2. Attracting and selecting high-calibre candidates

Education systems face numerous challenges at a time when societies and economies are more interconnected than ever. Among the most salient aspects for the success of any education system are the skills and strengths of its teacher workforce (OECD, 2019[1]).

While across countries and economies teachers’ age and experience may vary, many education systems are facing shortages in qualified teachers. The proportions of their teacher population approaching retirement is increasing and new recruitments are sometimes not keeping pace. Key priorities for the renewal of teaching workforce lie in how to attract and select high-calibre candidates who have the necessary skills to be successful teachers. But it is equally important to retain and motivate existing teachers as they advance, grow and increase their knowledge and mastery within the system (OECD, 2005[2]).

Exploring and analysing the socio-demographic characteristics of teachers and principals as well as the motivations that lead them to join the profession provide useful information about the teaching profession in the context of increasingly competitive labour markets. Likewise, teachers’ perceptions of how societies, policy makers and the media value their work are important aspects of the public attractiveness of the profession. They are also important when looking to improve the motivation and job satisfaction of teachers and principals (Bruinsma and Jansen, 2010[3]; McLean, Taylor and Jimenez, 2019[4]; OECD, 2019[5]).

First, this chapter looks at the composition of teacher and principal workforces in terms of age, gender, and teaching and working experience at primary and upper secondary levels. Then it explores teachers’ main motivations to join the profession, such as social and personal utility and how they vary across educational levels. In that same section, it looks at teachers’ perceptions of how the profession is valued in society.

As classrooms and school environments are influenced by the personal stories and trajectories of their students, analysing school composition, school diversity and policies and actions on equity offers a neat picture of how schools adapt their teaching and learning practices to their student body. This chapter concludes by analysing the diversity of student backgrounds, including linguistic diversity, immigrant and socio-economic background, and exploring how attentive schools are to this and if they promote equitable environments for children’s development. Finally, as these policies and practices are important components of teacher-student relations, it explores these relations further, as well as the differences that may exist across levels.

The Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018 provides useful information on the age and experience of principals and teachers in primary and upper secondary education. When combined with information on the entry of new teachers and the size of the school-age population, they help to assess the urgency of the renewal of the teaching workforce (OECD, 2020[6]).

The balance between supply and demand of teachers is far from neutral in several countries and economies. For instance, the European Commission has observed that several European countries face large shortages of qualified teachers, often at all education levels (Carlo et al., 2013[7]). Changes in student enrolment rates can have important effects on this balance. For example, OECD data show that enrolment rates in primary education have recently increased in countries like Slovenia and Sweden, with a rise of more than 10% in 2018 with respect to enrolment rates in 2014. Likewise, the diversification of upper secondary programmes in several countries and economies has led to a growing demand and an increase in enrolment between 2010 and 2018 (OECD, 2020[6]). However, in many countries, enrolment rates do not necessarily put pressure on the teaching workforce or the teaching profession still attracts high-calibre candidates. Still, it happens that, in such systems, shortages can prevail concerning, for example, specific subjects like sciences or information and communication technology (ICT), specific geographic areas in which schools are located, or even specific positions, like special needs instruction (Carlo et al., 2013[7]).

Ageing teaching workforces also have implications for teacher demand. In some countries, the ageing of the teaching workforce compels authorities to resort to various mechanisms to deal with teacher shortages (e.g. increasing class sizes, increasing teachers’ working or instruction time) (Carlo et al., 2013[7]). These may have negative effects on the attractiveness of the teaching profession. Increased workload (e.g. workload is too heavy, there is too much pressure or the work is too stressful) has been cited as a key reason for novice teachers leaving the profession within the first few years of practice (Kyriacou and Kunc, 2007[8]). In some countries, attrition rates are high among novice teachers, in part due to a mismatch between their expectancies and the reality of the occupation.

All these issues highlight the relevance of finding the right age and profile balance for the teacher workforce.

The average age of a primary teacher across TALIS participating countries and economies is 41, and the majority of teachers in primary education are between age 30 and 49 even if the picture is more nuanced across countries and economies. On average, 62% of teachers are between 30 and 49 years of age, almost one-quarter are at least 50 years old (23%) and 15% are under the age of 30 (Table 2.1).

The proportion of teachers under the age of 30 signals how the profession has attracted younger generations in recent years. It is above 20% in England (United Kingdom) (25%), the Flemish Community of Belgium (22%) and Japan (22%) (Table 2.1). The influx of newcomers to the profession can be attributed to the need for new teachers, yet other factors can also be in play, including workforce demographics as well as factors tied to the overall success in attracting newcomers.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the category of those aged 50 or above covers a wide age span. These teachers usually have the most experience and valuable knowledge. Also found in this category are teachers that are closer to the end of their career. The retirement of these teachers can put pressure on the system if the share of new entrants does not cover increased demand due to student demographics.

Moreover, when looking at teachers’ and schools’ characteristics, no clear pattern can be observed. On average and in 5 out of 13 countries and economies with available data for primary education, there are no differences in age when comparing female and male teachers. In five other countries, male teachers tend to be younger while in three countries the inverse is true (Table 2.2). As will be shown later in this chapter, the teaching profession has historically attracted more women than men. In Denmark, Japan, Korea, Spain and Sweden, the average age of male teachers is lower than that of female teachers. While those differences are small, this could be interpreted as an increased attractiveness of the profession for male teachers in recent years in those systems. Conversely, in some systems it suggests more movement among male teachers, either due to higher attrition or to greater promotion into leadership roles.

As would be expected, school principals tend to be older than teachers in primary schools. Principals’ average age in primary education across participating countries and economies varies between 58 (in Japan) and 43 (in Turkey), with a TALIS average of 50 (Table 2.4). Most school principals in primary education are in the 40-to-59 age range (TALIS average 79%).

Teachers and school principals can have a variety of profiles. While the criteria for entry into the teaching profession may vary across participating countries and economies, there may be different pathways for individuals with professional experiences outside teaching and without teaching qualifications (OECD, 2014[9]). In some cases, teachers join the profession immediately after their initial education or training. In others, they enter the profession after having other working experiences, either in the education sector or elsewhere. School principals may also have varied experiences, quite often as teachers but also in other occupations.

Across the 13 countries and economies with available data at primary level, teachers tend to have 16 years of total experience as teachers (Table 2.5). This ranges from 18 years in Viet Nam to 12 years in England (United Kingdom) and the United Arab Emirates. Interestingly, teachers in primary education reported an average of 8 years of work experience at their current school, which is half of the total average teaching experience. This shows that the average teacher in primary education across TALIS participating countries and economies has worked in more than one school. Yet, there is a certain degree of variation across countries. In Japan and Korea, the average primary teacher has 15 to 17 years of teaching experience in total but only 3 to 4 years at their current school, consistent with their policy of mandatory turnover. The opposite is true in the Flemish Community of Belgium, where the average teaching experience of a primary teacher in their current school is 14 years out of 17 years of total experience.

