Latin America is facing significant challenges in its education sector due to low teacher salaries and a shortage of educators. Teachers in the region earn lower wages compared to other professions with similar training requirements, making it difficult for them to make ends meet. The cost of living varies across countries, but teachers’ salaries often fail to keep up with the rising prices of essential goods. As a result, many teachers struggle financially despite their professional qualifications.
According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, there is a global shortage of 44 million teachers, with Latin America and the Caribbean needing at least 3.2 million to achieve the educational goals set for 2030. While two decades ago, the demand for teachers was primarily driven by increased school enrollment, today, the challenge lies in attracting and retaining candidates in the profession. The rate of teacher desertion in primary schools has doubled in seven years, reaching 9.06% in 2022. This trend threatens the ability to fill existing teaching positions in the future.
The shortage of teachers in Latin America is attributed to various factors, including job insecurity, lack of government support, limited digitalization, and outdated infrastructure. The education system in the region faces significant challenges in terms of teacher training, particularly in the digital realm. While progress has been made in adapting to new technologies, it often falls on teachers to acquire digital skills in their spare time. Access to training opportunities in emerging technologies remains limited, especially for rural teachers who are geographically disconnected from training institutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the challenges faced by teachers in Latin America. Many teachers had to adapt to remote learning and face additional hours of work to prepare classes and provide support to students. The return to in-person learning has been slow, leading to a setback in student learning equivalent to a decade. Moreover, nearly 15 million children dropped out of school due to the pandemic.
The shortage of teachers affects certain disciplines, such as mathematics and science, as well as schools that are more vulnerable or of Indigenous origin. Men, particularly those at the beginning or end of their careers, are more likely to leave the profession, contributing to the feminization of the teaching workforce.
To address these challenges, experts suggest various measures. They emphasize the need for practical training that aligns with the context of students and provides continuous support beyond graduation. Socio-emotional orientation is also considered crucial in preparing teachers. Additionally, efforts should be made to attract potential teachers early on and provide them with a clear understanding of the profession’s demands and rewards.
In conclusion, Latin America is grappling with low teacher salaries, a shortage of educators, and challenges in teacher training. The region requires significant efforts to improve the conditions and attractiveness of the teaching profession, including better salaries, greater government support, enhanced digitalization, and improved infrastructure. By investing in teachers and their professional development, Latin America can strive towards providing quality education for its children and achieving the educational goals set for 2030.