More pay: better teachers, therefore, better students. Wait a second!

By Eduardo Andere M.*

Discussion question by Cathy Rubin: “If we make teaching a more financially attractive career will it improve global education overall?”

Teachers are paid differently by different countries. Some countries pay very high salaries others very low. If we compare only statutory (compensations and fringe benefits apart) salaries for all levels of education (pre-primary, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary), Luxembourg and Switzerland, followed by Korea and Germany, are the highest paying countries among OECD countries. The Czech and the Slovak Republics are the lowest paying countries. (OECD, Education at a Glance 2018).

It is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to make sound comparisons of teachers’ salaries among countries. It is even more difficult to correlate that feeble comparison with the performance of students. If we did that, we would have very awkward relationships. Let’s take for example a very high performing country in PISA, say Finland, and very low performing countries, say Mexico and Chile, among OECD members. Let’s then compare their statutory salaries, converted to purchasing power parity (a metric “that compares different countries’ currencies” with a basket of consumption goods; for example, what can a US dollar buy in the US and the same dollar buy in other countries like Finland and Mexico).

Let’s see the comparison of statutory salaries—in purchasing power parity (ppp) dollars—of Finnish, Mexican, Chilean, American, and Czech teachers. Let’s take the salary of lower secondary (middle school) teachers at the top of the scale in each country. Finnish teachers make $46,257 USD (ppp-converted US dollars), whereas Mexican, Chilean, American and Czech teachers make: $51,139, $43,760, $68,046 and $24, 901, respectively.  The OECD’s average salary for teachers at this level of education is $56,874. (OECD, Education at a Glance, 2018, Table D3.1.a. Data for 2017).

Well, as we all know Finland is the highest, or one of the highest, performing countries in PISA among OECD’s members. Mexico and Chile are the lowest performing countries. The Czech Republic with the second lowest salary among all OECD’s countries performs high in PISA, certainly, at a higher level than Mexico, Chile and similar to the U.S.  The Czech Republic students and the American students performed more or less at the OECD’s mean level for PISA 2015 for Reading and Science. In mathematics, the U.S. students performed below the OECD’s mean level.

At the same level of education and top of the scale, the Luxembourg teachers make the highest salary, $138,279 per year; the Slovak teachers make the lowest salary, $21, 225; however, the students from both countries performed more or less similar in PISA 2015. Whereas the Luxembourg students’ performance level in Science, Reading, and Math were 483, 481 and 486; Slovak Republic students’ performance was 461 for Science, 453 for Reading, and 475 Math, not very far away even though with the huge differences in salaries (OECD, PISA 2015. Vol 1, p. 44).

Then, what is the story behind the story? First of all, the statutory salary is just part of the story; there are other benefits that teachers receive that are not included in the statutory salary making the comparison extremely difficult. Second, even though the “ppp” metric tries to standardize salaries, there is no metric for the quality of the products in the basket of goods. The “ppp” metric measures the quantity of say milk, meat, public transportation or vegetables, but not the quality. And still, there is a totally different factor that is not captured by the international comparison, i.e., the teaching and learning environment.

Finnish teachers may earn less statutory salaries than the many of the peer teachers from around the world, but when one Finnish teacher answered my question “why are you a teacher even though salaries are not very high?” He said: “It is the package: The salary is good enough, the fringe benefits are good enough as well, social security is excellent, vacation time is wonderful; my children get to go to excellent schools free of charge, and the collegial ambiance and the whole teaching and learning environment in the school is wonderful.”

Of course, we all want better salaries. Teachers deserve high salaries. Their work is extremely important not only for the individual, community and national levels but for the global society and global citizenry as well. That is the extrinsic motivation. But core to teaching and learning, and the happiness of teachers comes from the intrinsic motivation. Why do teachers want to become teachers in the first place? We need higher salaries to reinforce, no to supplant intrinsic motivation; and also, in symphony with the intrinsic motivation and rewarding salaries, we need nice, collegial and positive learning environments in the schools and societies.

*The author is a Visiting Research Professor at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Human Development, and Education, New York University and author of Teacher’s Perspectives on Finnish School Education: Creating Learning Environments. Springer. 2014, and of Curriculum, Policy and Pedagogy in Finland: Meaningful and Interactive Learning in K-12 Education. Oxford University Press. New York. (Forthcoming, 2019).

La escuela y el salón de clases en Finlandia (The school and the classroom in Finland)

Esta semana la versión electrónica de mi libro “Teachers’ perspectives on Finnish school education: Creating learning environments” is on Sale here

Portada SPRINGER 2014

This week the ebook version of my book “Teachers’ perspectives on Finnish school education: Creating learning environments” is on Sale here

Finland continúa cambiando y actualizando políticas, prácticas, instituciones y currículos de su educación aún y cuando se ha mantenido como la mejor marca mundial de la educación escolar por 15 años.