Further analyses of the reasons that motivate teachers to change schools can prove to be of policy relevance as high teacher mobility can have implications for teaching and learning quality. In some countries and economies, substantial efforts are made by schools to grant teachers with opportunities to have strong support and development opportunities. High mobility among teachers can bring discontinuity to these initiatives and even create shortages in specific education levels or in specific subjects (Allensworth, Ponisciak and Mazzeo, 2009[10]). Research has shown that in these contexts, teachers tend to stay the longest when there are positive working conditions, e.g. where there is good administrative support, positive and safe learning environments, good peer collaboration and parental trust (Allensworth, Ponisciak and Mazzeo, 2009[10]). Yet, this is not the case everywhere, and in some systems, teacher mobility is encouraged. In some countries like Japan and Korea, the high mobility of teachers is due to systematic teacher rotations, which shuffle a proportion of public school teachers to new schools every year (Kang, Akiba and Letendre, 2008[11]; Seebruck, 2019[12]). This shows that assessing motivations for teacher mobility is key when addressing the challenges it may pose to teaching quality.

Teachers can also have work experience in educational roles other than teaching. The average primary teacher across participating countries and economies has one year of such experience (Table 2.5). Yet, in Denmark, Spain and Sweden, teachers in primary education reported three years of experience in other educational roles. Likewise, teachers in primary education can also have experience in other non-educational positions. Teachers in primary education reported two years of such experience across the 13 countries and economies with available data at primary level, ranging from virtually no experience in Korea and Viet Nam to about five years in CABA (Argentina) and Sweden. With pressure increasing in several countries and economies to recruit new teachers, alternatives that allow candidates to switch careers into teaching are of great value. Candidates’ value-added to the profession is reflected in the wide range of experiences and skills they may bring with them, which can, potentially, improve the quality of teaching practices (Richardson and Watt, 2005[13]).

Teachers working part-time at primary level tend to have less work experience than their peers working full-time. Notably, full-time teachers are more experienced in 7 out of 13 countries and economies with available data. However, this is not uniform across countries (Table 2.6). In England (United Kingdom), the Flemish Community of Belgium, Japan and Turkey, teachers working part-time have more years of experience on average than teachers working full-time. While these findings suggest differences across countries in approaches to part-time teaching among novice and more experienced teachers, it is important to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary part-time when assessing the relevance of these results. In some countries, involuntary part-time among novice teachers is more recurrent as they have trouble finding full-time opportunities (OECD, 2019[1]; Boeskens and Nusche, 2021[14])

Teachers in primary education working in schools with more students from socio-economically disadvantaged homes tend to be less experienced than their colleagues teaching in more socio-economically advantaged schools. Teachers working in disadvantaged schools, where the concentration of students from socio-economically disadvantaged homes is above 30%, reported 15 years of work experience as teachers on average, which is one year less than their peers’ in more advantaged schools (Table 2.6). This pattern holds in the majority of countries and economies for which data for primary education is available (in 6 out of 10). Only in the United Arab Emirates are teachers working in these more challenging classes on average more experienced.

Challenging schools with high proportions of students from socio-economically disadvantaged homes are often obliged to replace experienced teachers who leave with more novice teachers. Studies have found that more experienced teachers are more prone to leave difficult working conditions (Lankford, Loeb and Wyckoff, 2002[15]). Thus, challenging schools often have trouble attracting and retaining teachers that better fit their needs (Guarino, Brown and Wyse, 2011[16]). Paradoxically, these are schools with strong needs for skilled teachers. As discussed in previous TALIS 2018 reports, in countries where less qualified and experienced teachers are recruited in schools with high concentrations of socio-economically disadvantaged students, the gaps in student performance related to socio-economic status are larger (OECD, 2019[5]).

Across TALIS participating countries and economies, the average primary school principal has eight years of total work experience as a principal, ranging from ten years in Denmark, the Flemish Community of Belgium, France, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam to three years in Korea (Table 2.8). Out of the average eight years of experience, five are gained at the current school on average. In Japan, Sweden, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam, principals in primary schools reported just as much or even more years of experience working as principals in other schools than in their current school. This signals a certain degree of mobility of principals across schools. In contrast, there are countries and economies where principals’ experience at current school accounts for the most part of total work experience as a principal, suggesting little mobility among school principals in primary education, if any. This is the case in CABA (Argentina), England (United Kingdom), the Flemish Community of Belgium and Spain.

Moreover, in many systems, school leaders are recruited from within the education sector and, most often, selection criteria include seniority as teachers. While in some countries recruitment processes have changed to include other skills and competences, having a teaching background is a highly relevant criterion (Pont, Nusche and Moorman, 2008, p. 161[17]) across OECD countries. On average across TALIS participating countries and economies at primary level, principals have 19 years of experience as teachers and 6 years of experience in other school management roles (Table 2.8). School principals in primary education reported having over 25 years of teaching experience in Japan (31), Korea (29) and CABA (Argentina) (27), which suggests that opportunities for career progression towards leadership roles come late in a teacher’s career. Not surprisingly, in these countries, the total experience as a principal is below the TALIS average.

School principals in primary education can also have work experience beyond the school sphere. Across the 13 countries and economies with available data at primary level, school principals have two years of experience in other jobs (Table 2.8). This sort of experience among school principals in primary education ranges from seven years in Sweden to less than a year in Japan, Korea and Viet Nam.

Primary education has slightly more younger teachers (under age 30) and fewer older teachers (age 50 and above) compared to lower secondary education across TALIS participating countries and economies (2 percentage points difference) (Table 2.1). Nevertheless, some countries and economies show important variations. In CABA (Argentina) and Korea, the shares of teachers at age 50 and above are at least 10 percentage points smaller in primary education while the proportion of younger teachers (under age 30) is larger. In England (United Kingdom), Korea and the United Arab Emirates, there are more younger teachers in primary education than in lower secondary by at least 5 percentage points. This suggests that the generational renewal in these countries is more dynamic in primary education compared to lower secondary education. The only exception to this pattern is Turkey, where the percentage of elder teachers is higher (12 percentage points difference) and the share of younger teachers is lower (9 percentage points difference) in primary schools than in lower secondary education (Table 2.1).

The average age of school principals tend to be very similar across primary and lower secondary education. Yet, in France, principals in primary schools are six years younger than their colleagues in lower secondary schools (Table 2.4).

When it comes to teachers’ working experience, there are no actual average differences between primary and lower secondary teachers, and most of the differences are seen across countries and economies. The most salient differences concern teachers’ working experience at their current school. While in 6 out of 13 countries and economies with available data for both levels there are no differences across levels, teachers have less experience in their current schools at the primary level in five countries and economies. Only in Turkey and Viet Nam do primary school teachers have more experience in their current school than lower secondary teachers (on average two and one year(s) more, respectively) (Table 2.5).

As mentioned above, the issue of the number of teachers approaching retirement and renewal of the teaching workforce with younger teachers is more marked in upper secondary education (Santiago, 2002[18]). It has also been noted that attrition can be greater among teachers that were prepared and recruited for teaching at this level than among those who prepared for lower levels of education (Struyven and Vanthournout, 2014[19]). The reasons for this are numerous but it has been suggested that some trained secondary teachers may have better chances of other employment opportunities than teachers at lower levels due to their subject specialties (Struyven and Vanthournout, 2014[19]).

