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TEACHER STATUS

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«Открытая школа» newspaper, January 2015.

Low status of teaching profession remains a problem in many countries. Low teacher salaries, lack of respect and encouragement are among those factors that contribute to teacher status. In 2012, on average across OECD countries, pre-primary teachers earn 80% of the salary of a tertiary educated, primary-school teachers earn 85% of that benchmark, lower secondary teachers are paid 88%. Additionally, in OECD countries in 2009-2012 average teacher salary dropped by 5% (OECD, 2014a).

Respect and value of teachers diminish in the society. According to Global Teacher Status Index (2013), only 27% of adults believe that children respect teachers. More than half of adults would not encourage their children to choose teaching profession (Dolton & Marcenaro-Gutierrez, 2013). The results of Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) shows that in 2008 60% of lower secondary teachers believed teaching to be a valued profession in society, and in 2013 only 33% of them still agreed on it (OECD, 2014c).

Moral encouragement of teachers contributes to job satisfaction and motivation for professional development. Meanwhile, two third of teachers do not agree that the best-performing teachers in their schools receive the greatest recognition. 13% of teachers report receiving no feedback on their teaching, about 75% say that they would not receive any recognition for improving their teaching (OECD, 2012; OECD, 2014c).

Low satisfaction with salary and working conditions can lead to teacher turnover. In the United Kingdom in 2011 four out of ten teachers left profession after first year of teaching, 11 000 teachers never enter teacher profession (Weale, 2015). In the USA teacher turnover reaches 50% in five years period (Phillips, 2015). In this case, 25% of annual teacher salary constitutes loss of public budget (Texas Center for Educational Research, 2000). According to the USA data, teacher turnover costs about $2 billion annually (Phillips, 2015). If this calculation to be applied, in Kazakhstan 1% of teacher turnover would cost about half billion tenge. This money can be used to build a preschool institution and provide children with preschool education. However, an actual cost of teacher turnover in Kazakhstan is hard to estimate since there is no statistics on it at the national level.

Teacher status is an instant issue for Kazakhstan. In Kazakhstan teacher salary are half as much the average salary in the country (average salary of preschool teacher is equal to 62 359 tenge, average teacher salary of secondary school teacher is equal to 73 199 tenge). In the first quarter of 2015 the average salary in the country equals to 118 638 tenge (Ministry of national economy of the RK Committee on Statistics data).

Low salary does not allow attract talented and capable students. In Kazakhstan in 2015 among 2116 holders of “Altyn belgi” only 7% chose teacher profession (Kaz.pravda, 2015, August11). Low UNT scores for government scholarship eligibility on teacher professions lead to attraction of students not interested in the teaching career. In 2015 average UNT entry score for teaching professions was equal to 76. Meanwhile, entry scores for professions of “Social sciences, economics and business” constitutes to 92 (Testent.ru). Additionally, a lot of graduates from pedagogical institutes do not enter teacher profession. In Kazakhstan in 2015 only 35% of graduates from teaching professions were employed during the first year after graduation (MES RK).

Meanwhile, teachers contribute to formation of the future generations. Achievements of many great people in the history once took place due to teachers. The famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven published his first work in his twelve, thanks to his teacher. School teacher, noting the outstanding abilities of Isaac Newton, tried to persuade his mother to let the boy continue studying when she took him out of school. Galileo was not only a great scientist but also a teacher. Among his students were Borelli, founder of biomechanics, one of the first formulated the law of universal gravitation, Torricelli, a physicist and inventor.

Some countries solved issues of teacher status and made teaching profession one of the prestigious in the country. High teacher status is in Finland, Singapore, South Korea. High teacher salary and working conditions make a profession attractive for young people. In general only one in ten applicants can be accepted to teacher training programs in these countries. There are high requirements to teacher applicants. Selective procedures in the form of exams and tests are in place to identify eligible candidates. Additionally, school graduates with high academic performance are the only to be accepted to teaching professions. In Singapore only one third of top performers can be enrolled, in Finland only one fifth of them. In Finland there are high requirement to teacher qualifications: all teacher have to hold a master’s degree. In Singapore a teacher may receive a $10 000 – $36 0000 compensation every 3-5 years. There are also performance bonuses for teachers (Auguste, Kihn, & Miller, 2010).

High teacher status and strong teacher supply in the countries above contribute to academic success in schools. Students from Singapore, South Korea and Finland showed good results in mathematics, sciences and reading of PISA 2012 study. According to PISA 2012 results, Singapore was the 2nd country, South Korea was the 5th country and Finland was the 12 (OECD, 2014b). Meanwhile, reaching the average level of Finland in PISA would improve GDP of such countries as Mexico by 2 155%, Greece by 1 073%, Turkey by 1 673% until 2090 (OECD, 2010).

Experience of those countries is an example for increase of teacher value and status. Currently there are selective procedures for enrollment to teaching professions in place in 27 OECD countries, master’s degree are required in 22 OECD countries (OECD, 2014a).  To improve teacher image European countries launch information campaigns. For example, in 2015, the French advertising video campaign was broadcast on 24 national TV channels. In Latvia advertising campaign consisted of films, posters and advertisements in public transport (Eurydice, 2015). In the USA there are different programs for professional orientation of school graduates and getting them acquainted with teacher profession. Moreover, induction programs for beginner teachers are getting more popular in Europe and the USA. Such programs are mandatory for beginner teachers in 9 OECD countries (Eurydice, 2012). In Russia in 2012 Putin V.V. signed a decree on increase of teacher salary to average salary in the region (RG.ru).

Kazakhstan is not an exception, there are measures in place to encourage teachers for their performance at work. For example, in 2015 48 teachers were honored with medal “Best teacher” and rewarded about 2 millions tenge (Today.kz). In the same year four teachers of Pavlodar region got cars for success at work (Profinance.kz). There is also a beginner teacher among them whose student got silver on the 48th International Mendeleev Chemistry Olympiad International Olympiad (Tengrinews.kz). A lot of attention is given to teacher status in rural areas. Teacher salary in rural areas is 25% higher than in urban (Act “On Education”). Additionally, a 43-66% increase in teacher salaries is expected from the 1st of January, 2016 in accordance with the President of RK, Nazarbayev N.A. request (Forbes.kz).

Teacher turnover estimation is needed on the national level. Currently there is a lack of data on teacher turnover at the national level. Thus, there is no clear picture on the current situation, problems and reasons for leaving teacher profession, which prevents from identification of necessary measures to improve teacher status.

There is a lack of data on teacher status in Kazakhstan. At the international level there is an instrument that allows assess teacher status as a part of TALIS. It assesses job satisfaction, working conditions, influence of teacher encouragement on their work performance, etc. The TALIS 2013 results indicate that 91% of teachers across countries report overall satisfaction with their job, while 78% of teachers would choose their profession again (OECD, 2014). Participation of Kazakhstan in this study would allow identify the value of teaching profession in the country, its weaknesses and develop measures for further improvement.


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Chief Analyst. Department for preschool education and training