Transforming the Education Workforce Report

It takes a team to educate a child.

Transforming the Education Workforce: Learning Teams for a Learning Generation offers new visions for strengthening, diversifying, and reimagining an education workforce that can deliver inclusive, quality education for all. The workforce is an education system’s biggest investment and one of its greatest levers for change. This new report draws on existing evidence and innovations from education and other sectors to rethink the education workforce needed for the future. It puts forward approaches for addressing immediate needs while also creating collaborative teams and systems that respond to our rapidly changing world to equip our young people with the skills they need for the future.

Explore the Report

Despite progress in some areas, there is a serious risk the world will not achieve inclusive, quality education by 2030 as set out by Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4). There are still more than 260 million children out of school and more than 600 million who are in school aren’t learning. The Education Commission estimated that on current trends, even by 2030, more than 800 million children will not be on track to achieve basic secondary level skills.

Most experts now agree that making further and faster progress will require deeper reforms of education systems. While education systems face varying obstacles depending on their stage of development and context, common characteristics have been identified in top performing education systems. The key strategies they use to improve student outcomes center around developing a quality teacher workforce. Teachers are at the heart of the learning process and developing an effective teacher workforce is crucial. However, other roles and relationships, such as school leadership and management roles, have also been found to be strongly associated with better educational outcomes. In addition, support roles have been critical in helping reach those left behind, and district and state roles are important in using results to drive strategic investment and system change.

Defining the education workforce

This report takes a holistic understanding of the education workforce and follows the lead of other sectors, such as early childhood development, which defines its primary workers more broadly. In this report, the term education workforce will be used to describe teachers and all persons who work directly to support the provision of education to students in education systems.

This includes people working across all functions relevant for providing education: leadership and management, teaching and learning, student welfare, operations, and administration. The education workforce includes both compensated and volunteer roles and even communities and families when directly involved in formal education processes with schools.

A range of factors affects the slow and stalled progress on education goals, but much of it is driven by education workforce challenges. These can be categorized broadly into three core issues: the supply and distribution of trained and qualified teachers; the effectiveness of teachers and other members of the workforce in ensuring quality and inclusive education; and the ability of the workforce to keep pace with change. Although these challenges affect many types of education systems, they vary significantly in degree and substance depending on the specific context and stage of a system’s development. Not every country will face all these issues – each education system will have a unique set of challenges it must diagnose to move forward.

Teacher demand graph

The report’s vision for an education workforce able to deliver on SDG 4 includes three interacting stages:

  1. Strengthening the education workforce- immediate incremental change to address the most pressing challenges through strengthening the existing workforce
  2. Developing learning teams- shift to a team-based education workforce
  3. Transforming into learning systems- a more paradigm-shifting change through transforming an education system

The process of change will not be linear, however. Reform will be an interactive and iterative process in which the workforce is continuously strengthening, forming the basis for the creation of learning teams and learning systems. Given that challenges vary between
and within countries, these visions will  need to adapt to the needs of the specific context and are likely to involve hybrid approaches.

Three intersecting visions for the education workforce to reach system goals

Three intersecting visions for the education workforce to reach system goals

Strengthening the education workforce envisions an effective education workforce at all levels in the system, with coherent approaches to the professionalization of teachers and other key roles throughout the workforce life cycle – from recruitment and preparation to professional development and career progression to workforce leadership and management.

Learning teams collaborate inside the classroom, within schools, within districts, and even at national and international levels. These teams of professionals collectively focus on improving the learning and inclusion of all students and continually learn themselves.

Comparison between current classroom design and learning team design

Learning systems harness learning teams, networks of education professionals, cross-sectoral partnerships, data, and evidence to create a system that is coherently organized with a focus on learning and the ability to learn and adapt itself.

This chapter is divided into two key sections. The first section explores navigating the political economy of workforce reforms and provides considerations for and examples of strategies that have been used to address the political economy challenges and opportunities of implementing education workforce reforms. It is structured using the stages of a reform process: initiating and designing reforms; implementing reforms; scaling up and sustaining reforms.

The second section offers considerations around planning, costing, and financing the education workforce, including:

  1. Existing planning and costing models of the workforce across a range of low- and lower-middle-income countries by assessing how the education workforce is modeled now; identifying where improvements can be made; and highlighting lessons from other sectors.
  2. Improving workforce investments taking into account economy, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and equity.
  3. Financing education workforce reforms, including the role of national governments and the international community.
  4. An illustrative example of modeling workforce reform

The Education Commission calls on countries to take on the challenge of reforming the education workforce, working with the members of their workforce, national and international organizations, and researchers to test, analyze, scale, and promote reforms that better support the education workforce and young people to learn and work together and build the skills they need to succeed.

This report recommends:

  1. Develop a workforce diagnostic tool underpinned by reliable data, indicators, and improved costing models to help countries diagnose the challenges and improve the design and management of their workforce.
  2. Experiment, research, and evaluate to explore what works and at what cost.
  3. Lead coalitions for change at all levels.

Acknowledgements & Endorsements

The Education Commission is grateful to the many organizations and individuals that have made substantial contributions to this report either directly or through various consultations and discussions. We are particularly thankful for the input of our Education Workforce Initiatve High-Level Steering Group as well as the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development .

Teacher quality is the most important factor at school level for a student’s success. Without smart investments in teachers and the rest of the education workforce, we will fail our youth. This failure is something we cannot afford.

Matthew Rycroft
Permanent Secretary of the UK Department For International Development


The education workforce must evolve to keep pace with the rapidly changing world we live in and embrace the new opportunities these changes bring.

Ju-Ho Lee
Chair, Education Workforce Initiative
Professor, KDI School of Public Policy and Management

Former Minister of Education, Science, and Technology, South Korea


We need to treat all teachers and education support personnel as trusted and valued professionals. We need to professionalise and invest in teaching, leadership, management and support roles to help them do their jobs well.

Susan Hopgood
Vice-chair, Education Workforce Initiative
President, Education International (EI)
Federal Secretary, Australian Education Union (AEU)


Learning systems allow local education workforce leaders to collaborate across schools, communities, and borders. Knowledge sharing networks are key for accelerating progress towards achieving educational equity.

Wendy Kopp
CEO and Co-founder, Teach For All

By encouraging collaboration, learning teams can reignite the intrinsic motivation of the education workforce to create a lifelong love of learning in our children.

Sharath Jeevan
Founder & CEO, STiR Education

To have any chance at achieving equitable, quality education for all by 2030, we urgently need to harness the broader education workforce. It is an education system’s biggest investment and one of its greatest levers for change. With only 10 years left until 2030, this must be the decade of delivery. We have no time to waste. Now is the time for all actors – and most importantly policymakers and members of the education workforce themselves – to be open to new ways of working and learning together.

Jordan Naidoo – UNESCO

CAMFED’s programmes are designed around the recognition that communities play an important role in the education ecosystem, as part of the extended education workforce. We invest in their activism and recognize their expertise and deep insight into the local context. Together, we are supporting girls to succeed in education and in life.

 Lucy Lake – Camfed

It takes a team to educate a child. Supporting teachers with learning teams will go some way to making sure every child learns what they need to thrive in this century

Dr. Evelyn Oduro
Executive Secretary, National Teaching Council

We don’t just have a climate emergency, we have an education emergency. Today 260 million children are not in school and more than 600 million children in school are not learning the basics. Unless we take drastic measures, half of the world’s children – 800 million – will not be on track to learn the skills needed to thrive in 2030. To address this learning crisis, we urgently need to recruit 69 million teachers and provide them with the training and support they need.

Gordon Brown – UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Education Commission Chair

Supporting Documents


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