New OECD data outlines the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the teaching profession

The COVID 19 outbreak is a public health crisis quite different than anything Europe has faced for many years. As education personnel and their trade unions grapple with the outbreak, we are supporting and informing member organisations in any way we can.

© OECD

On 22 September 2021, the OECD published a report “The State of Global Education. 18 Months into the pandemic”, containing new data and statistics on school closures, as well as the impact of the pandemic on working conditions of teachers and public financial investment in education.  The report is based on two Special Surveys on COVID-19 carried out on the OECD countries and OECD partner countries.

Regarding school closure, the report reveals that higher levels of education have been more affected by school closures for up to 200 days. While in most countries, decisions about school closures were taken by central governments, in some countries, such as Denmark, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden, school boards and local administrations had a decisive say as well.   

However, what became evident for the OECD countries was the heavy dependency on emergency online and remote teaching to ensure social distancing requirements. Teachers and other education personnel had to strongly adapt their pedagogical and professional practices and experienced strong limitations in their professional autonomy.

According to the OECD report, the rapid adaptation to emergency teaching settings during the pandemic resulted in significant changes in the teaching and working conditions of primary and secondary teachers. OECD data shows that in the sudden uprise of emergency remote teaching, less than half of teachers felt well prepared to use ICT in their teaching, and most countries provided some sort of training on digital competences only after the pandemic started.

This is of particular concern as the report shows that all OECD countries made non-teaching tasks somehow mandatory, in one way or the other. Worryingly, during the pandemic, this was also encouraged outside the normal teaching time. Czechia, for instance, expected teachers to have individual e-mail, phone and in-person consultations with parents as well as conducting survey feedback, while Portugal established collaborative networks between teachers, local governments, and mail services to distribute learning materials.

Whereas the public financing of national education systems slightly increased or remained stable over the course of the pandemic, the OECD warns that budget cuts usually follow once the crisis is settled. In addition, ETUCE remarks that while many countries acknowledged the invaluable contribution of teachers as daily front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, formal recognition has not been complemented with concrete support and improved working conditions. Indeed, the OECD report shows that around 85% of OECD countries did not increase teacher salaries (exemptions were Lithuania, Slovenia and Latvia) despite the increased workload of education personnel during the pandemic. While about 40% of OECD countries recruited new temporary education personnel, which is a concern in itself, additional staff did not always meet the regular qualifications expected from teachers. This is, for instance, the case of Luxembourg where temporary non-certified teachers were recruited without respecting the usual inception period foreseen for substitute teachers.

Commenting on these data, ETUCE emphasises that ensuring sustainable public funding to the education sector is of crucial importance to ensure quality and inclusive education, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis.

Read more:

To the original Report: The State of Global Education. 18 Months into the pandemic.