Teachers Talk

The OECD’s new TALIS teacher survey looks to have some interesting findings. Press release over the fold. (HT: Nicholas Gruen)

Teacher effectiveness hampered by lack of incentives and bad behaviour in classrooms

Three out of four teachers feel they lack incentives to improve the quality of their teaching, while bad behaviour by students in the classroom disrupts lessons in three schools out of five, according to a new OECD report.

Based on the new Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), the report, “Creating effective teaching and learning environments”, provides for the first time internationally comparable data on conditions affecting teachers in schools in 23 participating countries.

Its main policy lesson is that education authorities need to provide more effective incentives for teachers. Many countries make no link between appraisal of teachers’ performance and the rewards and recognition that they receive, and even where there are such links they are often not very strong.

Launching the report, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría insisted on the need to push for better teacher performance. “High-quality teachers are key to the successful implementation of education policies,” he said. “The bottom line is that the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers and their work.”

  • The survey, conducted with the support of the European Commission, covers 23 participating countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium (Flemish Community), Brazil, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey.
  • In each country, around 200 schools were randomly selected, and in each school one questionnaire was filled in by the school principal and another by 20 randomly selected teachers.
  • Questions addressed such issues as teacher preparedness, the teaching practices they adopt and recognition and rewards for teachers.

Among the findings of the report are that:

  • In Australia, Belgium (Flanders), Denmark, Ireland and Norway, more than 90% of teachers say they don’t expect any reward for improving the quality of their teaching.
  • Teachers are less pessimistic in Bulgaria, Malaysia and Poland, but still almost half of them see no incentive to improve.
  • In Mexico, Italy, the Slovak Republic, Estonia and Spain, more than 70% of teachers at lower-secondary level work in schools where it was felt that classroom disturbances hinder the teaching process “to some extent” or “a lot”.
  • On average, 38% of teachers surveyed worked in schools which suffered from a shortage of qualified staff. In Poland, the problem affected only 12% of schools. But in Turkey, 78% of schools were suffering from such shortages.
  • On average, teachers spend 13% of classroom time maintaining order, but in Brazil and Malaysia the proportions rises to more than 17%. In Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, by contrast, less than 10% of classroom time is lost in this way.
  • Aside from classroom disturbances, other factors hindering instruction included student absenteeism (46%), students turning up late for class (39%), profanity and swearing (37%), and intimidation or verbal abuse of other students (35%).
  • Along with the lack of incentives for improvement, teachers in some countries do not even undergo any systematic appraisal or receive any feedback on their work.  This is the case for more than 25% of teachers in Ireland and Portugal, 45% in Spain and 55% in Italy.

Overall, the survey indicates, educational planners could do more to support teachers and improve the performance of students if both the public and policy makers focused less on control over resources and educational content and more on learning outcomes.

School authorities need to move away from the “hit and miss” policies of the past that still characterise too many national school systems in order to develop a more scientific approach to policies based on best practice and universal high standards, Mr. Gurría said.

“This means moving from uniformity in systems to embracing diversity and individualising teaching and learning,” Mr. Gurría said. “It means moving from managing inputs and a bureaucratic approach to education and towards a system of devolved responsibilities and school leadership that enables teachers. In short, it means moving from talking about equity in terms of educational provision, to delivering equity in terms of outcomes.”

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3 Responses to Teachers Talk

  1. Patrick says:

    In short and in plain language, it means increase principal autonomy.

    In politics, it means break the unions, which however unlikely
    is not a surprising answer.

  2. conrad says:

    “In short and in plain language, it means increase principal autonomy.
    In politics, it means break the unions, which however unlikely
    is not a surprising answer”

    I missed that Patrick. I thought it was just hyperbole all around. Last time I checked, teachers were so poorly paid that you could get into teaching after almost failing Year 12 (the biggest provider of teachers in Victoria is the U. of Ballarat if you want to check — I may have remembered that incorrectly, but they’ll be close in any case). Given that, you can have all the individualized incentives for teachers you want, and you still won’t get anywhere. You could also make all the schools independent as well. However, until either the government wants to cough up the money (unlikely), or parents are willing to cough up the money (or the time), which also seems unlikely, nothing is going to change.

  3. Patrick says:

    Mebbe so Conrad. Actually I do agree that teachers should get more money, and that most of it should come directly from parents.

    But I was just re(para)phrasing the abstract Andrew posted in terms of the political implications of the conclusions presented.

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