TEACHERS, more than ever, are overworked, underpaid, and experience a lack of social recognition. In most countries surveyed, teaching is not a prestigious job. Pay is often similar to that in other branches of the civil service but well below salaries in the private sector. In some countries, such as Norway, Hungary, and Greece, teachers' salaries are below both private- and public-sector norms. In Greece, private lessons can be a teacher's principal source of income.
The only countries where teachers enjoy a significant degree of prestige are Hungary, Mexico, and Switzerland. Switzerland is also one of the few countries where teachers are particularly well-paid, earning more than the average wage in both public and private sectors.
Women make up the majority of primary-school teachers: 60 percent in Mexico and Denmark, 70 percent in France and Switzerland, and 80 percent in Hungary and Belgium. At the secondary level, however, fewer teachers are women: only 30 percent in Mexico and Switzerland. In other countries such as Spain, the situation is more balanced. In Senegal, teaching remains in the hands of men, with only 26 percent women teachers at the primary level, 15 percent in the junior cycle of secondary school, and 12 percent in the senior cycle.
Teachers work on average between 18 and 26 hours a week. But this can go up to 30 hours (Senegal and Spain) and even 40 hours (the United States). While all other surveyed countries considered teaching as a full-time job, in Mexico it is looked on as a part-time activity.
Removing a teacher from her job is not easy. In France, Spain, Austria, Hungary, Greece, and Senegal, it is impossible to sack a teacher for incompetence. In other countries, such as the US, Belgium, and Turkey, the principle of dismissal is recognized but its application is limited. On the other hand, it is quite common for teachers to get the sack in Britain, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, and Mexico.
Should teachers' salaries be performance-related? For most of the surveyed countries, it wasn't an issue. Only in the US, France, Spain, and Mexico is the question under debate.