OECD TALIS results: Are teachers and school leaders valued professionals in Europe?


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The OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) regularly gathers information from teachers and school leaders in OECD countries. On 23 March 2020 the OECD published the second report on the TALIS results from 2018, Teachers and School Leaders as Valued Professionals. The first volume of TALIS 2018, Teachers and School Leaders as Lifelong Learners (June 2019), showed that teachers and school leaders are highly motivated to influence child development. This second volume focuses on teachers’ and school leaders’ working conditions and work-related wellbeing, and shows some areas where work is needed to forestall teacher shortages in the coming years.

The report makes clear that it is vital to attract candidates to the teaching and school leadership professions. The average age of teachers in the OECD countries is 44 years old, while 34% of them are over 50. The average pension age is 64.3 for men and 63.7 for women, which “means that education systems will have to renew at least one third of their teaching workforce in the next 15 year.” The OECD suggests that governments need to plan ahead to fight against teacher shortages. They propose new entry-level positions and flexible pathways to enter the profession. However, they also acknowledge that these steps could entail the risk of lowering professional standards.

The report recognises that job satisfaction for teachers and school leaders is a complex issue, requiring a holistic approach to the attractiveness of careers in education. “Working conditions, opportunities for professional learning and growth, social status and professional autonomy are all important in making teaching careers not only financially attractive, but also intellectually satisfying”. The OECD bases this multifaceted notion of job satisfaction on the finding that 61% of teachers were unsatisfied with their salary but the vast majority (90%) reported being “all in all, satisfied with their job”.

Regrettably, the data show that teachers and schools leaders often do not feel that their work is held in high regard by society. Only 26% of teachers and 37% of principals across the OECD agree that their profession is valued. Male teachers, teachers under 30 and novice teachers are more likely to believe that the profession is valued than female teachers, teachers over 50 or teachers with more than five years of experience. The teachers who feel the least valued by society are those who work in Slovakia (95% of whom believe that they are not highly valued), the French-speaking Community of Belgium (94%), Slovenia (94%), and France (93%). European countries where teachers feel highly appreciated include Kazakhstan (63% believe that they are highly valued), Finland (58%) and in Russia (44%). The report mentions Sweden and Estonia as good examples where government actions have enhanced the prestige and attractiveness of the teaching profession – mostly by raising the salary of teachers.

When it comes to employment conditions, a majority of teachers (82%) hold permanent contracts. 6% have fixed-term contracts of more than one year and 12% have fixed-term contracts of one year or less. Among the European countries Georgian teachers are the least likely to have permanent contracts (only 30%), while the highest proportion of teachers having contracts of one year or less is also in Georgia (30%). These very short contracts are also common in Italy (25%), Spain (27%) and Romania (21%). Overall, 66% of teachers across the OECD report satisfaction with their terms of employment, apart from the salary.

At the same time many teachers report a lot of stress in their work. The most stressed teachers live in Portugal, England, Hungary and the Flemish Community of Belgium. The teachers reporting the least stress live in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Russia and Romania. The main reasons for high work-related stress are related to excessive workload: too much administrative work, too much time spent marking, too much preparation for lessons, and too many lessons to teach.

The report also confirms that gender equality in the education sector is still a problem. 68% of all teachers in the OECD countries are female, but only 47% of principals are women. The OECD suggests that governments conduct research comparing the attractiveness (salaries and other factors) of jobs in teaching with those in other sectors which employ more male workers but where careers require a similar level of qualification to teaching.

Finally, the report offers a very interesting overview on teachers’ responsibilities concerning school management and the level of school autonomy.

The full report is available on the OECD website.