Across the 11 countries and economies with available data for upper secondary education, 62% of teachers in upper secondary are between 30 and 49 years old, 30% are aged 50 years or more and the remaining 8% are under the age of 30, on average (Table 2.1). While in most countries and economies, at least half of teachers at this education level are aged between 30 and 49, Portugal is the only country where half of teachers are 50 years old or more (50%). It is also in Portugal where the lowest proportion of the youngest teachers (under the age of 30) is observed, representing just 1% of teachers in upper secondary in the country. While this is a very small proportion, young teachers do not represent more than 15% of teachers across the 11 counties and economies with available data for this level. In 5 out of those 11 countries and economies, over one-third of teachers are 50 years old or more (at least 36%). Only in Viet Nam are fewer than 10% of teachers in this age range.

In upper secondary schools, male teachers tend to be one year older than female teachers (Table 2.3). In Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam, male teachers tend to be around three years older than their female colleagues. There are six countries and economies where there is no statistically significant age difference across genders and in no participating country female teachers in upper secondary are older than male teachers, on average.

Teachers in upper secondary working full-time tend to be older than those working part-time. This is the case in 7 out of 11 countries and economies with available data. The average difference across participating countries is two years (Table 2.3). Yet, in Croatia and Portugal, the age difference between teachers working full-time and those working part-time is four years or more. It is only in Turkey and Viet Nam that teachers in upper secondary working full-time are younger than their colleagues working part-time.

Across the 11 countries and economies with available data, three-quarters of principals who work in upper secondary schools are between age 40 and 59 (75%) while only 7% are below age 40 (Table 2.4). Older principals (age 60 and above), represent about one-quarter of all school principals in upper secondary in Croatia (25%) and Denmark (29%) (TALIS average 18%). At the other end of the spectrum, younger principals (under age 40) constitute, at best, between 9% and 16% of the total principal workforce at upper secondary level in Alberta (Canada), Brazil, Sweden and Turkey.

At upper secondary level, teachers have an average of 16 years of total teaching experience across participating countries and economies, ranging from 14 years in Denmark, Turkey and Viet Nam to 20 years or more in Portugal and Slovenia (Table 2.5).

Teachers in upper secondary have an average of ten years of experience as teachers at their current school. While in Brazil, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, teachers in upper secondary reported spending half of their teaching career or less at their current school, in most countries with available data, teachers reported having acquired their teaching experience mostly in the school in which they currently teach (Table 2.5). As discussed previously, analysing the reasons for teacher mobility is important as it can have consequences for the quality of teaching and learning. In those contexts in which teacher mobility is not encouraged, it can hinder schools’ efforts to develop its workforce. In contrast, among other positive aspects, teacher retention can help establish solid student-teacher relations and improve collaboration in the school (Allensworth, Ponisciak and Mazzeo, 2009[10]).

Across the 11 countries and economies with available data, teachers in upper secondary have two years of experience in other education roles and four years in other non-education roles (Table 2.5). Only in Brazil and Denmark, teachers in upper secondary have more experience in other education roles (three years). In Sweden, teachers working in upper secondary schools have on average eight years of experience in other non-education roles, six years in Brazil and five years in Alberta (Canada) and Denmark (Table 2.5).

The years of teaching experience of teachers in upper secondary vary by gender across countries and economies. In Brazil, Croatia, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden, female teachers tend to have more work experience as teachers than their male peers (Table 2.7). The inverse is true in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam.

Full-time teachers in upper secondary education tend to have more work experience as teachers than those working part-time. While the average difference across the 11 countries and economies with available data is three years, in Portugal the difference between teachers working full-time and part-time reaches ten years (Table 2.7). Yet, in Turkey and Viet Nam the opposite pattern is observed as, on average, part-time teachers have slightly more years of teaching experience than their peers working full-time.

Teachers in upper secondary tend to have more work experience as teachers when there is no vocational programme taught in the school. Teachers working in schools where there is a vocational or technical education (VET) programme have fewer years of teaching experience in Brazil, Denmark, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates (Table 2.7). This is linked to the fact that quite often, teachers in VET programmes have work experience in the industry and other related occupations, which would explain the difference in working experience as teachers. Indeed, in some countries, there are minimum industry experience requirements for teaching in these programmes. Among other advantages, VET teachers with industry experience bring up-to-date knowledge and skills, and can simplify students’ access to work-based learning based on their professional networks (OECD, 2021, p. 58[20]).

Principals in upper secondary education have an average of nine years of total experience as principals and six years in their current schools, across participating countries and economies (Table 2.8). Data across countries suggest that principals change schools in Sweden, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates as a considerable share of total work experience has not been accumulated at the current school. Conversely, in Brazil, Croatia, Portugal and Slovenia, school principals in upper secondary have less experience outside their current school, if any.

Principals at this level have an average of 6 years of experience in school management roles (Table 2.8). Moreover, school principals in upper secondary’ experience as teachers, which is 16 years across the 11 countries and economies with available data, ranges from 12 years in Sweden, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to over 20 years or more in Alberta (Canada) and Portugal. Principals’ experience in other jobs is 4 years on average across participating countries but somewhat longer in Sweden (8 years), Brazil (6 years), Croatia (5 years) and Denmark (5 years).

The share of the older teachers (age 50 and above) is higher at upper secondary level as compared to lower secondary education (TALIS average difference: 5 percentage points) (Table 2.1). This holds true in seven countries and economies with available data. For instance, in Croatia, 40% of teachers in upper secondary are 50 years old or more while the share of older teachers in lower secondary education is only 24%. Despite this difference, the share of the younger teachers (under age 30) is similar in Croatia across these two levels of education. The same pattern of a larger share of older teachers but equal proportion of younger teachers across lower and upper secondary education is observed in Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden. Viet Nam is the only participating country where the share of teachers aged 50 and above is smaller in upper secondary education than in lower secondary education.

Finally, while school principals in upper secondary are older than their lower secondary peers, the shares of principals aged 40 or older are the same on average. In Turkey, there are significantly more principals aged 40 to 59 (17 percentage points difference) and substantially fewer under the age of 40 (21 percentage points) in upper secondary with respect to lower secondary education (Table 2.4).

TALIS 2018 data show that there are broadly more female teachers than male teachers in the teaching workforce across countries and economies, and across education levels. OECD data show that the share of female teachers increased across education levels from primary to upper secondary education between 2015 and 2018 across OECD and partner countries (OECD, 2020[6]). The feminisation of the teaching profession is a phenomenon that has been widely discussed in the literature as being part of a process that has historically oriented women’s access to education and labour markets, and has influenced women’s and men’s career opportunities and choices (Carrington, 2002[21]; Drudy, 2008[22]; Drudy et al., 2005[23]; Smulyan, 2004[24]).

Large social inequities are among the reasons that have contributed to this imbalance. For example, one potential reason for the feminisation of the teaching profession is the difference between women and men in the opportunity cost, as measured in lower salaries, of becoming a teacher. Teachers’ salaries have been largely considered as being comparatively low and less competitive in most labour markets (Carlo et al., 2013[7]; Drudy, 2008[22]; OECD, 2020[6]; Watt and Richardson, 2007[25]). Due to the persistent average wage gap between women and men across OECD countries, teachers’ salaries are more aligned to the wages of similarly qualified female workers than those of similarly qualified male workers (OECD, 2020[6]).

