Ways to Support a Strong Teaching Workforce in Education and Training

A teacher professional development program can include annual workshops on foundational literacy teaching of specific school subjects. Photo credit: ADB.

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Teachers need to continuously hone their competencies to help students adapt to the changing needs of the times.


The increasingly complex needs of students as they prepare for further education and work in the 21st century has highlighted the need for teacher professional development. Initial and continuing education initiatives for teachers who are willing to enhance their knowledge and skills will, in turn, improve student learning outcomes.

The concept of effective teacher professional development is to secure and maintain a high-quality teacher workforce (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2005). As professionals, teachers need to continuously develop their expertise; develop competencies to respond to changing needs, social situations, or the school environment; and effectively solve various and complex problems arising in the education field. As demands for deeper and more complex student learning have intensified, practitioners, researchers, and policy makers have begun to think more systematically about how to improve teachers’ learning; from recruitment, preparation, and support to mentoring and other leadership opportunities (Darling-Hammond et al. 2017).

The Teacher Professional Development Case Studies: K-12, TVET, and Tertiary Education published by the Asian Development Bank discusses ways to create sustainable and high-quality teacher capacity development systems for K-12 education, technical and vocational education and training (TVET), and higher education. The case studies from different parts of the world provide examples of effective education programs and highlight the core aspects of successful training systems: (i) well-structured training components before and during service, (ii) adequate and targeted academic and area-specific training components; and (iii) innovative practices in teaching and learning methods. Examples of successful teacher professional development in raising student achievement can help policy makers and practitioners better understand what quality teacher professional learning looks like.


Teachers have the most direct and immediate influence on changes in education. Thus, continuous efforts are necessary for them to acquire new knowledge, skills, and attitude according to social changes and changes in teaching and learning methods through teacher professional development programs from K-12 to TVET and Higher Education.

However, many developing countries face major challenges in supporting teacher development according to the 2019 Global Partnership for Education report. These include (i) weak subject content and academic knowledge and classroom skills; (ii) poor quality pre- and in-service teacher training and inadequate standards, certification, and accreditation procedures; and (iii) a lack of ongoing support from head teachers, schools, and districts. By failing to provide teachers with broad access to effective teacher professional development, teachers’ effectiveness, sense of purpose, and career advancement opportunities will stagnate (Garcia and Weiss 2019).

The UNESCO (2015) monitoring report indicates that many developing countries have tried to strengthen policy frameworks and design innovative programs to boost the status of the teaching profession. The priority is to secure the necessary number of teachers and provide suitable teacher professional development.

Teacher Professional Development Programs

Blended and online learning

One kind of teacher professional development is a technology-supported, blended model that complements the face-to-face training-of-trainers model. A blended model implemented in the Philippines had two components: (i) guided independent study of self-study multimedia courseware, with classroom application of concepts learned; and (ii) collaborative learning in a school-based mentoring and co-learning mechanism. The program was piloted over 5 months from November 2016 to March 2017 with 4,030 K−3 teachers from 240 schools in 31 divisions who had not previously taken the face-to-face Early Language Literacy and Numeracy or similar course. Two tests administered to a random sample of 434 pilot teachers before and after course delivery showed a significant improvement in the teachers’ content and academic knowledge as well as in the needs and strengths assessment scores at the end of the pilot, with some variations between subgroups of teachers. The pilot project was supported by the United States Agency for International Development through the Philippine-American Fund.

The Faculty of Education and Human Development of the Education University of Hong Kong, China also considers blended and online learning as a key driver of teaching and learning quality. With the support of the faculty leadership, the Technology-Enhanced Learning Hub was established in 2015 to build the capacity of the teachers for blended and online learning, develop online teaching and learning resources, and explore emerging technologies through professional learning and support, customized professional learning sessions, and access to related resources, among others.

In East Africa, universities conducted workshops to improve teacher capacity on blended learning methodology and assessment. The Partnership for Enhanced and Blended Learning project enables universities to share scarce teaching resources through quality assured, credit-bearing degree courses, delivered through blended learning. It equips academics in more than 20 universities with the knowledge and skills to develop and teach blended courses.

