March 2, 2016

Teacher motivation in low-income contexts

Written by Mary Burns and Jarret Guajardo


Man Teaching at blackboard

Photo: GPE/Alexandra Humme

The world needs teachers. In the next 14 years, almost 26 million teachers will need to be recruited just to provide every child with a primary education.

More importantly, the world needs better teachers—teachers who are well-prepared, qualified, caring, and motivated. This is true for all children, but particularly true for disadvantaged students from low-income contexts. Such children are often taught by poorly trained and poorly qualified teachers, or teachers who have very low levels of motivation. This combination of poor preparation and low motivation is lethal in terms of children learning.

The downward spiral of demotivation

It is no surprise that many teachers in the world’s poorest and most challenging schools struggle to remain motivated. As Dembélé & Rogers (2013) note, “poorly functioning educational delivery systems, poor working conditions, a lack of resources, limited human capacity, weak accountability, low salaries, and poor management (including recruitment, selection, deployment, career advancement, motivation, incentives and retention)” (p. 174)  drain the motivation of even the most energetic and committed teachers.

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