As discussed in previous TALIS reports (OECD, 2021[26]; OECD, 2019[5]), research has shown that in some contexts, teachers’ gender balance may have an impact on students’ attitudes towards learning and in their career aspirations through role models, where teachers can have an influence in same-gender students’ motivations and performance (Beilock et al., 2010[27]; Lim and Meer, 2017[28]). Data from the TALIS-PISA link show that in some countries, when the proportion of female teachers in schools is high, the gap in Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reading scores between girls and boys increases, and the gap in mathematics and science scores decreases in favour of girls (OECD, 2021[26]).

However, these findings concern only some countries. Research has also shown that in some contexts, the impact of teachers’ gender on students’ academic motivation and engagement is rather limited (Carrington et al., 2007[29]; Martin and Marsh, 2005[30]). However, in some of these contexts too, while students seem to attribute more value to teachers’ practices rather than to their gender, most often they also name same-gender role models overall (Carrington et al., 2007[29]).

What these findings suggest is that, while the relationship between teachers’ gender balance and student attitudes to learning may depend on several factors, including cultural aspects, teachers’ gender imbalance may contribute to gender stereotypes regarding the roles and career opportunities for women and men. More balanced teaching workforces may contribute to tear down those stereotypes (Carrington and Skelton, 2003[31]).

TALIS 2018 data show that while women are overrepresented among teachers in all education systems, this is not reflected when looking at the gender distribution of school principals. TALIS findings suggest that male teachers reach higher levels of leadership more often than female teachers even if women make up the largest share of the teaching workforce.

As has been pointed out in the literature, what should be relevant for policy makers is to appeal to the best candidates, irrespective of their gender (Drudy et al., 2005[23]). Yet, today’s gender imbalance among teachers and school leadership raises important questions about the degree to which female teachers have access to meaningful opportunities for career progression.

At primary level, the proportion of female teachers represents over three-quarters of the teaching force (TALIS average 78%). In 6 out of 13 countries with available data, over 80% of teachers at this level are female. The lowest percentages of female teachers are found in Turkey (62%) and Japan (61%) (Table 2.9).

As shown in Figure 2.1, across participating countries and economies, the percentage of female teachers is higher among more experienced teachers than among novice teachers (TALIS average difference: 2 percentage points). This is the case in Korea (12 percentage points difference), Denmark (6 percentage points difference) and Japan (5 percentage points difference) and while the inverse is true in Turkey (12 percentage points difference) and Viet Nam (4 percentage points difference) (Figure 2.1 and Table 2.10).

Figure 2.1 also shows that there is no average difference in the proportions of female teachers in rural schools and city schools (Table 2.10). However, in Denmark (12 percentage points difference), Sweden (6 percentage points difference) and the United Arab Emirates (3 percentage points difference), the share of female teachers working in rural schools is larger than the share of female teachers working in urban schools. In contrast, the percentage of female teachers working in city schools is at least 10 percentage points higher than that of female teachers who work in rural schools in Viet Nam.

One significant finding concerns female teachers’ employment status. In 7 out of 13 countries and economies, the percentage of female teachers among teachers in primary education working part-time is higher than the percentage of female teachers among teachers in primary education working full-time (TALIS average: 2 percentage points difference). This finding is in line with the fact that women make up most of the part-time workers in many high-income economies (Matteazzi, Pailhé and Solaz, 2018[32]). Only in Korea and Viet Nam are these proportions inversed and by a large margin (20 and 11 percentage points, respectively) (Figure 2.1 and Table 2.10).

When it comes to school principals in primary education, on average 53% are female. However, there are significant differences across countries and economies. In CABA (Argentina), 90% of school principals in primary education are female, and at least 70% are in England (United Kingdom) and France. On the contrary, three-quarters of school principals at primary level are male in Japan (77%) and 92% in Turkey (Table 2.12).

It is worth noting that, while there is overrepresentation of female teachers in primary education in all countries and economies with available data, in Denmark, Japan, Korea, Turkey and Viet Nam, female principals are underrepresented. While equity at all levels is undoubtedly necessary, as mentioned before, at primary level women and men do not access higher positions with more responsibilities and influence equally.

In all countries with available information for both levels, the proportion of female teachers in primary school is larger than in lower secondary schools. On average 67% of lower secondary teachers are female compared to a TALIS average of 78% in primary education. The United Arab Emirates (25 percentage points difference), France (22 percentage points difference), England (United Kingdom) (19 percentage points difference), Japan (19 percentage points difference), CABA (Argentina) (18 percentage points difference) and Sweden (16 percentage points difference) show above average differences (Table 2.9).

On the other hand, the percentage of female principals in primary education is also higher than that of lower secondary (TALIS average difference: 16 percentage points). While at the primary level over half of school principals are female (53%), at the lower secondary level, slightly over one-third are (37%). This difference holds true in 9 out of 13 countries and economies with available data for both levels. In France, the difference is remarkable as 75% of school principals in primary education are female while 41% of lower secondary principals are. Other large differences can be seen in CABA (Argentina) (29 percentage points difference), England (United Kingdom) (29 percentage points difference), Korea (24 percentage points) and Viet Nam (19 percentage points) (Table 2.12).

At the upper secondary level, the proportion of female teachers is 59%, on average. Only in Denmark is there a 50% balance of female and male teachers in upper secondary (Table 2.9).

As shown in Figure 2.2, the share of female teachers among teachers with more than five years of experience is comparatively higher than the share of female teachers among novice teachers (in Slovenia the difference is particularly large – 21 percentage points; Croatia, Portugal and Sweden are other countries with a significant difference). This suggests a recent change in the teacher gender balance as in these countries, the share of female novice teachers is around 50% (Table 2.11). In another group, the inverse is true, and the share of female teachers among novice teaches is comparatively higher (in Turkey, where the difference reaches 15 percentage points, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam).

At the upper secondary level, the percentage of female teachers is also higher among teachers who work part-time when compared to teachers working full-time (TALIS average difference: 5 percentage points). This difference is particularly strong in Denmark (23 percentage points difference) and Alberta (Canada) (20 percentage points difference). In Viet Nam, the percentage of female teachers is higher among teachers working full-time (6 percentage points difference) (Table 2.11).

Despite representing over half of teachers at upper secondary level, female teachers are underrepresented in STEM fields compared to non-STEM fields. The percentage of female teachers among STEM teachers is on average 5 percentage points lower than the percentage among non-STEM teachers (Table 2.11). This holds true in 5 out of 11 countries for which data for upper secondary education are available. In Denmark and Sweden, fewer than half of STEM teachers are female. The smaller average proportion of female STEM teachers is not surprising. This phenomenon has been pointed out in the literature. Today, women represent a majority of graduates from tertiary education but it is still the case that fewer women than men complete STEM-related tertiary education (OECD, 2017[33]). This has remained relatively stagnant through decades even in systems with higher equity (Stoet and Geary, 2018[34]).

Moreover, fewer than half of school principals in upper secondary are female (TALIS average: 40%). This is the case in Alberta (Canada) (42%), Portugal (39%), Denmark (35%), and Viet Nam (21%). In Turkey, about 93% of school principals in upper secondary are male (Table 2.12). This is not the case, however, in all countries with available data. In Brazil (68%) and Slovenia (62%), female principals are the majority in upper secondary schools. In other countries, there is almost parity: in Croatia, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates 49% of principals are female.