Finland, as we speak, is changing policies, practices, agencies and curricula in school education. Finland has been a benchmark in school education for 15 years or so.

Finnish school education. Educación escolar en Finlandia

Springer, a German-based publisher, is selling my 2014 book about Finnish education at a 50% discount. Sale ends on March 3, 2017. La casa editorial alemana Springer ofrece mi libro sobre la educación finlandesa con 50% de descuento. La oferta vence el 3 de marzo de 2017.Portada SPRINGER 2014

The book “provides a thorough analysis of the Finnish education system and its cultural context not only on national level but par excellence on local, school and classroom level.”

El libro “provee un análisis comprensivo del sistema educativo finlandés y su contexto cultural, no solo a nivel nacional sino, por excelencia, a los niveles local, escolar y de aula.”

More information/más información en: SPRINGER

 

Guest lecture at Helsinki University about education in Finland, learning and PISA

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-12-22-21-pm

Next Tuesday, November 29th, from 15.00 to 17:00, I will give a Guest lecture at Helsinki University, sponsored by Cicero Learning. The lecture is divided in two main topics: 1) Finnish education and Learning from an international perspective; 2) PISA is coming to town! I am a visitor researcher at NYU, Boston College, and the “Centro Regional de Formación Docente e Investigación Educativa en México”. More about Dr. Andere.

More information about the Guest lecture: HERE

Portada SPRINGER 2014

Subjects do not disappear in the new Finnish comprehensive school curriculum

education-univ-jyvaskyla-nov-2016Jyväskylä, Finland. Instruction subjects do NOT disappear in the new FINNISH peruskoulu curriculum. What happens is that the new curriculum for compulsory school education (effective as of 2016 for grades 1 to 6, and as of 2017 for grades 7 to 9) reinforces “multidisciplinary learning modules” where “integrative instruction” is promoted during all school years. Good to excellent teachers have known for a long time that multidisciplinary teaching and learning helps to connect subjects to real life experiences, “phenomena” or “themes” as the Finnish curriculum calls them.

Teachers then use projects based on themes or class teaching plans that promote not only the knowledge of curriculum subjects but also transversal competences, i.e., those abilities that students need to develop in order to solve new problems and propose innovative solutions. Cross-fertilization from different subjects can help indeed. But teachers need to know their subjects in depth, and nobody is proposing their elimination (for the list of subjects in the new Finnish curriculum please look HERE). It is more about pedagogy than getting rid of subjects.

In my opinion the new curriculum stresses three basic ideas: 1) invite teachers to combine subjects simultaneously or sequentially with the help of themes or phenomena; 2) cooperation, communication and coordination among teachers; 3) connection between theory, teaching and learning and real life examples meaningful to students’ own reality and context. For example, a theme for a class or school year or school project may be “water” or “pollution.” Both themes include aspects studied by different subjects: chemistry, biology, natural resources, physics, mathematics, law, social sciences, etc. Another theme may be “Art in the twentieth century”, and the subjects could be: art, history, social sciences, humanities, civilization. Another one, with a lot of meaning in Suomi is “Finland 100” as the Finnish will celebrate 100 years of independence in 2017.

Still, an integrative different project for a student or school, could be the production of a video, short film or feature film. In both cases, many subjects could be involved with teachers as guiding mentoring or active engagement. An example close to full integrative teaching is what happens in multigrade instruction. At the extreme we might think of multigrade and multi-subject instruction, almost impossible to implement specially in secondary schools.

Schools in Finland are real jewels, and yet teachers are still finding the way to understand the day-to-day strategies to implement, of even more, to integrative teaching and learning, and to understand the new policies for the evaluation and assessment of students. Finns are getting more into formative assessment than before and want teachers to get away from summative or grade assessments at least for grades 1 to 7. In grades 8 to 9 teachers will have to use grade but also formative and self-assessment evaluations. Finns are getting more Finnish than before.

Portada SPRINGER 2014

Therefore, subjects will not disappear; university programs and the deep knowledge required by degree specializations would have to disappear first. What will change is the pedagogy (integrative instruction plus seven transversal competences, plus more formative assessment) not the content or depth of knowledge.

 

 

By the way, if you want to know about teachers in Finland and how they impact student achievement, you may want to read THIS PAPER

How do we inspire the best and the brightest (BB) to become educators?

By Eduardo Andere M. PhD.