Centers for Teaching and Learning

Viet Nam’s LILAMA 2 International Technology College in Dong Nai demonstrated how a center of excellence—in close collaboration with industry partners—ensures the continuous upgrading of teachers’ competencies for the requirements of Industry 4.0 and digitalization. The Industry 4.0 lab on LILAMA 2’s campus was inaugurated in September 2018 in partnership with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and Bosch-Rexroth, a leader in Internet of Things technologies with a long history of recruiting students from LILAMA 2. It aims to enhance the supply of skilled workers in the country through training of TVET teachers and integration of Industry 4.0 requirements in existing training programs.

Similarly, the Centers of Excellence in Teaching and Learning project supported by the University Grants Commission and the British Council in Bangladesh established and incorporated the centers into the organizational structure of universities and developed and implemented a core curriculum. The most significant impact of the project seems to be a heightened awareness of the importance of teaching quality and pedagogy and the responsibilities of teachers to ensure that students are engaged and learning.

Meanwhile, universities in the Republic of Korea have established an independent organization to support instructors’ teaching capacities. The association has enhanced the activities of Centers for Teaching and Learning through cooperation and sharing of information and it has grown into a consultative body with 156 member schools as of 2012. The government recognizes the importance of the education function and provides financial support to run various activities to improve teaching capacity.

In-service teacher training

Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste implemented programs to support a new national curriculum at the elementary level. Papua New Guinea focused on inclusive teaching and learning practices that increase students’ literacy and numeracy, with assistance from the Papua New Guinea Partnership Fund established in 2017 as part of the PNG-Australia Partnership. Three education consortia worked with the Education Department and provincial authorities to provide in-service teacher training annually that covered foundational literacy teaching of English and math, as well as supplementary topics, such as gender and disability inclusion, child protection, and positive discipline.

In Timor-Leste, the Government of Australia worked with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to support the design and implementation of the Professional Learning and Mentoring Program. The program included a series of leadership training sessions, school-based peer professional learning groups, on-the-job mentoring, and the use of education technology. As of 2020, it has been rolled out in 10 of the 13 municipalities. A 2019 evaluation conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research found the program effective in empowering school leaders to support teachers through feedback and observation.

A project from Ukraine focused on improving teachers’ skills in teaching Ukrainian as a second language to minorities. Part of a collaborative education project of Ukraine, Finland, and the European Union, implementation involved various activities, such as a Summer Academy for teachers and teacher trainers from the Chernivtsi and Transcarpathian regions and workshops for teachers, teacher trainers, professors, and students from pedagogical universities in these regions. Within less than a year (June 2019–January 2020) of implementation, more than 200 teachers were trained to provide instruction in Ukrainian as a second language.

Continuous teacher professional development can also lead to sustainable changes in inclusive practices in TVET. The Teacher Educators in Higher Education as Catalysts for Inclusive Practices project supported by Finland is a collaborative project aimed at the promotion of inclusive TVET teacher education in Ethiopia. The training of teachers was synchronized with the development of a learning module on inclusion for the Federal TVET Institute’s pre- and in-service training. To ensure progress after the training, quantitative and qualitative monitoring of TVET colleges representing different regions were conducted.

Industry experience

Increasing industry experience of TVET teachers is a key factor in obtaining up-to-date skills to design and implement demand-oriented training as shown in the Singapore case study. The Institute of Technical Education conceptualized in 2015 its Discipline-Specific Pedagogies Model, an explicit and structured adaptation of the German and Swiss Dual Training Approach. It provides a systematic process for the careful selection of teaching strategies that best facilitate students’ acquisition of knowledge, skills, and values specific to their chosen profession.

During the workshops, teams of teachers collaborated to redesign lesson plans and created learning situations while drawing on common work situations curated from industry visits, observations, and interviews with experts. By March 2019, the approach was implemented in 95 classes in three colleges, involving 3,200 students.

Standards for teacher performance and education

The Transforming Teacher Education and Learning in Ghana project supported by the United Kingdom focused on improving the teacher education curriculum and strengthening the Colleges of Education. A series of consultations with various stakeholders led to a common set of requirements on teachers’ knowledge, behavior, and practice. The National Teachers’ Standards formed the foundation for teacher licensing, which was introduced in 2018 and provided the basis for a review and revision of the Diploma in Basic Education curriculum.

In the United Kingdom, the government adopted standards to guide the design, evaluation, and funding of professional learning provided to educators and evaluate universities’ performance. The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework “put in place reputational and financial incentives that will drive up the standard of teaching in all universities” and provided a guide to students to enable them to make better decisions on where to study (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills 2016). It assesses universities in three categories: teaching quality, learning environment, and student outcomes and learning gain.