In all countries with available data for upper and lower secondary education, the proportion of female teachers is lower in upper secondary education than in lower secondary (TALIS average difference: 8 percentage points) (Table 2.9). This suggests that in several of these countries the teacher gender composition is close to parity at upper secondary level. This is interesting as data suggest that, in recent years, the proportion of female teachers in upper secondary education has increased (OECD, 2020[6]). This is likely to be related to the fact that, historically, at higher levels of education there have been more male teachers, while female teachers have traditionally taught younger pupils (Drudy et al., 2005[23]).

Concerning gender of school principals, even if there is a difference in the average share of female principals (which is higher at lower secondary education by 4 percentage points), there are mostly no significant differences across countries and economies between the two levels. Only in Sweden is there a large drop in the proportion of female principals between lower and upper secondary education, which drops from 69% to 49% (Table 2.12).

Several aspects of the challenges faced by teaching professionals have been made explicit in recent decades: increasing visibility, expectations and accountability, growing diversity of learners, and growing demands for innovative teaching strategies (Gomendio, 2017[35]).

Challenges have been strongly accentuated by several dramatic global issues, including the economic crisis in 2008 and the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps more than before, the teaching profession requires highly motivated individuals with skill sets that allow for adaptability in rapidly changing contexts.

Looking at the reasons current teachers have to join the profession allows for an analysis of the attractiveness of the profession but it also helps to identify which working conditions matter most in retaining and keep teachers motivated in the long run. While salaries and certain working conditions are important for some candidates (Won Han, Borgonovi and Guerriero, 2018[36]), research has shown that aspects including the notion of social utility or social value of the profession are motivating factors that can relate positively to career satisfaction among some teachers (Watt et al., 2012[37]).

TALIS 2018 allows for an analysis of teachers’ views on the social value of teaching, also referred to in the literature as altruistic value (McLean, Taylor and Jimenez, 2019[4]) as well as some aspects of personal utility. For decades, entrants to the teaching profession have stated the desire to make a social contribution as a central motivation for choosing this career (McLean, Taylor and Jimenez, 2019[4]; Watt et al., 2012[37]).

As will be shown, novice teachers often have a better appreciation of the profession and of its social value than more experienced teachers. While this may respond to several different factors, novice teachers are also at a higher risk of attrition as they may experience a rapid mismatch between their expectations and what they experience once in the job (Kyriacou and Kunc, 2007[8]).

This leads to an important question on the extent to which young people have a realistic view of what teaching is as a profession. This is relevant in the current context as it has been argued that choosing to become a teacher offers job security in times of crisis (Struyven and Vanthournout, 2014[19]). Indeed, despite the difficulties in boosting its attractiveness, as shown by TALIS 2018 data, the teaching profession can also provide a feeling of job security and stability.

This is important for policy makers for the near future as new generations enrol in teacher initial education programmes. It is imperative to work on the attractiveness of the profession by matching social and personal values, and working conditions to teachers’ expectations, and increasing the perceived value and status of the profession.

When considering teachers' choices and motivations to join the profession, several aspects have to be factored in. There is the decision to become a teacher as a first choice but also the different parameters that were important when deciding to become a teacher.

TALIS 2018 asked teachers whether teaching was their first choice as a career. As shown in Figure 2.3, at primary level an average of 76% of teachers reported that teaching was their first choice (Table 2.13). Across countries and economies, the percentage of teachers for whom teaching was their first choice as a career can vary significantly.

Teachers not choosing the profession as a first choice does not necessarily mean that they missed the opportunity to follow their preferred career options. Rather, it could be a sign of teaching attracting candidates that have training or experience in fields other than teaching. This would suggest that, after some trade-offs, teaching is seen as an attractive job. For example, teachers in primary education motivated by a work schedule that fits with their personal life are 21% more likely to report choosing another career as a first choice (odds ratio=1.21) (Table 2.16). However, teachers in primary education whose main motivation to enter the profession is to have a steady career path are 27% more likely to report choosing teaching as their first career choice (odds ratio=0.73, as the analysis is based on teachers “not choosing teaching as a first career choice”).

At this level, more female teachers (77%) reported teaching as a first choice than male teachers (71%). This is so in 8 out of 13 countries and economies with available data for primary education. In England (United Kingdom) (16 percentage points difference), CABA (Argentina) (15 percentage points difference) and Sweden (14 percentage points difference), gender differences are considerable, suggesting the particular attractiveness of the profession among women (Table 2.14).

One further interesting finding is that a smaller share of novice teachers considered teaching as a first choice compared to more experienced teachers (70% in contrast to 77% of more experienced teachers). When comparing teachers with five years or less of teaching experience to teachers with more than five years of experience, 6 percentage points separate the two groups in favour of the latter (Figure 2.3). This is true in 8 out of 13 countries and economies with available data for this level. Differences are strong in France (17 percentage points), CABA (Argentina) (16 percentage points), Sweden (14 percentage points) and Denmark (13 percentage points) (Table 2.14). While this could signal a loss in attractiveness of the teaching profession in recent years, as stated above, this does not necessarily mean that these novice teachers could not pursue another profession of their choice. It could also suggest that, in recent years, the teaching profession is attracting candidates with varied training and work experience who transition to it after having a previous (first-choice) professional experience. This can have the positive impact of diversifying the profession (Richardson and Watt, 2005[13]) but also points to the advantages of opening alternative entry paths when facing shortages.

When looking at the elements evaluated by teachers as being of “moderate importance” or “high importance” in deciding to become a teacher, one parameter is strikingly high and homogeneous: “teaching allowed me to influence the development of children and young people” (TALIS average: 95%) (Figure 2.4 and Table 2.13). Another highly regarded reason to become a teacher concerns its social value: “teaching allowed me to provide a contribution to society” (TALIS average: 91%). This was reported as an important reason by at least 90% of teachers in 9 out of 13 countries and economies with available data for primary education. Yet, in Denmark, this social aspect of teaching was not as important when deciding to become a teacher for almost one-quarter of teachers (23%) (Table 2.13).

The third most prominent aspect when considering to become a teacher is related to another potential social impact of teaching: “teaching allowed me to benefit the socially disadvantaged”. An average of 83% of teachers in primary education reported this as an important reason (Table 2.13).

These results show the importance of the intrinsic and social values of the teaching profession in deciding to become a teacher. This has been addressed widely in the literature and it has been suggested that the social value of the profession is not only of high importance when evaluating reasons to join teaching as a career but it can be significant in maintaining motivation when teachers face the challenging demands of their profession (McLean, Taylor and Jimenez, 2019[4]; Watt and Richardson, 2007[25]).

The economic stability of the teaching profession also proves to be a solid argument for deciding to join the profession. Across participating countries and economies, almost three-quarters of teachers considered that “teaching provided a reliable income” and “teaching was a secure job” were important motivations to become a teacher (TALIS average: 73%, each) (Table 2.13).

