Low remuneration and low status of the education profession

The current low salaries, flat career structure and other characteristics of the current remuneration system for Latvian teachers and school leaders are at odds with the government’s ambition to raise the motivation and professional capacity of teachers and academic personnel (OECD, 2014b). The recent step to pilot a new school funding and teacher remuneration model is a positive development that recognises more fairly their actual work, is likely to increase motivation and is hoped will contribute to improving performance.

A positive feature of the revised model is that, as mentioned above, it is based on a 36-hour weekly workload. The previous understanding of a full-time workload consisted of just 21 teaching hours with additional duties worth up to 40% more in salary allocated by their school leader - or not. This has contributed to a lack of transparency and a growing feeling of discontent among some teachers. Two teachers with the same workload, including a similar package of additional duties, could very well end up with quite different wages (oECD, 2014b; MoEs, 2015). This practice is at odds with those in oECD countries and, apart from risking unfair treatment of teachers, fails to recognise that they need time to prepare lessons, grade tests, talk to parents and so on if they are to provide their students with a quality learning experience.

The existing system has also come under increasing pressure through the implementation of the Assessment System of Teacher Performance, which offers a broader and more holistic view of the teaching profession than is reflected in the current remuneration system. under this system, a teacher’s contribution to the development of the institution (Key Area 3) is considered an important part of a teacher’s work, but under the current remuneration system this would be considered an additional duty. Some teachers would not have the opportunity to show their competence in the area, simply because they were not allocated the relevant duty by the school leader.

The 36-hour workload that is currently piloted as part of the revised school funding and teacher remuneration model is more transparent and fairer, and recognises that being a teacher is much more than merely teaching. This development is also timely in view of the planned introduction of the new competency-based curriculum. This reform is likely to require considerable additional effort and time from teachers to prepare lessons, develop tests, co-ordinate among teachers and participate in training which, under the piloted model, would be considered part of the regular duties of all teachers.

The revised workload and formal recognition of the full range of tasks good teachers have to perform can also be considered a step towards raising the prestige of the profession in society and making it a more attractive career choice. For this to really happen, however, basic salaries will need to increase in real terms, at least to nationally comparable standards. This could happen as a gradual process but may call for a more ambitious approach. Poland, one of the world’s most rapidly improving education systems according to PISA 2012, increased salaries at all levels by 50% on average between 2006 and 2012. The largest increase was for the youngest teachers, to prevent new graduates being put off joining the profession (Jakubowski, 2015).

But retaining effective teachers and school leaders and raising their status goes beyond pay alone (OECD, 2005; Pont, Nusche and Moorman, 2008; Schleicher, 2011). Teachers should benefit from both salary increases and diversified career structures. The revised funding model does not yet tackle this issue, but may do so in time. The review team strongly suggests Latvia considers bringing greater differentiation in the salaries and functions of education professionals to help better meet school staffing needs and offer teachers more opportunity and recognition for their work. Promotion and new responsibilities may enable jobs to be better matched to individuals’ expertise and interest, as well as motivate teachers and encourage further professional growth. This is particularly relevant for those in the middle stages of their careers. Latvia could look to Australia, Estonia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Singapore, which have developed human resource models with sufficiently attractive salaries and well-designed career structures, including career paths from teaching into school leadership (OECD, 2005, 2014e; Schleicher, 2011) (Box 3.2).

Box 3.2. Providing greater career diversity in Estonia,

New Zealand and Singapore

In 2013 Estonia embarked on an effort to modernise its general education system. A multi-actor working group developed a new continuous professional development system for teachers, driven by teachers’ needs for professional development. The new system is based on the Lifelong Learning Strategy 2014-2020 which has as one of its objectives to raise the status of the teaching profession. The new system is expected to start in 2015.

Professional teacher standards, conforming to European Qualifications Framework (EQF) levels, were developed in co-operation with teachers, leaders of educational institutions, employers and government representatives to serve as the basis for a new career model. Staff can progress from teacher (Levels 6, 7.1) to senior teacher (Level 7.2) and master teacher (Level 8). Teachers could apply to obtain these standards from April 2014.

In 2015, New Zealand will introduce three new roles within schools with the aim of improving achievement for all students: Community of Schools Leadership Role, Community of Schools Teacher (across community) Role, and Community of Schools Teacher (within school) Role.

  • • Principals in the community of schools leadership role will work with the principals, boards of trustees and others in their Community of Schools to agree shared student achievement objectives and a plan to meet those objectives, and perform a guiding role in implementing projects in the plan including offering pedagogical leadership. They remain the principals of their own schools, employed solely by the schools’ boards of trustees.
  • • Teachers in the across-community teacher role will work collaboratively across schools with teachers and others to improve teaching practice and student achievement, and work with the Community of Schools Leader role to meet the shared achievement objectives of the Community of Schools.

Box 3.2. Providing greater career diversity in Estonia,

New Zealand and Singapore (continued)

Teachers in the within-school teacher role will work within their own schools with other teachers from across the Community of schools by promoting best teaching practice within schools and strengthening the use of the teaching as inquiry approach to teaching and learning.

Singapore is known as one of the best performing countries in the field of education. The high quality of singapore’s teachers is seen as one of the main drivers of this success. The quality of the teacher workforce in Singapore relies on three pillars: 1) recruiting talented students to teacher training; 2) high-quality teachers; and 3) sustained professional development of teachers. This last is encouraged by giving teachers the opportunity to grow throughout their careers. There are three inter-related tracks to promotion and higher pay: a teaching track, a leadership track and a specialist track. Each route has multiple, ascending, positions, with corresponding salaries.

Teachers changing track or position get corresponding training and mentoring support from the National Institute of Education. This usually involves shorter programmes from several weeks to months, after which teachers apply their new knowledge and skills in their school. This training is explicitly linked to positions on the career ladder.

Box 3.2. Providing greater career diversity in Estonia,

New Zealand and Singapore (continued)

These roles will give teachers opportunities for advancement within the classroom and embed a system-wide means of sharing expertise across schools. Each role runs for a fixed term, apart from the within-school teacher role, which is a mix of permanent and fixed-term positions. it attracts significant additional remuneration to help recognise the most effective teachers and principals. The roles are to be underpinned by professional standards. in addition to these new roles, all schools will be given additional funding to provide classroom release time for teachers to work with expert and lead teachers on professional practice.

Sources: Elffers, L. (2015), De Loopbaanladder van Leraren in Singapore [The Career Ladder of Teachers in Singapore], www.academischewerkplaatsonderwijs.nl/files/2414/2121/7890/De_ loopbaanladder_van_leraren_in_Singapore.pdf; Estonian Ministry of Education and Research (2014), Opetaja uued kutsestandardid ja nende rakendamine, arengutest opetaja taienduskoolitussusteemi [New Professional Teacher Standards and their Implementation], Ministry of Education and Research, www.tallinn.ee/haridusasutused/Kaspar-Kreegimae; OECD (2015b), Education Policy Outlook: Making Reforms Happen, OECD Publishing, Paris; New Zealand Ministry of Education (2014), Investing in Educational Success: Working Group Report, New Zealand Ministry of Education, Wellington, www.education.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Ministry/Investing-in-Educational-Success/Investing-in- Educational-Success-Working-Group-Report-3-June-2014.pdf.

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