OECD report calls for increased support and investment in teachers

published 16 February 2016 updated 18 February 2016

A new report on teacher professionalism raises concerns about the level of support teachers are receiving across the globe, revealing significant shortfalls in high-needs schools.

The report, Supporting Teacher Professionalism, from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), finds a gap between teachers in high-needs schools and those in schools that are better off when it comes to their level of professional autonomy. A lack of support for teachers in high-needs schools raises questions about equity, the report says. Adequate support also plays an important role in ensuring that teachers feel satisfied on the job, making increased support for teacher professionalism one of the best investments that schools can make.

Investment in teachers

The report, based on the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2013, a survey of teachers and principals in 34 countries and economies around the world, states that investing in teachers’ professionalism is one way that education systems can help teachers face these challenges and, by doing so, ensure that all students receive the high-quality teaching they need to succeed.

Examining the nature of teacher professionalism around the world, the report focuses on teachers’ knowledge, autonomy in decision making, and engagement in peer networks as hallmarks of teacher professionalism.

Report’s recommendations

The report shows that, overall, higher levels of teacher professionalism are beneficial for teachers, and suggests that policies should consider: requiring teachers to participate in pre-service formal teacher education programmes that expose teachers to pedagogy and provide opportunities for practice teaching; expanding induction and mentoring programmes; supporting teachers in conducting classroom-based individual or collaborative research; and encouraging teachers’ participation in networks of other teachers for information exchange.

Teacher professionalism at the heart of EI’s efforts

“Education International (EI) welcomes the release of the OECD report and its recommendation to enhance teacher professionalism through training, professional development and support,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuven.

However, in response to some of the report’s findings, EI reaffirms that:

-          professionalism cannot be imposed from outside, but must defined by the professionals, i.e. teachers, themselves; there is more support by teachers for pre-service than in service education, because it is free;

-          supporting teachers in high needs schools to be autonomous professionals takes internal and external professional learning and development (PLD);

-          all teachers need PLD to grow professionally and it should be provided by the state to teachers free; countries who explicitly plan for, provide time for and resource with external expertise teacher collaboration do better with all students, but especially with high needs students;

-          and professional autonomy goes hand-in-hand with social dialogue; with teacher unions being in partnership shaping education policy at national and a local levels.

Teacher professionalism is at the heart of EI’s efforts to improve the status of teachers and teaching as a profession, van Leeuven stressed. In 2004, EI adopted its Declaration on Professional Ethics, which reflects the individual and collective commitment by teachers and other education personnel to their students, colleagues, parents and the community. Education International is also in the process of consolidating its efforts to enhance teacher professionalism and status by developing international guidelines on professional teaching standards.

The OECD report can be found here