Teacher professional development requires a holistic approach to ensure interconnectivity between pre- and in-service training and integration of educational and area-specific training components. The focus should be on supporting sustainable systems rather than providing ad hoc, short-term training courses.

  • Systematic and ongoing teacher education. Enable teachers to gain higher academic degrees. Put in place policies and incentives that support their capacity development.
  • Career support for teachers. All levels of the education administration should support the teachers’ career growth.
  • Strong institutional leadership. Enable teachers to continuously upgrade their skills and apply what they have learned within an autonomous learning environment. Provide them with financial support, infrastructure, and equipment to ensure the sustainability of teacher training.

  • Industry exposure during pre- and in-service training. Create an in-depth understanding of future workplaces of students and help TVET teachers design and implement training linked more closely to labor market requirements.
  • Industry partnerships. Improve synergies with companies for teacher professional development by aligning TVET teacher training closely with the needs of the industry.
  • Hubs for training of TVET teachers. Establish centers of excellence to provide (i) relevant pedagogical and domain-specific theoretical, practical pre- and in-service training, and (ii) training for teachers and managers on topics, such as industry linkages and curriculum development.
  • Continuous capacity development opportunities and framework conditions for sustaining results. Implement and sustain results of teacher training through coaching and mentoring and providing sufficient resources, including budget and equipment.
  • Policies and incentives for TVET teacher professional and career development. Establish a framework that covers (i) regulations on integrated pre- and in-service training; (ii) requirements on industry experience or exposure; (iii) policies on recruitment, selection, and career development; and (iv) salary structure. Consider requirements for inclusive education.

  • Specialized center supporting teaching in a university. Centers for teaching and learning can help improve the quality of teaching through various activities, such as lectures and research on teaching methods.
  • Government intervention to improve teaching quality. Implement the most applicable and effective approach and support, such as making a separate assessment system to evaluate universities’ intention and effort to teach well in the general accreditation index, or providing financial support for their activities.
  • University community activities. Share best practices through collaboration among universities.
  • Professor evaluation. Evaluate professors based on educational capability and performance achievement.

Asian Development Bank. 2021. Teacher Professional Development Case Studies: K-12, TVET, and Tertiary Education. Manila.

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, United Kingdom. 2016. Higher Education and Research Bill: Factsheet. London.

E. Garcia and E. Weiss. 2019. The Role of Early Career Supports, Continuous Professional Development, and Learning Communities in the Teacher Shortage. The fifth report in The Perfect Storm in the Teacher Labor Market series. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute.

L. Darling-Hammond, M.E. Hyler, and M. Garder. 2017. Effective Teacher Professional Development. Palo Alto: Learning Policy Institute.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 2005. Teachers Matter–Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers. Paris: OECD Publishing.

UNESCO. 2015. The Right to Education and the Teaching Profession: Overview of the Measures Supporting the Rights, Status and Working Conditions of the Teaching Profession Reported on by Member States. Paris: UNESCO.

Meekyung Shin
Education Specialist, Human and Social Development Sector Office, Sectors Group, Asian Development Bank

Meekyung Shin specializes secondary education policies, Higher Education Innovation, and equity. She has participated in research and provided consulting services on innovative projects in the field of higher education. She is currently working on support projects to strengthen the educational capacity of medical and nursing schools in developing countries.

Jukka Tulivuori
Social Sector Specialist, Human and Social Development Sector Office, Sectors Group, Asian Development Bank

Jukka Tulivuori is improving teaching and learning outcomes in school education in Asia and the Pacific and producing knowledge in education. He was a Counselor of Education in the Finnish National Agency for Education. He has education and development working experience from Eritrea, Greece, and the Ukraine. He holds master’s degrees in Education and Geography from the University of Turku, Finland.

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Lisa-Marie Kreibich
Lisa-Marie Kreibich, Social Sector Specialist, South Asia Regional Department, Asian Development Bank

Lisa-Marie Kreibich works as a Social Sector Specialist on the design and implementation of TVET projects in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Before joining ADB, she spent 5 years with GIZ Vietnam as advisor to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs. She gained experience at the International Labour Organization and in the private sector. She holds a degree in International Business Management from the European School of Business, Germany and Reims Management School, France and a master’s degree in Public Policy from the Hertie School of Governance, Germany.

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