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Who are the world’s most valued teachers?

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Story highlights

The status of teachers varies widely around the world

Countries who focus on teacher training tend to see better results in students

Teacher status is not always aligned with the countries where pay is highest

CNN —  

All over the world, proud parents drop their children at the gates of schools, dreaming about what they might accomplish after years of study and homework. They entrust teachers with the duty of nurturing their development and opening their eyes to a world of possibilities. It’s a huge responsibility – but is that responsibility reflected in their social status and pay?

October 5, is World Teachers’ Day, so here’s a look at how the world values teachers.

Global teacher status

A 2013 study by the Varkey Foundation looked at the social status of teachers and found that there was great respect for teachers in many Asian societies – especially in China, South Korea and Singapore. For much of the Western parts of the world, levels of respect were lower.

The Global Teacher Status Index found that of the 21 countries surveyed, on average, teachers ranked 7th in a poll on 14 respected professions, just above social workers and librarians. China was the only country where teachers were considered as highly skilled as doctors.

Professor Peter Dolton, author of the Global Teacher Status Index which compared attitudes to teachers in 21 countries, said that teacher status measures differently “based on the history and values and mores of a particular culture”.

For example, he cites New York City, where society is focused on financial earnings, status correlates to how much a teacher is earning. Whereas in China, where cultural norms are to respect your elders, teachers are given higher status despite the lack of a high salary.

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Countries with a higher respect for teachers are more likely to encourage their child to enter the profession, the report states. China, South Korea, Turkey and Egypt are most likely to give encouragement to children to become teachers, while Israel, Brazil, Portugal and Japan are the least likely to provide positive encouragement, the report noted.

Prof. Dolton is working on the next report which will come out in 2018, and he said it will importantly include Latin America and Africa, which the first report did not.

High level teacher training

Finland and Singapore have vastly different approaches to teaching, yet both produce some of the most successful students in the world.

“If you look at South Korea, Singapore, Finland, teaching has been given status, teachers are treated well, paid well and so much professional development has gone behind them,” said Vikas Pota, CEO of the Varkey Foundation. Government will, he says, is 99% of the reason for this.

“You need teachers who really care. The state has a role to play,” said Pota.

Singapore is top of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) education rankings based on international tests taken by 15-year-olds in math, reading and science. The tests, run by the OECD and taken every three years, measure global school league tables.

The most recent PISA results showed that the Asian education system was ahead of most of the results, with the top seven places in math taken by Singapore then Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, China and South Korea.

Asian schools tested most highly in the last PISA results, with Singapore first in math, reading and science.
Photo Illustration/Thinkstock
Asian schools tested most highly in the last PISA results, with Singapore first in math, reading and science.

Canada, ranked 10th in math, third in reading, and seventh in science, is the highest-ranking non-Asian country in the overall results. Finland, which came in at 13th place in math, was fourth and fifth in reading and science worldwide, was the highest-ranking European country.

These countries have vastly different ways of teaching, but they all place a great value on teachers, said OECD education director Andreas Schleicher.

“What you (teacher) do have in Finland and Singapore is an amazing career. You own your pro