In 1994, UNESCO declared October 5th World Teachers’ Day in order to call attention to the fact that “all over the world, a quality education offers hope and the promise of a better standard of living.” UNESCO identifies teacher shortage as a major problem in 2012, and recent reports confirm their claim. In the latter half of September, teacher shortages were reported in countries such as India, the Dominican Republic, and in a total of 114 countries worldwide. This fact presents a significant problem for countries such as North Korea, Brazil, South Africa, India, and Barundi, which have all made efforts to increase the amount of time students spend in the classroom. In contrast, Spain has seen education cuts that have left many teachers desperate for work, Guatemala has instituted new teacher education requirements that make it more difficult, and expensive, to enter the teaching profession, and Austria’s conservative party (ÖVP) has proposed a radical reform (“Mission Austria 2025”) that would alter teachers’ working conditions, including an increase in the number of hours teachers spend in the classroom.
Several reports have also shown that many countries have differing opinions about the ease of access to education through testing. While the UK has been debating whether or not it would be “cruel” to make university entrance exams any easier, India has taken steps to ease the entry process. Ultimately, the UK decided to replace the GCSEs with an English Baccalaureate Certificate that officials say will raise standards and streamline a overly complicated system. In a similar move, South Korea adopted a new English-language exam (NEAT), which they intend to use in place of the American TOEFL exam in the college application process in 2013.
Meanwhile, countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia have been looking for ways to make school curricula more creative and interesting to students, in a move they believe will foster higher order thinking and cut down on test-prep approaches to schooling. Sweden is going so far as to rethink school building design in an effort to promote collaboration and creativity in primary school students, while South Korea is implementing policy that aims to prevent excessive “prior learning,” or tutoring, sought by parents in an effort to make sure their children are well-prepared for upcoming high-stakes tests. The high standards that many countries have put in place to promote academic achievement have led countries such as Romania and Switzerland to seek vocational alternatives to higher education.