More hiring freedom can reduce teacher shortages in disadvantaged areas

UNESCO teachers

This article is brought to you in association with OECD. (UNESCO, 2017)

This article is brought to you in association with OECD.

Schools with more freedom in hiring tend to see fewer teacher shortages in disadvantaged areas, according to a new OECD PISA report.

Effective Teacher Policies: Insights from PISA analyses the PISA global education survey to show how countries can improve the quality and equity of education by ensuring that high-quality teaching benefits all students. The report includes analyses of the first PISA survey of teachers, who provided information about their jobs, careers, and school leaders.

On average across countries and economies that participated in PISA 2006 and PISA 2015, giving schools more responsibility to hire teachers appeared to lead to improvements in student achievement, while reducing their responsibility tended to worsen results. School leaders with more freedom to adapt teachers’ responsibilities, working conditions and pay are also better able to attract the most talented teachers to the most challenging classrooms.

“In most countries, a student’s or school’s postal code still remains one of the best predictors of education success,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills, launching the report in Madrid. “This evidence shows that countries can redress inequities in opportunities if they assign high-quality teachers, and not just more teachers, to the most challenging schools. Teacher policies have a critical role to play in delivering a future for millions who currently may struggle to have one.”

School leaders warned in the survey that the lack of qualified teachers is a major barrier to overcoming disadvantage and improving learning. Most countries and economies compensated disadvantaged schools with smaller classes and/or lower student/teacher ratios. However, in more than a third of countries and economies, teachers in the most disadvantaged schools were less qualified or less experienced than those in the most advantaged schools.

Gaps in student performance related to socio-economic status were wider in countries where disadvantaged schools employed fewer qualified and experienced teachers than advantaged schools. More can be done during initial training and through mentoring and professional development to equip teachers with the skills needed to work in disadvantaged schools, according to the report.

Teacher policies in high-performing systems shared three common traits: a mandatory and extended period of practical classroom training before starting a career; opportunities for in-service professional development, such as workshops organised by the school; and teacher-appraisal mechanisms with a strong focus on teachers’ continuous development.

The report also revealed that on average across OECD countries, 4.2% of 15-year-olds aspired to become teachers – a much higher proportion than the current share of teachers in the population (2.4%). While in all countries girls were more likely to expect a career in teaching than boys, students’ expectations of a teaching career were more gender-balanced in countries with higher teachers’ salaries.

A separate report, Teachers in Ibero-America: Insights from PISA and TALIS, evaluates the region’s teaching profession. It says that countries need to invest more in their existing schools and teachers, enlisting their commitment to reform and supporting their improvement.

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