Oct 5, 2013

Diving into the Global Teacher Status Index

Recently, a misleading headline has drawn sentiments across the education sector.

Now, let us take a deeper look into the Global Teacher Status Index by Varkey GEMS Foundation, to have a more comprehensive view of the comparison of the teachers across the world.

Do note, the survey respondents are randomly selected based on a certain quota in age, gender and region. Each country has 1000 responses via web survey. This also meant that there is a certain survey bias as respondents are more technical savvy and hence more highly educated, than should the survey be conducted traditionally using face-to-face approach. However, this bias is also noted in the report.

Firstly, let's zoom in on the teachers' wages segment. In the study, the researchers wanted to compare between the following 3 variables:

  • Estimated teacher's wage (respondents estimate what the wage is)
  • Perceived fair wage (respondents reveal what they think the fair wage should be)
  • Actual wage (the actual starting wage)

Not indicated in the news report, the teacher's wage under scrutiny here is a secondary school teacher's starting wage. As it was omitted in the news article, it might have misled the public to think that they are comparing the average wage of a teacher (regardless of whether he/ she is teaching at a primary school or secondary school).

As many will know, the starting wage in Singapore, heavily depends on the qualifications of the entrant.

According to the press release (dated 2008, unfortunately I do not have access to updated numbers), "55% of our primary school teachers and 91% of our secondary school teachers are graduates". As such, by using a secondary school teacher's starting wage is not representative of that of an average teacher's wage. Given that almost all teachers entering secondary schools to teach are graduates, and that the wages are tied predominantly to qualification (since, it is a starting pay, hence with no prior working experience, remuneration based on experience here is irrelevant), the starting wage of a secondary school teacher will be higher than that of an average teacher's wage.

An annual wage of USD$37,144 (S$46,400), is predominantly a graduate's annual wage, which is not reflective of an average teacher's wage, which includes diploma graduates whose pay is significantly lesser.

If you are curious like me, you can compare the gross monthly wage of the said teacher's wage S$3867 with the other graduate starting pay according to the MOE Graduate Employment Survey 2012.

It then brings us to another point, in the report, there is no mention of the qualifications of the teacher, which they have tagged the actual wage/ estimated wage/ perceived fair wage to, which I think is a crucial piece of information which can help respondents may a fairer judgement. They should conduct a more intensive research on the qualifications of the teachers across the countries. Hence, it may not be a fair comparison of the wages across countries in this study.

As a sidenote, the wages have already been PPP adjusted, where PPP stands for Purchasing Power Parity. Hence they have considered the relative value across relative currencies.

The average teacher's wage is estimated to rise, and one of the reasons is that the qualifications of teachers are to be upgraded. Back in 2008, in the same article, the Ministry of Education (MOE) had plans to upgrade teachers' qualifications. In 2011, MOE announced they target to convert all teachers to graduates by 2020.

No doubt our government believes that a good education is the door to opportunities in life, hence a great emphasis is placed on the education sector. It translates to about 21.9% of the budget (based on FY2013 estimates via Singapore Budget 2013 [pdf, pg 4]) Intuitively, one will think the budget will trigger to high pay of the teachers to attract the best talents to the job. Reports like this also support the claim.

It will be interesting if the research has also delved into what the public perceive the job scope of a teacher and also the working hours of the teacher, and then compared it to the actual job scope and working hours of a teacher across countries. That would enlighten us better when analyzing the correlating factors of a teacher's status.

Personally, I think the perceived job scope and working hours will be directly correlated with a teacher's status.

Increasingly, a teacher's job stretches beyond teaching. It would be interesting to find out how other countries provide an all-rounder education for their children via teachers.

Other nuggets about Singapore in the report not mentioned in the news article:

Student's Academic Success and the Teacher's Status Index
PISA (OCED Programme for International Student Assessment) score aims to measure the student's success, with 1 being the highest score and 20 being the lowest score. Singapore has a score of 1. Yeah!

Hypothetically, a teacher's status should be correlated with a student's academic success, right? Unfortunately, according to this survey, they are unable to find a correlation between PISA and the Teacher's Status Index, they have derived. [Global Teacher Status Index, GTSI, pg 14]

Comparing Status Amongst Teachers
In ascending order, the average status ranking of teachers against other professions is: Primary School Teacher, Secondary School Teacher and Head Teacher. [GTSI pg 16]

Comparing Teacher's Status with Other Occupations
Amongst the 14 occupations, the top 5 occupations which respondents worldwide have selected that they find most similar in terms of status of a teacher are doctor, librarian, social worker, nurse and local government manager. Like 14 other countries (out of 21 countries), the respondents in Singapore relate a local teacher's status to that of a social worker. It is interesting to note the how the public view a teacher's status in the following countries (I've only picked those whereby there is a huge proportion of respondents selecting that option, hence a clearcut option):

  • China- Doctor
  • Japan- Local Government Manager
  • USA- Librarian

[GTSI, pg 19]

Perceived Pupil's Respect for Teachers
The respondents also rated whether they think pupils respect their teachers. Singapore has the 3rd highest percentage of respondents who tend to agree or strongly agree that pupils respect their teachers.

It would be interesting to find out direct from the horses' mouths though, from the pupils, on whether they respect their teachers instead of adults' view of them, which might be skewed by other variables. [GTSI, pg 20]

How Much Do You Trust Teachers to Deliver a Good Education?
Based on the above surveyed question, 12 countries out of 21, scored higher than the international average score of 6.3. And Singapore is one of them. Brazil and Finland leads in this segment. [GTSI, pg 24]

How Good is the Education System?
With 1 as the lowest rating and 10 as the highest rating, Singapore is rated 6.66 amongst the 21 countries, coming in 3rd place, after Finland (1st, 7,72) and Switzerland (2nd, 6.69). [GTSI, pg 25; GTSI Interactive Data]

Teacher Union and Her Influence
Interesting to note, this comment is compiled under the individual report for Singapore:

"More people in Singapore (almost 50%) urged for greater union influence on pay and conditions than less influence (6%)." [GTSI, pg 43]

By the way, from the Singapore's Teacher Union website, it seems that membership is only for trained teachers. Hence untrained teachers and NIE trainee teachers will have to wait for their first official posting before applying.

Teacher Status Index
Overall, Singapore is ranked 7th with a score of 46.3. The highest score of 100, goes to China.

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