“The Package”

Nuevos maestrosTeachers from around the world, including those from the US, in public or private schools, think that the advantages of being a teacher clearly outweigh the disadvantages, that if they could decide again they would still choose to work as teachers, that they wouldn’t like to change to another school if that were possible, that they don’t regret that they decided to become teachers, that they enjoy working in the school they are currently working, that they don’t think they would have been better had they decided to choose another profession, that they would recommend their current school as a good place to work, that they are satisfied with the performance in their schools, and that all in all they are satisfied with their job. The only negative thing they agree with is that the teaching profession is not valued in their society[1].

As difficult as it is to measure this latter “cultural” variable, it is extremely important to the core of the question: How to inspire the BB to become educators? If society in general does not value the teaching profession, then the teaching profession will always be a second-class profession, after lawyers, medical doctors, economists, scientists, MBAs, computer engineers, etc. Few teachers from around the world think that their profession is valued by society. The average for the OECD’s study is 30.9 percent, the U.S. average is 33.7 percent and the Finnish average is 58.6 percent.

Finland is widely recognized as the world’s benchmark for pre-K to 12-education system. The teaching profession in Finland is highly popular and highly appreciated; teachers’ colleges in Finland attract the BB and teaching is never a second-class profession. Salaries in Finland are far from being the highest; teachers in Luxemburg, Korea, Germany, Canada, and the U.S. are the highest-paid in the world[2].

Professor Simola from the University of Helsinki has an interesting theory about how to measure society’s appreciation of any profession; is no by perceptions or salaries. Instead, according to Professor Hannu Simola, a profession is highly appreciated if the children of the social and education elites choose to become teachers. It took Finland around 100 years to get teachers as a group to a high social and cultural status.[3]

There is an alternative “theory” from a lower secondary teacher in Finland when he answered to my question “why did you become a teacher?” “It is the package”—he said. The package is: a good-enough salary, nice collegial and highly-educated climate in the school, enough time to spend with the family, nice team-work environment, nice fringe benefits like social security and access to cultural opportunities, time for leisure and cultural activities, and two and a half more reasons: June, July and half of August vacation.

 

For further reading about teachers in Finland and other countries see my paper and book:

Andere, E. (2015). Are teachers crucial for academic achievement? Finland educational success in a comparative perspective. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23(39).

Teachers’ perspectives on Finnish school education: Creating learning environments. 2014. Springer: Bern, Switzerland.

 

[1] OECD (2014), TALIS 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning, TALIS, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/978964196261-en pp. 407 408

[2] OECD (2015), Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/101887/eag-2015-en. pp. 440-441.

[3] Simola, H. (2005). The Finnish miracle of PISA: historical and sociological remarks on teaching and teacher education. Comparative Education, 4 (41), 455-470. See also, Andere, E. (2014). Teachers’ perspectives on Finnish school education: Creating learning enviroments. Switzerland: Springer.

The future paradigm in education: From learning environments to…

From learning environments to motivation environments.

The real challenge is how to Motivate

The next paragraph is the preliminary result from my research about learning environments in seven countries.

I think that we will start to hear about a new paradigm shift in school education; in the 80s and 90s the whole idea was “learning to learn”, “lifelong learning” and “competences”; in the 2000’s and 2010’s the issue was/is “learning environments and information and communication technologies”; well, the focus in the coming years will be “motivation environments”. We (parents, schools and authorities) will have to concentrate on “how to motivate children/students”, in a digital world, when they think they don’t need the school (they think they have everything when they own a smartphone). Children are not longer challenged by the schools. It is not about teachers or poverty (those are givens) it is about “creating motivation environments”.

More about this the following weeks!

Eduardo Andere M.

Arts and Soccer: Mexico and Holland

“The Dynamism of a Soccer Player”IMG_1510

By Eduardo Andere M.

The World Soccer 2014 party is barely half-way, but for the Dutch and Mexicans today, June 29, 2014, it seems the climax. Soccer is a sport that unites and separates the world; showing the best and worst of ourselves; total ecstasy or bottomless depression.

The 90 or 120 minutes pressure is only sustained and contained adrenaline that explodes in endless tears as Neymar ‘s at the conclussion of yesterday’s dramatic match between Brazil and Chile.

Football is full of errors (referees) and passions (players and fans). It is also arts and science; is balance and effort, mastery and sagacity. But it is above all a feast of colors that explode into an orderly chaos.

And a gift to all of us is the wonderful art by the Italian Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916) who bequeathed to the world their extraordinary and vivid 101 years old painting: Dynamism of a Soccer Player. This painting is an oxymoron of concrete abstraction.

Everything passes. No glory without effort. But there is no eternal bliss or permanent happiness. If it is not enough that, let’s ask the Spanish football team. The important thing, then, is to live fully and always fighting; the real triumph is the effort. No matter how many times we fall, the important thing is to get up. No matter how many achievements the important thing is humility.

