New PISA 2018 Report: Investing in teachers enhances students’ achievements and well-being


The fifth volume of PISA 2018 provides updated data on the impact that school policies and school organisation have on students’ education attainments and their well-being. While investment in education slightly increased, according to the OECD, public schools still suffer from the shortages of teachers and education support personnel, and inequalities between disadvantaged and advantaged schools remain.

The OECD recently published the fifth volume of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 entitled “Effective Policies, Successful schools”. It is based on a triannual survey which assessed the skills of 600 000 15-year-old students in 79 countries. This report focuses on the impact that school policies and organisation have on educational attainments and well-being of students and equity in education.

The report reveals that adequate investment in education generally has a positive impact on students’ reading skills. Investment in education strongly varies across Europe, with Austria, Luxembourg and Norway investing more than 130.000 USD per student from early childhood education (ECE) to secondary education, against less than 30.000 USD invested in Romania and Bosnia Herzegovina.

A worrying evidence is that there are still significant inequalities between socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged schools. In Europe, disadvantaged schools suffer from a shortage of high-qualified teachers and high-quality material resources, especially in Portugal, Italy, Sweden and Germany. Additionally, while on average 20% of students in disadvantaged schools had repeated a grade at least once, it is the case for only 5% of students in advantaged schools. The OECD suggests that regular students’ assessment at national or regional level and the adoption of an inclusive governance can help enhancing equity in education.

ETUCE welcomes that the PISA Report underlines the importance of teachers in the education system, defining them as the most important resource to enhance students’ achievements and their well-being. Nevertheless, data shows that several European school systems lack teachers or education support personnel. For example, in Austria, Germany, Greece, Portugal and Spain at least 50% of students suffer from the shortage of teaching or assisting staff. The issue, affecting more public schools than private ones, has shown to hinder students’ reading skill in many European countries, such as in Albania, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The OECD also suggests that an adequate number of highly qualified teachers coupled with decent working conditions and salaries for teachers are key factors to ensure high-quality and equitable education systems.

The report also points out that providing career guidance and counselling for students is crucial to increase their well-being and overcome gender-biases when they make choices about their futures studies and employment. Nevertheless, according to the OECD data, career guidance and counselling are still not provided in many European schools. For example, in Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, France and Georgia between 16-24% of students do not receive career guidance and counselling, while this share rises up to between 25% and 30% in Belgium, Croatia and Italy.

Following the OECD findings, the ETUCE highlights that more investment to education guarantee fair working conditions and salaries and adequate support for teachers to enhance students’ learning outcomes and well-being. We also remark that socio-economic background should not deprive students of their human right to education, therefore we expect that European governments increase their commitment to assure high-quality education for all students without distinction.

  • To read the full PISA 2018 V Volume, please, click here.

To see the insight of the previous PISA 2018 Volumes, please, click here.