Which Countries Treat Teachers Best

Which Countries Treat Teachers Best?

Most people agree that teaching is a challenging job. Is it easier in some countries than in others? Read on to see which countries get an A+ for treating teachers the best, and which ones need remedial classes in the subject.

Treating Teachers Best

When looking to see which countries treat teachers best, what is the criteria? There are a number of factors to look at, including salary, how they are respected in their country and class sizes. The results? South Korea, Turkey, Greece and Portugal win in several categories, while Italy, Czech Republic and Brazil lost in a few areas. The United States isn’t the best, but it also isn’t the worst. Read on for more details on how certain countries - and their teachers - fare.

Winners: South Korea, Spain, Canada, Portugal, Turkey

Losers: Hungary, Chile, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic

When we think about treating teachers well, many of us immediately think about teacher salaries. Looking at teacher salaries is not just about how much teachers are paid, but how much teachers are paid when compared with other college graduates. According to The Brookings Institute, this is important in order to attract good teachers to the profession and to keep them from leaving for other professions.

Brookings compared the United States to Finland as Finland is generally thought to have an exceptional educational system. Both countries pay teachers less than other college graduates but even to bring American salaries up to Finland’s, elementary teachers would need a 10% raise, and high school teachers a 28% raise.

According to a 2013 study, over 20 countries have higher teacher salaries than the US relative to other college-educated workers. These include South Korea, Spain, Canada, Portugal, Turkey, Denmark, Greece, Australia and England. The only countries listed behind the United States were Italy, Hungary, Chile, Slovak Republic and Czech Republic. When looking at how much teachers are paid without comparison to those similarly educated, the United States was still in the middle of the pack, with Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium in the top spots.

Winners: China, Greece, Turkey, South Korea

Losers: Italy, Czech Republic, Brazil, Israel

Money isn’t everything. Treating teachers well also means respecting them. In 2013 there was a study conducted, the Global Teacher Status Index, which ranked countries based on how they respected their teachers.

In The Guardian, Peter Dolton, the author of the study, outlined his rankings of 21 different countries based on a survey of 21,000 citizens who were all asked the same questions. According to Dolton, ‘To gauge the social standing of teachers we asked people to rank teachers against other professions such as doctors, lawyers and librarians … Would you encourage your own child to become a teacher? We also asked how much, in a fair world, teacher should be paid.’

The results were similar to the salary results in that the United States was not first, but it was also not last. Teachers have the highest status in China, Greece, Turkey and South Korea, and the lowest status in Italy, Czech Republic, Brazil and Israel. It is worth noting that in both cases, several of the countries were also on the list of highest and lowest-paying countries, accordingly.

Most European countries, along with the United States, were ranked in the middle of the 21 countries listed. Interestingly, most countries surveyed compared teachers to nurses and social workers. The United States compared them to librarians. China, the country where teachers have the highest status, compared them to doctors. In general, teachers in Eastern countries had higher status than in Western countries, including the United States.

Class Size

Winners (Smallest Classes): Belgium, Greece, Norway, Portugal

Losers (Largest Classes): Brazil, Chile, South Korea, Indonesia

Most teachers would love smaller classes and the ability to give more students individual attention. Among 30 countries surveyed by Gem Education Solutions, Brazil had an average of 32.1 students to every one teacher, and Chile had 27.6. After that, numbers dropped, with South Korea averaging 18.2 and Indonesia 17.4 students per teacher. The United States was once again in the middle of the list, with an average of 15.3. Countries with the lowest student-to-teacher ratio included Belgium, Greece, Norway and Portugal, ranging from 9.9 in Belgium to 7.6 in Portugal.

Why It Matters

There are a few reasons that treating teachers well is an important issue.

Student Achievement

Countries with exceptional student achievement consider teaching a prestigious profession and offer decent compensation, according to Business Insider writer Sam Ro. Often, countries are high in both student achievement and teacher salaries. In a 2016 ranking by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) of top countries in math, reading and science, the United States didn’t make the top ten list, just as the country didn’t top any of the categories listed above.

Teacher Shortage

Due to teacher retirement and teachers simply leaving the profession, by 2020 it’s likely that over half the teachers in the United States will have started teaching after 2012. According to the National Education Association, teachers are leaving primarily due to dissatisfaction. It has been shown that teachers with higher starting salaries are more likely to continue teaching. Additionally, respect and smaller class sizes could offset some job dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, top college graduates are generally not drawn to the profession due to concerns about these same issues.

Teaching Abroad

Many teachers consider teaching abroad, and the countries listed here may be good places to consider.

For teachers eager to experience the status of educators in China, the International TEFL Academy writes that there is a constant need for English teachers in China: In 2009, China’s premier stated that there were around 300 million Chinese people learning English, which is approximately the population of the entire United States.