Global Education & Skills Forum

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12 - 13 March 2016

Atlantis The Palm,
Dubai, U.A.E.

Do we need to improve the brand of the teacher?

Education is at the heart of human progress and teachers are at the heart of education. The importance of good teaching is undisputed.

Despite this, there doesn’t appear to be such a universal attitude towards teachers. How much does the ‘brand’ of the teacher vary, and is this a problem that needs to be addressed?

Taking a status snapshot

The Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Status index is the world’s first comprehensive attempt to compare the status of teachers across the world.

Based on in-depth opinion poll in 21 countries, it is the first time that the role of teacher status has been studied and internationally compared.


Source: Varkey Foundation

The poll found that a Chinese teacher was likely to be almost 100 times as respected as an Israeli one. Chinese teachers are seen as similar in status to doctors whereas in the United States their equivalent is more likely to be seen as a librarian.

These are just some of the many contradictions and contrasts which emerge.

varkey info

Source: Varkey Foundation

What factors are at play here?

The status of teachers is something the OECD has looked into too.

The organisation says that the quality of teachers is the single most important factor when it comes to raising education standards and that teachers need to be given “status, pay and professional autonomy”.

The OECD notes that the most successful systems, such as those in Finland and Singapore, recruit high-achieving students and maintain good levels of pay, progression and training to retain a high quality of teacher.

In Finland, a relatively high social status is attached to teaching making it very competitive, with nine out of 10 applicants for teacher training being turned away. In Singapore, teachers are drawn from the top third of students and they are paid at levels competitive with other graduate careers.

The differences in pay

The OECD found that teachers, on average, are paid less well than other graduate professions, receiving about 80% of the average for workers with degrees.


There is not a concrete link between pay and status but it is clearly an important factor.

A recent report, for example, found that during recessions in the United States, more able candidates were recruited into teaching because a teacher’s salary is more attractive relative to other available professions. Therefore, people who might not otherwise have gone into teaching end up becoming teachers because they expect to earn more in that job than in others.

Countries that recruit teachers from amongst the top students and have good levels of pay and a clear career progression are likely to have a higher than average status for the profession.

Teacher’s status is a complex issue with multiple factors at play in very different cultural contexts. But it is clear that there are stark differences in the way teachers are viewed around the world and that in many places, the brand needs to be improved.

The status and professional standing of teachers is not just an important issue for teachers themselves, it is a core issue for maintaining and improving educational standards around the world.

This will be a key topic at the Global Education and Skills Forum 2016, taking place in Dubai on 12th and 13th March 2016. For more take a look at the programme. Follow us on Twitter @GESForum and on Facebook.

classroom teacher pupil hand raised

     gesf 2016 teaching

Blog post by:

Harsha Sharma
Harsha Sharma
Digital Communications Manager, Varkey Foundation