Teaching as a secure job was regarded as important by over 90% of teachers in Japan, Korea and Viet Nam. Conversely, less than half of teachers in primary education gave this as a reason in Denmark (45%) and Spain (44%) and less than one-third in CABA (Argentina) (31%). This shows how job conditions and how they are perceived can differ in each system. Likewise, teaching as providing a reliable income was regarded as important by over 80% of teachers in Japan (89%), Viet Nam (89%), Korea (86%), the United Arab Emirates (86%), England (United Kingdom) (84%) and Turkey (84%). Here again, teachers in Spain (47%), Denmark (45%) and CABA (Argentina) (34%), show the lowest adherence to this criterion (Table 2.13).

Finally, the least regarded parameters for becoming teachers is that “teaching offered a steady career path” and “the teaching schedule fit with responsibilities in my personal life” (TALIS averages: 68%, each). In Viet Nam (98%) and the United Arab Emirates (92%), a large majority of teachers considered it important that teaching offered a steady career path. However, in Denmark (41%) and CABA (Argentina) (35%), this was regarded as important by a minority of teachers (Table 2.13).

Only in Viet Nam did over 90% of teachers consider that the teaching schedule fits with their responsibilities in their personal life. On the other hand, 50% or less of teachers reported this in France (50%), Spain (47%) and CABA (Argentina) (33%) (Table 2.13). This is an important indicator, given that matching teaching workload with personal life is often an influencing factor in being confident about having made the right career choice and staying in the teaching profession (Kyriacou and Kunc, 2007[8]). This is thus a relevant point for policy makers as it is also a motivation factor that is among the least cited by teachers in primary education participating in TALIS 2018.

Another important aspect for teacher motivation is their perception of value in the public eye. Across countries and economies with available data for primary education, about one-third of teachers believe that the teaching profession is valued in society (36%). Yet, there is considerable variation across countries. In France, the percentage of teachers in primary education who “agree” or “strongly agree” that the teaching profession is valued in society amounts to 4%. In Denmark (18%), Spain (12%) and Sweden (11%) and CABA (Argentina) (7%), significantly less than one-fifth of teachers believe this. At the opposite end of the spectrum, most primary school teachers in Viet Nam feel valued (95%) (Tables 2.18 and 2.19.

In the majority of countries (10 out of 13) there are no gender differences in the feeling of value of the profession (Table 2.19). Nevertheless, male teachers feel more valued than female teachers at primary level in Korea (10 percentage points difference) and the Flemish Community of Belgium (7 percentage points difference) while in the United Arab Emirates, female teachers feel more valued by society (6 percentage points difference).

Something similar can be seen when considering teachers’ employment status. In primary schools, the TALIS average shows differences between part-time and full-time teachers: the former have a more positive view of how the profession is valued even if the difference is slim (2 percentage points). The difference is remarkable in Japan, where over half of part-time teachers in primary education (53%) consider that the teaching profession is valued in society but only 36% of those working full-time do. The same is seen in Spain even if the difference is significantly smaller (4 percentage points), However, in England the opposite is true, as more teachers working full-time believe the profession is valued in society than teachers working part-time (7 percentage points difference) (Table 2.19).

At this education level, however, novice teachers (with five years of experience or less) “agree” or “strongly agree” that the teaching profession is valued in society, more often than their more experienced peers (with more than five years of experience) (4 percentage points difference). The average difference between novice and more experienced teachers suggests an internal depreciation, a change between the perception outside the profession and, later on, inside the profession as novice teachers gain hands-on experience (Kyriacou and Kunc, 2007[8]). This difference can be seen in 6 out of 13 countries with available data. The inverse does not hold true in any country and economy as in the remaining 7 there are no differences between the two types of teachers in primary education (Table 2.19).

As discussed in previous TALIS 2018 reports, teachers’ voice and influence can reach beyond the classroom walls. Effective upward feedback can influence policy makers and have an effect on education policy (OECD, 2019[5]).

Primary school teachers have a low appreciation of their relations with policy makers. On average, only 28% agree that they can have an influence on education policy and even less (23%) consider that their views are valued by policy makers in their country or region. However, in some countries teachers in primary education feel strongly valued and empowered. In Viet Nam, 87% of teachers believe their views are valued by policy makers and 89% believe they can influence education policy. Positive views are also seen in the United Arab Emirates, where over 60% believe their views are valued and they can influence education policy. At the opposite end, 10% of teachers or less feel valued and believe they have this kind of influence in Denmark, France and Sweden (Table 2.21).

Another element of teachers’ perception of the professions’ value lies in their views of how it is depicted by the media as, in certain contexts, it can have an important influence on the public image of the profession (Smak and Walczak, 2017[38]; OECD, 2005[2]). In primary education, slightly above one-quarter of teachers feel better appreciated by the media (TALIS average: 26%). Variations across countries range from 93% in Viet Nam and 73% in the United Arab Emirates to 35% in the Flemish Community of Belgium and less than 10% in Denmark, France and Japan (Table 2.21).

It is important to note that these analyses are based on teachers’ reports before the COVID-19 pandemic. Education systems, and especially teachers, have been in the spotlight since. Therefore, it is possible that teachers’ perceptions of value and influence have changed recently. For this reason, the conclusions drawn here must be taken with caution.

Primary school teachers come across as those with the highest match with their first choice when compared to lower secondary teachers. While 76% of teachers in primary education did choose teaching as a first career choice, 70% of lower secondary teachers did so (Table 2.13).

In some countries, the difference between the two levels is significant. In Spain, the difference between the two levels is the largest as 79% of primary school teachers chose teaching as a first choice while only 62% of lower secondary teachers did so. In England (United Kingdom) and Korea, the difference between both levels is of at least 10 percentage points (13 and 10 percentage points, respectively). Only in Turkey is the opposite true (4 percentage points difference) (Table 2.13).

Moreover, the social value of the teaching profession is more important among primary school teachers when deciding to join the profession. This is specially so when weighing the statement “teaching allowed me to benefit the socially disadvantaged”. The TALIS average primary teacher considered this as a more important argument by 4 percentage points with respect to lower secondary teachers. Particularly strong differences can be seen in Sweden (9 percentage points difference), the Flemish Community (Belgium) (8 percentage points difference), France (8 percentage points difference) and Spain (8 percentage points difference) (Table 2.13).

At the upper secondary level, 66% of teachers chose the teaching profession as a first career choice on average. In Croatia and Sweden, only 50% of teachers in upper secondary reported teaching as a first career choice, while in Viet Nam, 90% chose the profession as a first choice (Table 2.13).

As discussed previously, subject specialisation among some teachers at the upper secondary level can explain part of the reason why they may have more varied employment expectations and trajectories (Struyven and Vanthournout, 2014[19]). In addition to this, as has been shown, the TALIS average upper secondary teacher has four years of experience in roles other than teaching (Table 2.5).

As with primary education, teachers in upper secondary whose main motivation to enter the profession is to have a steady career path are 31% more likely to report that teaching was their first career choice (odds ratio=0.69, as the analysis is based on teachers “not choosing teaching as a first career choice”). Moreover, teachers whose motivation is to have a secure job are 25% more likely to make teaching their first career choice (odds ratio=0.75) (Table 2.17).

