers have received training in pedagogical knowledge  and professional knowledge . Some programmes may also cover content knowledge . But the type of training required differs by country and relevant information is scarce. Because of these differences, despite being a crucial element of a quality education, the indicator on trained teachers [4.c.1] is one of the least comparable in the SDG 4 monitoring framework.

Globally, as the below graph shows, the majority of teachers are qualified, trained, or both. For instance, in Latin America and the Caribbean, just under 90% of teachers are trained.

By contrast, in sub-Saharan Africa, the percentage of trained teachers fell from 84% in 2000 to 61% in 2016.

Only two-thirds of teachers in sub-Saharan Africa are trained according to national standards

There is no easy fix for countries that lack qualified and trained teachers. Many do not have enough eligible teachers to meet the demand given the low number of tertiary graduates overall. This goes to show how inter-connected problems within an education system can become: problems in one level, such as low secondary school completion, can easily result in repercussions elsewhere, such as limited trained teachers for students later on.


An appropriate learning environment must have adequate water and sanitation facilities, especially for girls. Yet, basic water was available in only 44% of primary schools in sub-Saharan Africa, 79% in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, and 85% in Central and Southern Asia.

Learn more about the framework for education quality

In particular, sanitation facilities that lack privacy may not be considered safe, while facilities where menstrual hygiene cannot be practiced can prevent girls from attending school. Having single-sex sanitation facilities is therefore a crucial policy move to prevent widespread late enrolment at primary school and female drop out from school over time.

The below graph shows that fewer than half of primary schools have single-sex sanitation facilities not only in sub-Saharan Africa but also in Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, and the Philippines. In Afghanistan, only 31% of primary, 61% of lower secondary and 77% of upper secondary schools had access to single-sex sanitation facilities.

In poorer countries, a majority of primary schools do not have single-sex (or even any) sanitation facilities

Caution is needed in interpreting these estimates, as definitions vary. Some assume adequate sanitation means having extremely basic toilets such as pit latrines, others only count functional toilets, while others would only count toilets meeting national standards. Precise definitions are unavailable for 60% of countries.

Electricity is a basic need for a quality learning environment and yet many countries are without it. In low income countries, 68% of primary and 48% of upper secondary schools do not have electricity.

As the below graph shows, fewer than half of primary schools have electricity in India, Honduras and the Lao PDR. In some sub-Saharan African countries, access to electricity is extremely rare in schools: 9% of schools have electricity in Madagascar, 4% in the Central African Republic and just 2% in Liberia. Without electricity, light may be inadequate, and teachers cannot use computers for administration or training. A lack of electricity means there will be no ventilation, cooling or heating, which may render classrooms unsuitable for teaching and learning.

A lack of electricity also means that using technology and the internet is impossible. However, electricity is not the only factor slowing down the spread of the internet. In middle income countries, 40% of primary schools and 35% of upper secondary schools had electricity but no internet. Even if schools are connected to a power source, power surges and brownouts are common. Internet connectivity depends on the national telecommunications infrastructure, geography and schools’ ability to pay for the service.

The availability of internet at school often lags far behind electrification

In Egypt, while all primary schools have electricity, only 48% have access to the internet. The same is true for 57% of schools in Palestine, 58% in Tunisia, 67% in Jordan, 35% in Mauritius, 16% in Eswatini and 14% in Samoa.

Many Latin American countries have schools with no electricity and no internet. Only 50% of schools in Ecuador and Peru, 40% in Argentina, Colombia and El Salvador, 22% in Costa Rica and 6% in Paraguay can say they have access to both. One exception is Uruguay, where 100% of primary schools have access to both.


School-related violent acts or threats can be psychological, physical or sexual and occur on school premises but also on the way to school, at home or in cyberspace. They often come about because of unequal power dynamics and are often the result of negative gender norms and stereotypes.

While attention usually focuses on extreme events, such as shootings, it is the more common and often unnoticed forms of violence such as bullying that have the largest negative impact on children and adolescents' education. Data on these issues remains insufficient because the questions that are asked when collecting data involve different definitions of violent behaviour, different time scales for reporting, incomparable response options, privacy arrangements or ethical protocols. This is in addition to under-reporting also taking place for forms of violence such as homophobic bullying, which involve taboos.

Learn more about the framework for education quality

Bullying is the most widely documented form of violence in schools. It can include physical violence, verbal abuse and the intent to cause psychological harm through humiliation or exclusion. The below figure shows that one in three adolescents, frequently more boys than girls, are victims of bullying.

Being bullied at school is a common experience in all countries

Physical violence can involve being involved in physical fights at school, carrying or being threatened by a weapon such as a gun, knife or club on school property, being a gang member or associate, or suffering physical violence in the hands of a staff member.

About 40% of 13- to 15-year-olds in 37 countries reported having been involved in physical fights between 2009 and 2012, and the prevalence reached almost 70% in Samoa, while it was above 50% in other Pacific Island states, such as the Solomon Islands and Tonga. School violence is also a major problem in the Caribbean, in countries such as Antigua and Barbuda and Jamaica.


Internationally comparable data on teacher indicators is surprisingly scarce at the same time. Relatively few countries report even a basic headcount of teachers, and that does not take teaching hours, teachers in administrative positions and other complexities into account. A typology of standards for trained teachers is needed so that we can properly see the gaps and elevate this issue to the global level.

The provision of ‘child, disability and gender sensitive’ education facilities and ‘safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all’ is a challenge in many countries as this article shows. Meanwhile, measuring progress on the issue is hard because the relevant global indicator is not a single measure, but a set of several dimensions.

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