The quality of teacher training, the low status of the profession and the low incomes of teachers are deterrents to the development of school education, Kasim-Zhomart Tokayev, Chairman of the Senate of Kazakhstan, said on Friday during the parliamentary hearings. In his opinion, the government needs to think about how to raise the incomes of teachers whose low status hinders the development of school education. The call of the speaker of the Senate to the government to increase the incomes of teachers is only one of many that has been sounded in recent years both from official tribunes and in informal discussions at media forums, parental meetings, meetings of NGOs, trade unions, and so on.
The level of wages of educators is among the lowest – 66% of the average wage. Tokayev believes that a “high-professional and motivated teacher is a guarantee of the success of the secondary education system. Without material and moral motivation, we will not be able to raise the prestige of the teaching profession,” the speaker emphasized.[i] The opinion of the Senate speaker largely coincides with the conclusions and recommendations of the Research Department of Education International (EI), the Global Federation of Trade Unions, which represent organizations of teachers and other educators, with over thirty-two million trade union members in about four hundred organizations in one hundred and seventy countries and territories.
EI stated, “Teachers should be given high professional status in a society commensurate with their professional responsibilities, qualifications and skills, as well as the contribution that their profession contributes to the development of society. (Education International, 2011, article XI).” [ii] The results of the survey conducted by the experts of this organization show that the improvement or reduction of wages and working conditions for many years have a proportional effect on the status of the teacher. Unfortunately, working conditions tend to deteriorate in most of the participating countries in recent years, in many countries there is a significant shortage of social security measures, unemployment, lack of transport benefits and a housing allowance for teachers.
However, the expert opinion shows that professional status does not only depend on wages. In order to improve the status of teachers, trade unions argue that all stakeholders should prioritize, along with increasing wages and improving working conditions, the following issues:
• Provide quality pedagogical education, opportunities for professional development, and attractive career prospects;
• Ensure academic freedom, autonomy and participation in decision-making;
• Promote a strong public education system, and positive representation of teachers in society;
• Maintain a regular dialogue between the education unions and the government. The more active role of trade unions in the design and implementation of educational policies can ensure that professional problems and the welfare conditions of teachers are effective addressed. [iii]
Given that high professional prestige and status are crucial for educational systems, the recommendations made in the EI study for educational policy developers include:
• States should ensure that at least six percent of their GDP is invested in education for the balanced development of all education sectors;
• Education support should have the same status and working conditions and receive similar salaries for other employees with comparable qualifications;
• Teaching of the highest quality and standards is necessary for the profession and must be fully funded by the state. Participation in professional development programs should provide opportunities for career development for all teachers;
• The status of young teachers and educators deserves special attention, especially in periods when unsustainable employment is increasing;
• Public authorities should offer a range of incentives to ensure adequate accessibility and retention of teachers;
• The profession of the teacher should be more attractive to new participants;
• Governments should encourage the positive image of teachers and their organizations in order to raise public awareness of the professional role and responsibilities of teachers;
• All education sectors should be duly respected for their contributions to the society.
Teachers all over the world share the need for appreciation, autonomy and belonging during their professional careers. Studies have shown that wherever teachers are asked questions about their priorities and achievements, they allude to the importance of recognizing and respecting their daily problems. These common factors, necessary for all teachers, form the status of the profession of the teacher and play a crucial role in ensuring quality and ensuring equity in education. Moreover, factors such as continuous professional development, participation in research, cooperation and exchange with other teachers and participation in decision-making also affect the sense of their worthy status.
In countries where the teaching profession is valued in society, such as Finland, Singapore and South Korea, students, as the survey shows, study more effectively. [iii] However, in many countries there are other trends. The growth of private learning, often stemming from the need for teachers to supplement their low income by taking private lessons, undermines the status of public education and, consequently, the status of teachers. In some countries, more attention is paid to the policy of accountability, often through the efforts of teachers, teachers are increasingly feeling pressure. Some states tend to implement school inspection systems, publish school rating tables and take measures aimed at evaluating and raising standards, it is found that the feminization of the teaching profession tends to correlate with a decline in the status of the profession.
According to several EI reports, rapid changes in educational policy, including increased privatization in education and the education system, systemic underfinancing of education, the recruitment of unskilled and / or contract teachers and accountability mechanisms based on performance measurement schemes for teachers based on positive or negative student outcomes in various kinds of tests, lead gradually to the de-professionalization of teachers.
These policies, combined with saving measures, are among the many educational problems that affect the self-esteem, life, wages and conditions of work of teachers, and their professional prospects.
