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Reading Between The Lines
What The World Really Thinks of Teachers
The high status of teachers is vital to the functioning of schools and to instilling parental confidence in all educational systems. The Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Status Index (GTSI) survey represents the most comprehensive research that has ever been conducted to robustly document teacher status around the world. The latest survey, which commissioned by the foundation in 2018, collected data on teacher status from a diverse sample of 35 countries, covering Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australasia and Europe. It followed on from a survey commissioned by the Varkey Foundation in 2013 that documented teacher status in 21 countries.
In our 2018 report that set out the results from the latest GTSI survey, we collated a variety of indicators to derive a single international index of teacher status. We found dramatic variations in teacher status between countries, consistent with the findings from our 2013 survey. We also found that this variation appeared to be substantively related to children’s attainment as measured by scores on the 2018 OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
Our objectives in the present report are threefold. First, we explore the concept of teacher status more thoroughly than we were able to in the previous omnibus report. Second, we conduct a more robust investigation of the link between teacher status and student attainment (making use of updated PISA data). And third, we explore the factors which may explain why teachers enjoy higher status in some countries than others.
The Global Teacher Status Index is the most comprehensive research ever conducted on the status of the teaching profession around the world.
Three new measures of teacher status
Our first task in this report is to more thoroughly explore the concept of ‘teacher status’. Our primary measure of teacher status is the Global Teacher Status Index (GTSI) itself. This measure uses a mathematical technique called Principal Component Analysis to take information from a variety of different survey questions about teachers and summarise it in a single score from 0-100. This score indicates the overall status of teachers in each country under consideration.
The GTSI is a framework that allows us to consider teacher status as a single, unitary concept. However, people’s views of teachers are likely to be more nuanced than a single measure allows. In this report, we explore three alternate ways of assessing people’s views of teacher status. We compare them against each other, and against the GTSI itself. These measures are described in detail in the section “Teacher status: Three alternate measures”. However, briefly, we contrast:
- Ranked Teacher Status: A measure based on how teachers are ranked relative to other comparable occupations;
- Implicit Teacher Status: A scale based on people’s implicit perceptions of teachers; and
- Explicit Teacher Status: A scale based on people’s explicit judgements of teachers’ characteristics and working conditions.
Exploring these varying focuses and measurement approaches allows us to come to a deeper understanding of people’s multifaceted views of teachers. In contrasting these measures, we find that, although they are all linked (again suggesting that we are tapping into a single underlying stance towards teachers), they are nevertheless distinct.
The relationship between teacher status and learning outcomes
The distinction between these three alternative measures is important to our second objective: an analysis of the relationship between teacher status and student learning outcomes. In this analysis we use the latest available PISA data, published in 2018. Our results re-affirm our previous finding that teacher status can be an important predictor of student attainment, as measured by PISA scores in Reading, Mathematics and Science.
In comparing the latest PISA results with the GTSI and our three alternate measures, we find:
- 2018 GTSI: Teacher status, as measured by the GTSI, is moderately positively correlated with 2018 PISA results. In countries with higher GTSI scores, PISA scores tend to be higher. Around 8% of the variation in PISA scores between countries is explained by differences in teacher status as measured by the GTSI 2018.
- Ranked Teacher Status: Again, there is a moderate positive correlation between Ranked Teacher Status and the 2018 PISA results. In countries where teachers are ranked higher in terms of respect relative to other occupations, PISA scores tend to be higher. Around 13% of the variation in PISA scores between countries is explained by differences in teacher status rankings.
- Implicit Teacher Status: There is a remarkably strong positive correlation between Implicit Teacher Status and the 2018 PISA results. 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.
- Explicit Teacher Status: In contrast to our findings on implicit status, the correlation between explicit views of teacher status and PISA scores is negligible. Only 3% of the variation in PISA scores between countries is explained by differences in explicitly expressed teacher status. This is a surprising result, given that one might expect explicit evaluations of teacher attributes and working conditions to be most relevant to attainment.
In addition to the above measures of teacher status, teacher wages are also strongly correlated with PISA scores. In further analyses, we determined that these effects are independent of each other. Regardless of how well teachers are paid, children perform better in countries where teacher status is higher (as measured by the ranking or implicit measures). Adjusting for teacher pay, in countries where teachers are ranked one place higher relative to other occupations, children perform 21.3 points better in PISA on average.
Adjusting for teacher pay, in countries where teachers are ranked one place higher relative to other occupations, children perform 21.3 points better in PISA on average.
Examining differences in teacher status across countries
Our third objective for this report was to examine the factors that might explain cross-national differences in teacher status. This is important for two reasons.
First, as we note above, improving teacher status is, in our view, a necessary part of improving children’s education worldwide. Understanding what factors might underlie differences in teacher status is therefore an important step towards that goal. We find that teachers generally enjoy higher status in richer countries, and in countries which allot a greater fraction of public funds to education. We also find that teachers are generally lower status in countries where the profession is more feminised (i.e. where a greater fraction of the teaching workforce is female). We find that teacher status is unrelated to the extent to which schools are privately run, or to the extent to which the education system is focused on vocational training as opposed to academic education.
The second reason this analysis is important is that it also contributes to our understanding of the relationship between teacher status and student attainment. Crucially, we find that this relationship does not appear to be explained by background factors which may be related to both higher teacher status and better PISA scores (such as national wealth or government spending on education).
Finally, in addition to more concrete predictors of teacher status, we also examine potential cultural correlates. Here we find little evidence that teacher status is part of a cluster of other cultural values unrelated to education. However, we are unable to determine whether it is part of a broader sense in which education holds high intrinsic cultural value.
 Dolton, Marcenaro, de Vries and She, Global Teacher Status Index 2018, Varkey Foundation (2018)