The proportion of teachers qualifying for salaries of more than 33,400 should be slashed by as much as half, according to the organisation representing the world's leading industrialised nations.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is advocating performance-related pay for teachers, but says the higher financial rewards should be limited to as little as a quarter of those eligible.
That would mean a major change in many countries such as England, where at least 45 per cent of eligible teachers qualified for the upper performance pay scale last year.
In the book Evaluating and Rewarding the Quality of Teachers: International Practices, the OECD, which represents 30 of the world's most developed economies, says: "Eligibility for rewards should be open to all teachers if teachers are to view them as incentives to work harder, although actual rewards for performance should probably be limited to the top quarter or third of teachers."
John Bangs, head of education at the NUT in England, who wrote a chapter in the book criticising performance-related pay, said such change would be counter-productive.
"Having a higher hurdle for qualification would demoralise rather than motivate teachers (as) they would know they would not have a cat in hell's chance of achieving it," he said.
Last academic year, 47 per cent of eligible secondary teachers and 45 per cent of primary teachers moved from the main to the upper pay scale in England.
Mr Bangs said there was a risk the book could influence the performance pay system in England. "This (book) might encourage the Government to review its own systems as there is a very close connection between the Westminster Government and the OECD," he said.
The OECD has highlighted the economic and educational importance of developing employees to meet new demands. It pointed to a recent study (McKinsey amp; Company, 2009) of the achievement gap in the United States, which suggested that if the US had closed its achievement gap with countries such as Finland and Korea by 1998, its gross domestic product would be 9-16 per cent higher than it is today.
That is a greater impact than the negative effect of the recession, which was 6.4 per cent at the end of 2008.
The book is viewable at www.sourceoecd.orgeducation9789264061989.