At the request of a group of deputies of the Kazakh parliament with a proposal to allocate at least 6% of the gross domestic product for provide the financing of the education system (3.6% in Kazakhstan), Prime Minister B. Sagintayev replied that, although “according to international experts, higher public spending on education and health can improve outcomes in these areas, excessive government spending can cause a significant budget deficit, macroeconomic instability and a slowdown in economic growth, which could have a negative impact on education and health indicators. In this regard, in order to improve the quality of education and health care, it is necessary to find the right balance between the costs of such services and the maintenance of a stable state of public finances. A mechanical increase in the level of public spending on social services may reduce the effectiveness of ongoing reforms”. [iv]
In his speech, Speaker of the Senate Tokayev drew attention to another important factor affecting the status of teachers in our country, namely, that “applicants often choose teaching profession on a “much easier to do” principle, as a passing score on the teaching profession is much lower, than on many other specialties. This may lead to the fact that in the future the foundation of the teaching corps will be made up of the weakest graduates of schools, while it should be the opposite”. [i]
How it should be – can be seen in the Finnish educational system, in which one of the distinguishing features are high-quality teachers. Teaching is the most respected profession in Finland, and teaching in primary school is the most demanded career. The status of teachers appears to be largely the result of the implementation of specific policies and practices that may well be replicated.
The payment of teachers in Finland is quite competitive, but not more attractive than in many other European countries. But here are installed very high standards that must be met in order to enter the teacher training programs. The fact that pedagogical education in universities has moved to the level of master’s training also gives prestige to young people who are going to study this specialty. Since Finland has developed an elaborate curriculum and then provided teachers with greater autonomy as to how they approach this curriculum, teachers are aware of the high status of the profession, they understand that they are engaged in work that has many attractions that are related to research, development and design. They expand their intellectual and creative abilities. The society is so satisfied with the work of teachers that it is ready to trust them completely. Control, inspection, evaluation of test indicators are not available here.
This high level of trust, intellectual tasks of the curriculum, which is aimed at a high level and includes a regime of permanent invention, satisfaction from the realization that you are accepted into a profession that is very difficult to get into, the knowledge that you will work with other people, who have the same achievements and professional autonomy, which are usually associated only with higher statutory professions – all this makes the work very attractive.
Not surprisingly, Finland has a very high retention rate of teachers, with about 90% of trained teachers remaining in the profession throughout their careers. Finnish pedagogical education programs are extremely demanding, only one out of every ten students who apply for training is accepted. As a result, Finland recruits teachers from the upper quartile of the cohort. Teacher training is largely based on research, with special attention paid to knowledge in the field of pedagogical content. As part of the five-year program, students also need to complete a full course of teaching in the school related to their universities, before graduation. These schools associated with universities are model schools in which future teachers and researchers develop and model new practices and conduct comprehensive research in the field of teaching and learning. [v]
The salary of teachers is competitive in comparison with other professions in Finland, but rather average compared to other European countries. Teachers of primary school with a minimum amount of required education receive $34,720 in the first year; at the top of the wage scale, they can expect $ 45,157 per year. The average for the OECD for a novice junior teacher is $ 30,735; at the top of the scale, the average is $ 48,938.
For comparison, the average annual nominal salary of a teacher in Kazakhstan for January-June 2017 in the sphere of primary education (first stage) was $2,802 per year, secondary education (second and third stages) – $3,644 per year, higher education – $5,037.24 per year (the calculation was made at the exchange rate as of September 24, 2017, on the basis of statistical data of the Statistics Committee of the Ministry of National Economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan). [vi]
Thus, there is an urgent need to make the teaching profession more attractive. For this purpose, government agencies and heads of education institutions must offer working conditions, social security systems, pension schemes and salaries comparable to those with similar qualifications. Additional incentives that can help teachers feel respected and trusted in society include their autonomy for professional conviction and engaging them throughout the decision-making process, from formulation to assessment. The selection of personnel for the teaching profession should be more rigorous and balanced. Building a culture of trust from higher authorities and society can significantly increase the confidence of teachers in their own status.
[iii] Symeonidis, Vasileios. The Status of Teachers and the Teaching Profession A study of education unions’ perspectives March 2015
https://download.ei-ie.org/Docs/WebDepot/The%20Status%20of%20Teachers%20…) Accessed on 21.09.2017
[iv] Otvet na deputatskiy zapros Prem’yer-Ministra RK ot 26 oktyabrya 2016 goda № 21-11/3008
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute’s editorial policy.
Nadirova Gulnar Ermuratovna graduated from the Oriental Faculty of Leningrad State University, in 1990 she defended her thesis on the Algerian literature at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, in 2006 doctoral thesis - on modern Tunisian literature at the Tashkent Institute of Oriental Studies, Professor.