Reading Between The Lines

Banner: The award ceremony for the 2018 Global Teacher Prize in Dubai, UAE

What The World Really Thinks of Teachers

A new Varkey Foundation report shows for the very first time that there is a remarkably strong link between people’s implicit, unconscious and automatic views about teacher status and pupil performance as measured by PISA 2018 scores. The new analysis of the most comprehensive study ever of teacher respect around the world, polling over 35,000 people across 35 countries, ranks Implicit Teacher Status globally. The report shows that PISA scores are significantly higher in countries where people implicitly view teachers more positively. Around 31% of the variation in PISA scores between countries is explained by differences in Implicit Teacher Status.

The report, ‘Reading Between The Lines: What The World Really Thinks of Teachers’ , also explains for the first time the likely reasons why teacher status varies so much between countries. It finds that teachers generally enjoy higher status in richer countries, and in countries which allot a greater fraction of public funds to education. Italy’s expenditure on education as a percent of government spending, for example, is 8.1%, lower than any other country surveyed, and the country ranks 24th out of 35 for Implicit Teacher Status. In Ghana, however, which ranks second out of the 35 countries polled for Implicit Teacher Status, expenditure on education as a percent of government spending is 22.1%.

“This report proves that respecting teachers isn’t only an important moral duty – it’s essential for a country’s educational outcomes.
Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation

It also finds that teachers are generally lower in status in countries where a greater proportion of the teaching workforce is female. This suggests a level of possible gender stereotyping or that societal sexism may damage teacher status in countries where the profession is represented more by women. The gender composition of the workforce is part of a complex web of societal factors that determine how people implicitly view teachers in their country. In Russia, for example, 82% of secondary school teachers are female, more than any other country surveyed, and the country ranks low for Implicit Teacher Status at 23rd out of 35 countries polled. Meanwhile, in highly-ranked Ghana, 25.2% of secondary school teachers are female.

Above: A music concert in honour of teachers, hosted by the Varkey Foundation in 2018

The Varkey Foundation’s latest report builds on the data gathered by their Global Teacher Status Index (GTSI) 2018, which found that countries which have higher teacher status are more likely to see higher pupil attainment as measured by their 2015 PISA scores. In this new report, Professor Peter Dolton of the University of Sussex and Doctor Robert De Vries of the University of Kent, reassess the GTSI data in relation to the new 2018 PISA scores released last year and confirm the link between teacher status and pupil attainment remains. Crucially, they find a remarkably strong positive correlation between Implicit Teacher Status and the 2018 PISA results.

Implicit Teacher Status ranks countries by respondents’ unconsidered and automatic impressions of teachers, asking those polled to indicate as quickly as possible whether, for example, they think teachers are trusted or untrusted, inspiring or uninspiring, caring or uncaring, intelligent or unintelligent, among other word associations.

China ranked higher than any other country polled for Implicit Teacher Status, whilst its four provinces of Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang also ranked higher than any other country for mean PISA 2018 scores. Singapore ranked third for Implicit Teacher Status, whilst ranking second out of 77 for PISA 2018 scores. Canada, which ranks fourth for Implicit Teacher Status ranks eighth in PISA 2018. At the other end of the scale, Peru, which comes 65th out of 77 countries in PISA 2018 ranks second to last for Implicit Teacher Status, followed only by Israel. The report found the reason students perform better academically in countries where teacher status is higher cannot be explained by the wealth of countries or their spending on education.

Generally, Asian countries, which tend to score well in PISA, ranked higher in terms of Implicit Teacher Status, whereas Latin American countries, which often score lower in PISA, rank lower for Implicit Teacher Status.

[1] Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang