What can we learn from our teachers?

by Kristen Weatherby
Senior Analyst, Directorate for Education and Skills

The latest results from the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) are made public today at various events in countries around the world. TALIS 2013 surveyed 107,000 lower secondary school teachers in 34 countries.  Everyone from education ministers – who are gathered at an event in Tokyo – to teachers – like those at a TALIS conference in Madrid – want to learn from the data collected in the survey in order to improve the teaching and learning in their schools.

So what are teachers telling us? First of all, teachers love being teachers. On average across TALIS-participating countries, 9 in 10 teachers report being satisfied with their jobs, and nearly 8 in 10 (78%) report that they would still choose to become a teacher if they had to make the choice again.

Given this finding, it is perhaps surprising that, on average, more than two out of three teachers across TALIS countries do not feel that their profession is valued by society. This percentage varies by country: in some countries, particularly those with high-performing education systems (Finland, Korea, Singapore), notably larger proportions of teachers report feeling that their profession is indeed valued by society.

Why do most teachers feel that teaching isn’t valued? And why does it matter? In some countries, it could be that the teachers’ perceptions are correct, and that societies may not value teaching as much as other professions. But it could also have something to do with how teaching has evolved – or not – as a profession. If you take a look at TALIS 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning, you will learn a great deal about what teachers say about their background, education, support, development and teaching practices. Together with data from school principals, these data paint a picture of the teaching profession around the world today.

When you look at the statistics on teacher appraisal and feedback, for example, it’s not difficult to see why some teachers may not feel valued. The teachers surveyed agree that appraisals are helpful, with more than 6 in 10 teachers reporting that appraisal leads to positive changes in their teaching practices. Yet nearly half of teachers feel that the appraisals in their school are performed simply to fulfil administrative requirements. Only about one in three teachers feels that the feedback received will lead to any kind of career advancement, which might include higher pay or additional responsibilities. Indeed, nearly 80% of teachers report that annual increments in their salaries are awarded regardless of the outcome of formal teacher appraisals.

If we want teaching to improve so that school systems can produce the skilled citizens that our societies need, then we not only need to change the practices of existing teachers, we also need to ensure that teaching attracts high-quality candidates. Providing teachers with a career path that includes recognition for good performance and support to improve is certainly one way to start. TALIS data also indicate that teachers who are given the opportunity to participate in decision making at school not only are more likely to report that teaching is valued as a profession, they also report higher job satisfaction and more confidence in their own abilities as teachers. Thus it seems about time to treat teachers as the professionals they are.

2013 TALIS Results
Free Teachers’ Guide to TALIS
Education Fast Forward (EFF10) Global live debate – 25 June 2014
Alliance for Excellent Education webinar – 27 June 2014
Photo credit: © Fotolia

Leave a Reply