Early childhood and schools

OECD urges governments to work with social partners on teacher policy


13/06/2005 - Well-qualified teachers of subjects like mathematics, science and languages are in short supply in many OECD countries, particularly in disadvantaged areas, and governments need to take a comprehensive approach to the task of bringing new entrants into the profession, according to the OECD. 

Research shows that quality teaching is the key to improving student learning. However, almost all countries report concerns about “qualitative” shortfalls: whether enough teachers have the knowledge and skills to meet the needs of modern schooling. Looking ahead, large amounts of experience and skill will need to be replaced as teachers in their 50s retire in the next five to 10 years, says a new OECD report, Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers.

In practical terms, this offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity for education systems to shape and benefit from substantial changes in the teacher workforce. But the OECD warns that there is a risk -- if teaching is not seen as an attractive profession and teaching does not change in fundamental ways -- that the quality of schools will decline and a downward spiral will be difficult to reverse.

The report draws on the experiences of 25 countries -- Australia; Austria; Belgium (Flemish Community); Belgium (French Community); Canada (Quebec); Chile; Denmark; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Korea; Mexico; the Netherlands; Norway; the Slovak Republic; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; the United Kingdom; and the United States. -- in one of the largest international studies of teacher policy ever conducted. 
It recommends that governments and social partners work together to develop and implement a comprehensive approach to teacher policy. Key elements should include:

  • Making teaching an attractive career choice (e.g. by improving the image and status of teaching, and the competitiveness of pay and conditions);
  • Developing teachers’ knowledge and skills (e.g. by making teacher education more flexible and responsive to school needs, and strengthening teachers’ professional development throughout their career);
  • Recruiting, selecting and employing the best possible teachers (e.g. by using more flexible employment conditions, and giving schools more responsibility, support and obligations for staff selection and management);
  • Retaining effective teachers in schools (e.g. by evaluating and rewarding effective teaching, and providing more opportunities for career variety); and
  • Engaging teachers in policy development (e.g. through consultative mechanisms, Teaching Councils that determine standards for the teaching profession, and developing schools as professional learning communities).

The report uses extensive research and a large number of country examples to show how these policy directions can work. Despite the growing complexity of modern-day demands on schools and teachers, it makes clear, there are grounds for optimism.

“There are countries where teachers’ social standing is high, and there are more qualified applicants than vacant posts,” notes Barry McGaw, the OECD’s Director for Education.  “Even in countries where shortages have been a concern, there are recent signs of an upturn of interest in teaching, and policies are having an effect”.

For further comment journalists are invited to contact Paulo Santiago in the OECD’s Directorate for Education  (tel. 33 1 4524 8419), or Phillip McKenzie (formerly with the OECD and now at the Australian Council for Educational Research) (tel. 61 409 549 062 or 61 3 9835 7488).

Journalists may obtain a copy of Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers from the OECD’s Media Relations Division (tel. 33 1 4524 9700).

Subscribers and readers at subscribing institutions can access the study via SourceOECD our online library. Non-subscribers will be able to purchase the study via our Online Bookshop.

For further information on Teaching, learning and schools in the future


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