On the other hand, while teachers in primary education motivated by having a work schedule that would fit with their personal life are more likely to choose another career than teaching as a first choice, the picture among teachers in upper secondary is nuanced (Table 2.17). In Alberta (Canada), Brazil, Portugal and Slovenia, teachers that tend to be motivated by having this sort of matching between professional and personal life are less likely to select teaching as first choice. In the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam, teachers motivated by this sort of matching would still have chosen teaching as their first choice. This shows how the perception of the motivations of the profession are probably related to the characteristics of teachers, schools and the profession in each context and have to be taken into consideration when assessing motivations to join the profession (see Box 2.1 for further analyses of the different factors that may be in play when assessing the value of the teaching profession).

Teachers’ and schools’ characteristics show that in 10 out of 11 countries and economies with available data for upper secondary education, more female teachers reported choosing teaching as a first choice than male teachers (TALIS averages: 69% and 60%, respectively). In Brazil (17 percentage points difference), Slovenia (16 percentage points), Croatia (15 percentage points difference), Sweden (12 percentage points) and Denmark (8 percentage points difference), 50% or less male teachers chose the profession as a first choice. In all countries, over 50% of female teachers did. Only in the United Arab Emirates did more male teachers choose teaching as a first career choice than female teachers (2 percentage points difference) (Table 2.15).

As shown in Figure 2.6, across TALIS countries and economies with available data for upper secondary education, the proportion of novice teachers that considered teaching as a first choice (59%) is smaller than the proportion of more experienced teachers (67%). This is so in 7 of 11 countries with available data (Table 2.15). This suggests that novice teachers may have different appreciations of the teaching profession than their more experienced peers. This may signal potential challenges on the attractiveness of the teaching profession. Nonetheless, this could also signal that in recent years, the teaching profession is attracting more candidates with different profiles and experiences, consolidating alternative paths to the profession. At this level, not only subject specialty but the existence of professionalising pathways like VET programmes are attracting teachers with more diverse profiles.

On average across countries and economies with available data, when it comes to schools where VET programmes are taught, fewer teachers chose the teaching profession as a first choice when compared to teachers in schools with no VET programmes (8 percentage points difference). In Denmark, 60% of teachers in schools with no VET programmes chose teaching as a first career choice while in schools with VET programmes only 29% have. Other countries with differences beyond 10 percentage points are Slovenia (17 percentage points) and Croatia (14 percentage points) (Table 2.15).

Interestingly, at upper secondary level, teachers teaching non-STEM fields chose the profession as first choice more often than teachers teaching STEM (TALIS average: 3 percentage points difference). While this average is driven mainly by three countries, the inverse difference does not hold true in any of the remaining countries. Differences of over 10 percentage points are seen in Denmark (14 percentage points) and Turkey (11 percentage points) (Table 2.15).

Moreover, at upper secondary level, the social value of the teaching profession was clearly the most valued aspect when weighing to join the profession, but this is not without some contrasts. Figure 2.7 shows that most teachers considered that the statement “Teaching allowed me to influence the development of children and young people” reflected a value of importance when making the decision (TALIS average: 94%). Across countries there is relatively low variation on this parameter, with no country under 86%. The statement “teaching allowed me to provide a contribution to society” is of significant importance for 91% of teachers on average. The lowest importance was given to the statement “teaching allowed me to benefit the socially disadvantaged” among teachers in upper secondary (TALIS average: 78%). While a large majority of teachers in upper secondary considered this important when deciding to become teachers in Brazil (92%), Turkey (92%), Viet Nam (91%) and the United Arab Emirates (90%), about half of teachers in upper secondary in Slovenia considered this so (53%) and only 37% in Denmark (Table 2.13).

Other, more pragmatic reasons seem to have significant weight in several countries when deciding to become a teacher. On average, job security and a reliable income were regarded as important by 73% of teachers, each. These two criteria are very similar when looking at how teachers in each country granted them value. In Alberta (Canada), both criteria were important for at least 90% of teachers. In Denmark (50% and 55%) and Slovenia (55% and 54%), they were both central for about half of teachers (Table 2.13).

Other less regarded motivations concerned “the teaching schedule fit with responsibilities in my personal life” (71%) and “teaching offered a steady career path” (70%), on average. Again, the characteristics in each country seem to play important roles on how these criteria were regarded by teachers as differences across countries are important. In Viet Nam, 94% of teachers in upper secondary considered it important that the teaching schedule fit with responsibilities in their personal life but only 59% in Croatia and fewer than half in Slovenia (49%) thought the same (Table 2.13).

The fact that teaching may offer a steady career path was regarded as important by a large share of teachers at this level in Viet Nam (96%), the United Arab Emirates (91%) and Alberta (Canada) (88%). Yet, in other countries, this criteria was not as relevant for about half of teachers, as in Croatia (57%), Slovenia (54%), Sweden (47%), and even less for teachers in Denmark (35%) (Table 2.13).

When looking at teachers in upper secondary’ perceptions of value of the profession, above one-third (37%) “agree” or “strongly agree” that the teaching profession is valued in society (Table 2.18). Across countries and economies this view is shared by 10% of teachers in Slovenia and 11% in Brazil and Croatia, over half in Alberta (Canada) (55%) and up to 71% in the United Arab Emirates and 91% in Viet Nam. The sharp variations across countries suggest how strongly this vision depends on each context and its social, economic and cultural characteristics.

When looking at teacher and school characteristics, two aspects are to note. Gender differences show that across participating countries and economies a higher percentage of male teachers in upper secondary education consider that the teaching profession is valued in society as compared to female teachers (3 percentage points difference). This ranges from 12 percentage points in Portugal to 5 percentage points in Croatia. However, in the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam, the share of female teachers who feel that the profession is valued in society is higher than that of male teachers in upper secondary schools (Table 2.20).

Likewise, novice teachers also tend to report more often that teaching is a valued profession than more experienced teachers (TALIS averages: 43% and 36%, respectively). While in 6 out of 11 countries this difference holds, there is no country or economy in which the opposite is observed. The difference is large in Portugal (22 percentage points), in Croatia (15 percentage points), Sweden (12 percentage points) and Denmark (11 percentage points) (Table 2.20).

Teachers in upper secondary have a low appreciation of their relationship with policy makers as only 23% consider they are valued by them. Nevertheless, teachers at this level feel in a better position to influence education policy (35%). This is the case in 8 out of 11 countries with available data. In Portugal, while only 5% of teachers feel valued by policy makers, over one-third (36%) believe they can influence policy in their country or region (Table 2.21). On the other hand, 29% of teachers in upper secondary feel valued by the media. While in Viet Nam this is the view of the majority of teachers (90%), in Croatia, Portugal and Slovenia less than 10% believe so (Table 2.21).

As with the primary education results, it is important to take these reports with caution as the data are from before the COVID-19 pandemic. The perception of value as discussed here is likely to have evolved due to the pandemic. It is also likely that its effects on teachers’ perception of value are different across education levels.

A significantly smaller portion of upper than lower secondary teachers reported that the teaching profession was their first choice (TALIS average: 7 percentage points difference). This is the case in 9 of 11 countries with available data for both levels. Particularly strong differences are seen in Slovenia (21 percentage points difference), Croatia (17 percentage points difference) and Denmark (10 percentage points difference) (Table 2.13). Part of the explanation for this is that teachers at this level have more varied trajectories and often have experience in other non-education roles. Teachers in upper secondary have on average one year more experience in non-educational roles than their lower secondary peers. Differences can be seen in 6 out of 11 countries and economies (Table 2.5).

