Invest in quality teachers, governments are told

26th June 2009 at 01:00
Lack of recognition of their work, and bad behaviour, are what teachers lament the most

Misbehaviour disrupts lessons in three out of five schools across the world, according to an international survey which claims to be the first to focus on teachers' working conditions. The study also found that three out of four teachers felt they lacked incentives to improve the quality of their teaching.

Creating effective teaching and learning environments is part of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis) carried out by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. While it includes data from 23 countries, some major nations, including the UK, United States, Canada, France and Germany, declined to take part.

The study found that three-quarters of lower-secondary school teachers in, for instance, Mexico, Italy, Slovakia, Estonia and Spain, work in schools where classroom disturbances hinder the teaching process "to some extent" or "a lot".

Roughly a third of teachers polled said their lessons were disrupted by pupils turning up late, by profanity and swearing, and by intimidation or verbal abuse of other students.

According to the report, the most significant drain on teacher morale was lack of recognition of their work. Three-quarters of the 90,000 interviewed felt they were given no incentives to improve their teaching.

Many countries make no link between appraisal of teachers' performance and the rewards and recognition that they receive, the report notes.

Those running education need to give teachers more effective incentives to improve their teaching, according to OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria. "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."

Fred van Leeuwen, the general secretary of Education International, which represents teaching unions worldwide, said the survey offered impressive evidence of teachers' strong commitment to their profession and dedication to their students. He added that, while 40 per cent of respondents reported a lack of professional development opportunities, the data clearly showed that teachers were eager for career-long learning and that many invested their own out-of-class time, energy and personal funds in professional development.

But Mr van Leeuwen warned that education ministries should not use evidence of teachers' willingness to pay as a reason to cut funding. "Facing the economic crisis, it is critical that governments invest in public education to build the knowledge economy," said. "That means investing in quality teachers."


In Australia, Belgium (Flanders), Denmark, Ireland and Norway, more than 90 per cent of teachers say they do not expect any reward for improving the quality of their teaching

Teachers are less pessimistic in Bulgaria, Malaysia and Poland, but still almost half see no incentive to improve

In Mexico, Italy, the Slovak Republic, Estonia and Spain, more than 70 per cent 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 per cent of teachers surveyed worked in schools which suffered from a shortage of qualified staff. In Poland, the problem affected only 12 per cent of schools, but in Turkey, 78 per cent of schools were suffering from such shortages;

- On average, teachers spend 13 per cent of classroom time maintaining order, but in Brazil and Malaysia, the proportion rises to more than 17 per cent. In Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, less than 10 per cent of classroom time is lost in this way;

- Other factors hindering teaching included student absenteeism (46 per cent), students turning up late for class (39 per cent), profanity and swearing (37 per cent) and intimidation or verbal abuse of other students (35 per cent);

- Absence of systematic appraisal or feedback on their work affects more than 25 per cent of teachers in Ireland and Portugal, 45 per cent in Spain and 55 per cent in Italy.

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