Teacher status around the world: how the US stacks up
The first-ever Global Teacher Status index finds significant disparities in how teachers are viewed. In China, teachers are as respected as doctors; in the US, they're more often compared with librarians.
Debate about how to keep up with countries that perform best on international tests has been percolating for years in the United States. Now there’s a new comparison to consider – one that ranks 21 countries on the status of teachers, a factor that experts say can influence the effectiveness of education.Skip to next paragraph
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China tops the first-ever Global Teacher Status Index, with Israel coming in last. The US ranks ninth – beating out No. 13 Finland, a country that often ranks high in comparisons of student performance.
The index is based on surveys comparing teaching to other professions and how much respect the public says teachers get from students. The report also includes the context of teacher pay, the degree to which parents encourage children to become teachers, and public opinion on pay-for-performance policies. The Varkey Gems Foundation, a London-based nonprofit devoted to improving education for disadvantaged students, released the index Wednesday evening.
In the US, “there is consensus that we need to not just improve the status but also the performance of the profession,” and the two go hand-in-hand, says Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future, in Washington. An international comparison on teacher status is a valuable addition to the increasingly global dialogue about how best to do that, he says.
In China, about one-third of those surveyed said teachers could be compared with doctors. In two-thirds of the countries (including top-performers in student testing such as Singapore, South Korea, and Finland), the profession was most often compared with social work. In the US (along with Brazil, France, and Turkey), the most common comparison was to librarians.
That’s telling, says Mr. Carroll, because it means that the US public sees “the core role of teachers as providing students access to content,” which for so long has been measured by multiple-choice tests, while “the countries that say it’s like social work [are saying] teachers need to collaborate with students, support their personal and emotional growth, and work in teams.”
That latter approach is key to the success of many top-performing countries, Carroll and other education experts say, and it’s a shift that has more potential than ever to occur in the US as schools start to implement Common Core State Standards, which demand that students not just learn facts and figuring, but also how to apply knowledge and solve problems.
To the degree that state policymakers realize that potential of the Common Core, Carroll says, it will put “students in a tremendous position in a globally competitive economy.”