Whatever the outcome of today enjoy the timelessness of the synthesis of arts and sports, a sublime expression of the human endeavor. Humans are a kaleidoscope of emotions and thoughts; passions and creations; mistakes and successes. If we were perfect we would not be so perfect.

IMG_1510

Umberto Boccioni: Dynamism of a Soccer Player

How much US Teachers earn?

U.S. teachers: Do they earn too much or too little?

By Eduardo Andere M.

The talk about teachers is a fad. They are the subject of the public agenda, the big and the small screens, international organizations, the media, parents, the public opinion, and politicians, of course. Around the world there are bad teachers and good teachers. For every bad teacher there are hundreds of good teachers.

What does the evidence say?

Mapping the global comparative education with OECD’s data (2011), the average U.S, lower secondary (grades 7 to 9) teacher, at the beginning of her/his career, makes $37, 595 international dollars (adjusted by the purchasing power), and at the top level of her/his career, 56 364 ID. Where is the U.S. in the world’s education map? Well, the OECD average for those levels are, respectively, 30, 216 and 48, 177. But the tops and the bottoms are dramatically apart. A lower secondary teacher from Luxembourg can make 125, 962 ID, and from the Slovak Republic 13, 864, both at the top of their career.

Earning more or less, according to the OECD does not buy PISA points. The U.S. students with teachers who earn much less than the Luxembourg teachers and much more than the teachers from the Slovak Republic perform worse in mathematics, better in science and the same in reading than their peers in Luxembourg, and equal in mathematics but better in science and reading than their peers in the Slovak Republic. As per the OECD global student, the U.S. student performs worse in mathematics but equal in science and reading. A more dramatic comparison comes from Estonia where the teachers make, at the maximum level of their careers 16, 985 ID and their students ranked, in 2012, at the same level than the Finnish students both in mathematics and science.

Where is the U.S. compared to the two consistently top OECD performers, Korea and Finland? Korean lower secondary teachers, at the top of the scale, earn 76, 424 whereas Finnish teachers make 43, 372. Both, Korean and Finnish kids perform much higher than U.S. kids, PISA-wise, and yet the salaries levels are so different among them, and yet not so different from the U.S. ones.

But life for teachers and students in Korea is not the same as life in Finland or in America. One has to be Korean, and Finnish, and American to fully appreciate the differences. Is a Korean salary too high or too low compared to that of an American teacher or the Estonian teacher?

Well, let’s see again at the OECD’s relative numbers; let’s look at the salary per net contact (teaching) time. Again Luxembourg is at the top of the rank with a salary of 115 ID per hour of teaching time, versus an Estonian teacher at the OECD’s lowest level with 20 ID per hour. The U.S. teacher earns 43 ID per hour at the lower secondary level against the 58 OCDE’s global teacher. The Korean teacher makes 78 and the Finnish teacher makes 69, well above the U.S. teacher. Again, this indicator is not an answer either to the best quality of learning recipe or formula but helps to locate the countries relative differences. Paying more or less per hour is not the explanatory variable, but it seems that the U.S. teachers earn far too little within the education league of industrialized nations or teach too many hours of net contact time, or have too few hours for planning, discussion and creating collective and collaborative professional learning environments.

How are teachers appreciated in their own countries? Are the U.S. teachers socially appreciated? For starters, one could go and ask people about their perceptions and get answers that mean very little in factual terms. Or we could go, and try to measure, albeit imperfectly, as the OCDE has done, the salaries of teachers in international dollars and compare those to the average income of the population. Presumably, if a teacher earns, on average, more than the gross national income per capita, it is said that the teacher is appreciated and vice versa. With this in mind, the most “appreciated” teachers from public lower secondary schools are the Korean ones with a salary relative to the GPD/per capita of 1.82 followed by the Mexicans at 1.78 and the Germans at 1.75 even the Canadians at 1.58. The OECD average is at 1.24 and the U.S. is below par, at 0.98 with lowest one being Estonia at 0.68. Again, teacher appreciation does not buy PISA points either, but who cares?

How have the salaries of U.S. teachers grown in the last decade in comparison to the global map? Well, salaries in the U.S. have stayed almost flat in real terms from 2000 to 2011 (2000 base=100). The OECD growth has been to 116 where as the U.S. has grown to a mere 103, well below Finland (109) and Korea (119).

With this huge difference in prices we will soon see the Gresham’s Law in education. If we couple the apparently low pay and low pace with high-pressure the system will collapse, or worse, will harbor low-quality teaching and a large number of depressed mentors.

 

The author is a Visiting Research Professor at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Human Development, and Education, New York University and author of Teacher’s Perspectives on Finnish School Education: Creating Learning Environments. Springer. 2014.