How Does the Status of Teachers Here Correlate with their Status Abroad? Some Findings

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Dr. M. Ramachandran

The mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, the great teacher inspires”. (William Arthur Ward)
All over the world, parents drop their children at the gates of schools, dreaming about what they might accomplish after years of study and home work. They entrust teachers with the duty of nurturing their children’s’ development and opening their eyes to a world of possibilities. It is a herculean responsibility but, the question is: is it reflected in their social status and pay?
Peoples across the globe are unanimous in saying though it is a superficial statement, “Teaching is a lofty or noblest of the noble profession”. One of the definitions of the word ‘noble’ is possessing outstanding qualities include honesty, magnanimity, patience, intellectual courage, and humility, a positive attitude towards teaching and care and concern for students. In other words, teachers are leading students by example.
Nowadays, the trend has changed. Those in other profession argue that teaching is no more a noble or an attractive profession. Is it true? To substantiate this, they put a question mark. The question is better answered when teachers ask their students if they want to become teachers. Only a few may be interested in choosing it as a career. To put it in other words, how many teachers want to encourage their own kids to become teaching professionals? The answer will be a negligible percentage. Whether the teachers themselves keeping high self-esteem like other professionals such as doctors, journalists, lawyers or architects or not?
In this context, it is relevant to examine the social status of teachers in the contemporary global scenario. Teachers have the highest social status in China and Greece and the lowest in Israel and Brazil. In Europe, UK teachers enjoy the highest status. In European countries 10-25% people tended to think that people respect teachers, compared 75% in China. Fewer than 20% of Germans would encourage their children to become a teacher compared to nearly 50% of Chinese people.
These were some of the findings made by the first Global Teachers Status Index, a research experiment conducted by Dubai based Varkey GEMS Foundation in 2013. Twenty-one countries were included but India is excluded in that research exercise headed by Professor Peter Dolton, author of Global Teachers Status Index. Self-explanatory data and figures of Global Teachers Status Index is given in the following two tables.
There have been many International comparisons of student’s educational performance. Programme for International student assessment (PISA) is the major one which is accepted by UNESCO to compare 15 years or class 10 schools goers’ performance comparison tool worldwide. Though PISA ranks students’ performance, Peter Dolten through Global Teachers Status Index ranked the status of teachers’ in different countries for the first time.
Example of Finland and Singapore Education:
Why do some countries respect their teachers more than others? Everyone agrees the view that to improve educational standards and quality, the role of teachers’ is paramount. In Finland and Singapore, teachers’ are recruited from the cream of qualified graduates. Both countries have vastly different approaches to teaching. Yet both produce the most successful students’ in the world. In Finland, getting into teacher training programme itself is an honor. Finish teacher education programs are extremely selective like our JEE or NEET exam but without a policy of reservation of seats; only merit matters. Normally one out of ten graduates who applied may get admission. South Korea, Singapore and Finland teaching has been given high social status; teachers’ are treated well and paid well. Singapore ranks first in PISA (Students Performance) education ranking. In Singapore, all teachers’ have training at National Institute of Education, which is similar to our Civil Service Training Academy at Messori. Teachers’ must undergo minimum 100 hours professional development program every year.
Where are teachers paid the most? Europe ranks as the best place to teach in terms of salaries. The Top 10 best paid countries are 1. Luxemburg 2. Switzerland 3. Germany 4. South Korea 5. Australia 6. Netherlands 7. USA 8. Canada 9. Japan and 10. Ireland. Ten least paid countries are 1. Slovak Republic 2. Czech Republic 3. Poland 4. Hungry 5. Turkey 6. Greece 7. Chile 8. Israel 9. New Zealand and 10. Slovenia.
Professor Dolton, in his research, concluded that teachers’ status measures differently-based on the history and values and mores of a particular culture. As an example example, he cites New York city where society is focused on financial earnings, and where status correlates to how much a teacher is earning; where as in China, where cultural norms are to respect to your elders, teachers’ are given higher status despite the lack of high salary. In China, people compared teachers’ closely to doctors, but in most countries opted for social workers and in the case of USA, Brazil, France and Turkey, ‘ the librarian’ status
Other findings of the status index are head teachers status in UK ahead of others, teacher salaries are at their highest in Singapore ($45,755), South Korea, USA, Germany and Japan are above $ 40, 000. The UK is at $ 33, 700. People in 95% countries support a higher salary for teachers than they currently earn. 60% of people think teachers should be paid according to the performance of their students. Finland, Singapore and Switzerland have the most faith in their educational system, and South Korea, Egypt and Japan have the least. UK stand 7th in that category. Head teachers were respected most followed by secondary teachers and then primary teachers.

–The author is the Principal of Doon International School, Srinagar. He can be reached at: