OECD perspectives : Valuing the people who inspire our children

When children are asked what they want to be when they grow up, it is not surprising to hear the word “teacher” in their answer. Many students look up to their teachers as a source of inspiration. But in most countries the media portrays teachers as underpaid and unhappy. How could those same individuals inspire our children?

 

The Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) offers useful insights into how teachers feel about their profession and its standing in society. The good news is that according to TALIS, most practicing teachers enjoy their job and believe that the advantages of being a teacher clearly outweigh the disadvantages. This is excellent news for education systems around the world, since job satisfaction has important implications for retaining the best teachers. Teachers who are satisfied with their jobs are more likely to stay in their profession and to feel confident in their skills as teachers.

Teachers’ job satisfaction

Percentage of lower secondary education teachers who « strongly disagree », « disagree », « agree » or « strongly agree » with the following statements

 

Yet, TALIS also finds that most teachers feel that their profession is not valued by society. Indeed, fewer than one in three teachers across countries participating in TALIS believes that teaching is a valued profession. If teachers feel this way, they are less likely to remain in the profession, and the profession looks less attractive to prospective teachers. How can countries ensure that their education systems avoid this negative spiral? TALIS offers some possible policy directions.

 

Teachers’ view of how society values the teaching profession

Percentage of lower secondary education teachers who « strongly disagree », « disagree », « agree » or « strongly agree » with the following statement: I think that the teaching profession is valued in society

 

TALIS finds that teachers from high-performing education systems, as measured by the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), are more likely to report that they believe their profession is valued by society. Those countries implement policies and practices that foster teachers’ job satisfaction and self-efficacy. For example, the extent to which teachers participate in decision making within their schools has a strong, positive association with their perception of being valued.

 

TALIS results also show that positive relationships among teachers, between teachers and students, and between teachers and their school leader are associated with greater job satisfaction and self-efficacy in many countries. Collaboration among teachers, including observing other teachers’ classes and providing feedback or team-teaching in the same class – is also positively related to teachers’ job satisfaction and self-efficacy, as are participating in a network of teachers for professional development activities or participating in collaborative research on a topic of interest.

 

Teachers’ self-efficacy and professional collaboration

Lower secondary teachers’ level of self-efficacy as related to the frequency of professional collaboration in certain activities

 

In fact, these issues were at the heart of discussions among education ministers, union leaders, and teacher leaders at this year’s International Summit on the Teaching Profession, held in Banff, Canada, at the end of March. The background report underpinning the discussions, Schools for 21st-Century Learners: Strong Leaders, Confident Teachers, Innovative Approaches summarises OECD evidence from TALIS, PISA and CERI work on Innovative Learning Environments. As the report suggests, co-operation and collaboration between teachers and school leaders is key to fostering innovative and effective learning environments. The mere presence of technology in the classroom, in the form of computers or tablets in a school or in mobile phones in the pockets of learners, is not sufficient to foster true innovation in the classroom. Teachers can be catalysts for change – especially if they work with all education stakeholders to promote innovation in education. Not only will students benefit from greater collaboration, but teachers will, too, as they gain more confidence in themselves – and greater public recognition of the importance of the work they do. Then, children who say they want to be teachers when they grow up may be less willing to put aside that dream when they become young adults.