Thursday, March 17, 2011


"...Can the U.S. learn how to improve its education outcomes by looking to the example of high-performing PISA nations like China, Finland, Japan, The Netherlands, Canada and South Korea?

...International comparisons show that in the countries with the highest performance, teachers are typically paid better relative to others, education credentials are valued more, and a higher share of educational spending is devoted to instructional services than is the case in the United States.

Teaching in the U.S. is unfortunately no longer a high-status occupation. Anecdotally, it appears that few parents wish to see their children enter the profession. Despite the characterization of some that teaching is an “easy” job – with short hours and Summers off –the fact is that successful, dedicated teachers in the U.S. work long hours for little pay and, in many cases, insufficient support from their leadership.

According to a 2005 National Education Association (NEA) report, nearly 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years teaching; they cite poor working conditions and low pay as the chief reasons.viii

High school teachers in the U.S. work longer hoursix (approximately 50 hours, according the NEA),x and yet the U.S. devotes a far lower proportion than the average OECD country does to teacher salaries.xi This is of particular concern when one considers that most high performing nations prioritize the quality over class sizes.

Some will say that these are cultural matters and not amenable to change, but in countries as different as Finland, Singapore or Japan, education appears to have a high status at least in part because the public at large has understood that the country must live by its human capital.

...In Finland, it is a tremendous honor to be a teacher, and teachers are afforded a status comparable to what doctors, lawyers and other highly regarded professionals enjoy in the U.S.; only one out of every ten applicants makes it into the Finnish training pool for teachers.xiv

...The Finnish government establishes some achievement guidelines, but as a general rule there are few attempts to enforce performance, nor are many measures taken to ensure accountability. Government education leaders trust their teachers to do their jobs well. Precisely because Finnish teachers enjoy that level of trust from education officials, they accept the responsibility and reciprocate by excelling in the classroom every day.

...As with Finland, the teaching profession in Singapore is a competitive and highly selective one that works hard to build its own sense of professional conduct and meet high standards for skills development. Singapore carefully selects young people from the top one-third of the secondary school graduating class whom the government is especially interested in attracting to teaching and offers them a monthly stipend, while still in school, that is competitive with the monthly salary for fresh graduates in other fields. In exchange, these teachers must commit to teaching for at least three years."

Read the Full Policy Paper: