Making teaching “intellectually attractive” in England could be a bigger challenge than solving the pay problem, according to Andreas Schleicher, head of education at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Helping to make the profession more "interesting" in this country may involve teachers spending less time working directly with pupils in the classroom, said Mr Schleicher, who oversees the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
But this did not mean simply replacing time in the classroom with administrative tasks, he stressed.
In other countries, teachers may spend more of their time working with colleagues, observing other teachers’ classrooms, preparing lessons and working with parents, he told a press conference in London.
“Finland doesn’t pay its teachers that much better than Britain. So why do nine people apply for every place in teacher education? Because the job is interesting,” Mr Schleicher said.
“The profile of activity is more similar to other professional workers. The idea that you spend all your time teaching is still an industrial model – someone tells you what to do and you just go and do it. The Japanese or Finnish model is more professional. Don’t think this is about bureaucracy or administration. It is about advancing professionalism.”
Andreas Schleicher, head of education at the OECD, on the main issues for the teaching profession in the UK
“The UK clearly has a challenge to keep teaching financially attractive,” said Mr Schleicher. “It is different from most OECD countries where teaching is better paid than a decade ago.” But perhaps the biggest challenge, he said, is to make teaching “intellectually attractive”.
The OECD’s latest data revealed that primary teachers in England spend 942 hours a year teaching compared to an OECD average of 794 hours a year. Similarly, secondary teachers in England spend 817 hours a year teaching, compared to an OECD average of 704 hours.
In contrast, in Japan secondary teachers spend 32 per cent of their time at work in the classroom teaching – 610 hours a year.
Japan’s 15-year-olds came second in the world in science according to the Pisa 2015 results, as well as 5th in maths and 8th in reading. The UK came 15th in science, 27th in maths and 22nd in reading.