Performance-related pay would raise standards, international study claims

19th June 2009 at 01:00
Teachers from 23 countries tell survey by the OECD that they lack incentives to improve their teaching or to be more innovative in classroom

Schools around the world should introduce performance-related pay to reward good teaching and raise standards, an international study of 23 countries has concluded.

Three out of four teachers told the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that they lacked incentives to improve their teaching or be more innovative. A similar number said their schools would not sack teachers with long records of underperformance.

The results come from questionnaires distributed to about 90,000 teachers in what is claimed to be the first ever international study comparing their working conditions.

"The findings suggest that there are substantial opportunities for strengthening - or, in most cases, creating - links between teacher appraisal and feedback and the rewards and recognition teachers receive," the Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis) said.

"On average, only about 10 per cent of teachers' appraisal and feedback is linked to any kind of monetary reward, and for only 16 per cent is it linked to career advancement."

Teachers from countries including Australia, Spain, Italy, South Korea and Brazil reported widespread problems with disruptive pupils. The UK did not take part in the study.

Bad behaviour interrupts lessons in three out of five schools, with one in four teachers losing at least 30 per cent of class time to poorly behaved students and administrative tasks, the OECD said.

Education officials should support greater innovation by shifting their focus from resources and course content to what students achieve, the organisation's secretary-general, Angel Gurria, said.

"School authorities need to move away from the hit-and-miss policies of the past, which 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 Gurria added.

The Talis survey covered many factors affecting teachers, including their pay, training, teaching philosophy and the role of school leadership. Most school staff wanted more training opportunities, although this varied considerably between countries. One in three said more training was needed to help students with special educational needs.

Teachers also receive highly variable levels of feedback on their work, with a quarter of those in Ireland and more than half in Italy reporting no systematic system of appraisal.

John Bangs, head of education at the NUT, said the report made strong points about the need for high-quality training, but he criticised one of its recommendations.

"They imply without evidence that performance-related pay will work," he said. "But there is no evidence that in the long run it makes any difference to standards at all.

"They also merge the idea of incompetent teachers and the lack of incentives, when the issues are completely separate."

Elsewhere, the report found significantly different approaches to classroom teaching. North-western Europe, Scandinavia, Australia and South Korea in particular favour student-centred lessons. In most countries, teachers reported that they were satisfied with their jobs.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said schools in the UK did not take part because the survey was not value for money. Its content would not provide information about how teachers increased pupil attainment, she said.

It also took no account of the increasing role of support staff in this country, the spokeswoman added. Other countries that did not take part include Canada, France and the United States.

Strike it rich, TES Magazine, page 22.

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