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Remuneration and status of the profession

PISA shows a clear link between student performance and teacher status, with students doing better in school systems that spend more on salaries to attract quality teachers (OECD, 2013a). Being a teacher and working in education in general is not considered an attractive career option in Latvia. Although the vast majority of teachers are permanently employed and are highly experienced by OECD standards, salaries are low in comparison to national and international benchmarks and the salary structure is flat (OECD, 2014a, 2014b). For example, in OECD countries, lower secondary teachers with 15 years of experience are paid on average 124% of GDP per capita (corrected for differences in purchasing power parities). in Latvia, the salary for such a teacher would amount to just 52% of GDP per capita.

Teacher remuneration is a contentious issue in many countries but particularly so in Latvia. Teacher salaries were halved in 2009 as a result of the economic crisis, and teachers were substantially underpaid even before then (world Bank, 2010; Hazans, 2010). salaries have recovered but are still lower than those for other public-sector professionals in Latvia, preventing the teaching profession from becoming an attractive career choice (oECD, 2014b). The low minimum statutory salary (EuR 420 per month in 2013/14) is based on a workload equivalent to 21 hours of teaching per week with up to 40% more for what are considered “additional duties” (e.g. marking of tests, preparation) (see Box 1.3, Chapter 1).

The current school funding model provides the basis for calculating and allocating salaries of teachers and other education staff, but does not take into account teachers’ seniority. The difference between the minimum and the maximum annual gross statutory salaries in Latvia is only 4%, the lowest increase among all EU countries (EACEA/Eurydice, 2013). This is despite the fact that Latvia has three grades of seniority - less than five years, five to ten years and more than ten years, and one of the most experienced cohorts of teachers among EU and OECD countries.

Low salary often implies low status, and this is the case for Latvia. Many Latvian teachers do not feel their profession is highly valued; 77.2% of teachers were negative about the value that society accords to the teaching profession. Moreover, 32.4% would not choose to work as a teacher if they could decide again, considerably more than the TALIS average of 22.4% (OECD, 2014c).

These findings stand at odds with the government’s objective “to raise the motivation and professional capacity of teachers and academic personnel” (MoES, 2014). The Latvian government has recognised the urgency of the situation and has taken several steps to improve the attractiveness of the education profession.

In this context the OECD was invited in 2014 to conduct a review on teacher remuneration in Latvia. The review report noted various weaknesses but also strengths of the current school funding model and provided recommendations for improvement (OECD, 2014b). One of its key recommendations was to raise salaries, but it also noted that raising salaries while maintaining Latvia’s low class sizes and teacher-student ratios is simply not sustainable.

Partly in response to the report’s recommendations, MoES is currently piloting a revised school funding and teacher remuneration model based on a 36-hour week, in which between 67% and 77% of work time is to be devoted to teaching and the rest to other activities such as lesson preparation and the grading of tests. To support this effort, MoEs established a working group on teacher remuneration, made up of a wide range of stakeholders including Latvia’s largest teacher union (Latvian Trade union of Education and Science Employees), the school leaders’ association and representatives from universities.

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