On this National Teacher’s Appreciation Day, The Economist has put together a graph
showing the salaries and working hours of high school teachers among the 34 mostly developed OECD countries, and comparing this to each nation’s PISA rankings, which measures scholastic performance on math, science, and reading. The idea is to show what impact, if any, low pay and long working hours may have on teacher’s effectiveness. The results are as follows:
As The Economist observes:
Japanese and South Korean pupils are neck-and-neck near the top of the PISA rankings of 15-year-olds’ literacy, numeracy and scientific knowledge. Their teachers are paid about the same, but put in vastly different hours: a whopping 54 hours per week in Japan, compared with 37 in South Korea. Pupils in Estonia, which has the lowest-paid teachers in the group, do better than those in the Netherlands, where teachers’ salaries are five times as high and hours just the same. Even when GDP per person is taken into account the Netherlands is unusually generous to teachers, and Estonia unusually stingy.
So what should teachers who want more free time and better pay do? Those from two-thirds of the countries in the group would benefit from moving to the Netherlands (the others would have to work longer hours after such a move). Portuguese teachers could cut their working day by more than three hours if they moved to Italy, while seeing their salaries clipped by a mere 2%. British teachers who, like most of their compatriots, balk at the idea of learning a new language have options, too. Moving to Canada would bag them a 41% pay rise; to America, 29%; or to Australia, 19%. Only those plumping for Canada would have to work longer for the extra money—by just half an hour a day.
Overall, it seems that making teaching a viable, attractive, and more prestigious career is a solid way to attract the best talent, even if you do not have to go as far as Canada or the Netherlands.
Of course, there is more to teacher performance, and indeed student performance, than how much money is spent on public schools and teacher’s salaries. Does the society value education, regardless of the state of its institutions? Does good academic performance take people far, thus spurring more effort to study hard at school? The results suggest that every country has its own different dynamics at play, and what works in one education system might not work in another.
What are your thoughts about these results?