Concerning criteria that may be relevant for decisions to become a teacher, most of them are less important for teachers in upper secondary than for their lower secondary peers. When looking at the social value of the profession, in all cases teachers in upper secondary give less relevance to these aspects on average and across countries and economies. The largest difference concerns “teaching allowed me to benefit the socially disadvantaged” as 78% of teachers in upper secondary regarded this as important while 83% of lower secondary teachers did. In Denmark, the difference is particularly strong, going from 64% in lower secondary education to 37% in upper secondary (Table 2.13). Among the more pragmatic criteria, the statement “the teaching schedule fit with responsibilities in my personal life” was comparatively more important for teachers in upper secondary than lower secondary teachers (2 percentage points difference), and especially so in Slovenia (10 percentage points difference).

Although the proportions of teachers are relatively low (slightly above one-third in all levels), the TALIS average shows that more teachers in upper secondary than lower secondary teachers believe that the profession is valued by society even if the difference is small (3 percentage points). In Denmark, the difference between teachers in both levels is striking as 38% of teachers in upper secondary believe the profession is valued in society while only 18% of lower secondary teachers feel so. While this sort of difference can be seen in 6 out of 11 countries and economies, in Alberta (Canada) the opposite is true: fewer teachers in upper secondary feel their profession is valued compared to lower secondary teachers (8 percentage points difference) (Table 2.18).

On the other hand, teachers’ self-reported value by the media is an area in which teachers in upper secondary feel more valued than teachers at the lower secondary level. Even if the TALIS average difference is small (1 percentage point), 7 countries out of 11 show larger differences, reaching 11 percentage points in Denmark. In Alberta (Canada) the inverse is true, lower secondary teachers feel more valued by the media, and the difference is large (14 percentage points) (Table 2.21).

As societies change, schools change with them. Teaching and learning environments have to be highly adaptive and innovative but they also have to be sensitive to the different needs of the populations they attend to. Diversity and equity in schools affect a range of topics from gender and the socio-economic background of students to the movements of people across regions and borders. These all bring social, linguistic, cultural and ethnic diversity to schools.

In some countries, social segregation has effects on the concentration of disadvantaged and advantaged homes in specific neighbourhoods. This has, in turn, an effect on the social composition of schools in those neighbourhoods (Rowe and Lubienski, 2017[41]; Valenzuela, Bellei and De Los Ríos, 2013[42]). On the other hand, human mobility, such as the freedom of movement of European Union citizens among member states, has had an important effect for the social and cultural diversity in schools and workplaces across nations. Economic development, or lack of it, are among the other significant reasons behind people’s movement, just as is conflict. Recent humanitarian crises have had increasing numbers of refugees resettling in several OECD countries, especially between 2014 and 2016 (OECD, 2020[43]).

Education systems are becoming more complex as a result of social diversity and growing human mobility. These phenomena not only enrich social and cultural diversity, they also sometimes reflect social and economic inequities and tensions (Pinson and Arnot, 2007[44]). As reported in previous TALIS 2018 reports, ensuring high-quality learning experiences for a diverse student body deserves special attention. It is widely recognised that feeling like an outsider, facing linguistic difficulties, and living in disadvantaged conditions have important repercussions on students’ progress in school (Buhs, 2005[45]; Buhs and Ladd, 2001[46]; OECD, 2020[47]).

All these challenges can also represent a heavy burden for teachers, especially if they are not provided with enough support like specific professional development and training. As noted in previous TALIS 2018 reports, teachers often face difficulties when teaching in culturally or linguistically diverse classrooms (OECD, 2019[5]).

Strategies and policies for facing diversity-related challenges can vary across countries. Evidence shows that diversity in schools can be addressed by a variety of approaches. Practices that encourage children to learn about different cultures while tackling discrimination are approaches that can increase respect and tolerance in settings characterised by student diversity (Thijs and Verkuyten, 2014[48]).

Most countries and economies with available data for primary and upper secondary education have identified the relevance of education in areas related to diversity to promote equity and a climate of respect and tolerance (Box 2.2 provides an overview of successful inclusive programmes in Slovenia). TALIS data allow for an analysis of teachers’ working environment based on school and classroom compositions but also on the measures applied to make teachers’ working environment more adaptive and adapted to teachers’ and students’ realities.

When looking at school composition in primary education, principals were asked to estimate the broad percentage of students in their schools by their specific characteristics. Principals’ reports show that slightly over one-quarter of teachers teach in schools where more than 10% of students are non-native speakers (27%); around one-quarter teach in schools where more than 10% of students are immigrants or with migrant background (24%) (hereafter referred to as “students with a migrant background”) and 25% teach in schools where at least 1% of students are refugees (hereafter “schools with refugee students”) on average (Figure 2.8 and Table 2.24).

When it comes to linguistic diversity, about half of teachers teach in primary schools where over 10% of students are non-native speakers in the Flemish Community of Belgium (50%) and Sweden (49%), slightly less so in England (United Kingdom) (44%) and the United Arab Emirates (44%), but less than one-tenth in CABA (Argentina) (7%), Korea (5%) and Japan (2%) (Table 2.24).

In Sweden, about half of teachers teach in primary schools where more than 10% of students have a migrant background (48%), and 66% work in schools with refugee students. In the Flemish Community of Belgium, the proportions are 38% and 53%, respectively and in Denmark 27% and 62%. In Turkey, while the proportion of teachers working in primary schools with refugee students is high (60%), only 10% of teachers teach in schools where more than 10% of students have a migrant background. Finally, in CABA (Argentina), 38% of teachers teach in the latter but only 9% teach in primary schools with refugee students (Table 2.24).

In addition to linguistic, cultural and ethnic diversity, classrooms are also diverse in terms of students’ socio-economic backgrounds and learning abilities. Principals’ reports show that 14% of teachers in primary education teach in schools where more than 30% of students come from socio-economically disadvantaged homes (Table 2.24). Across countries, about one-quarter of teachers teach in such schools in England (United Kingdom) (26%) and France (25%), around one-fifth in Sweden (20%) and CABA (Argentina) (19%) and less than 10% in Denmark (6%), the United Arab Emirates (5%), Japan (3%) and Korea (3%) (Table 2.24).

TALIS data also show that 27% of teachers in primary education teach in schools where more than 10% of students have special needs on average but 67% in England (United Kingdom), 59% in the Flemish Community of Belgium and 49% in Sweden (Table 2.24). At the opposite end, in Viet Nam, only 4% of teachers teach in schools where 10% of students have special needs, and virtually none in Korea (Table 2.24). While countries differ in how and when special needs are diagnosed, results for primary education in most countries are in line with previous findings showing that teachers at lower levels of education are more likely to report greater proportions of students with special needs in their classrooms (OECD, 2014[50]). In recent years, policies on the inclusion of students with special needs have increased the level of presence of children with special needs in mainstream schools in several countries. This has influenced the need for staff with different sets of skills and training (OECD, 2019[1]) (Box 2.2 outlines an approach to online learning in Turkey which considers special needs education).

When looking at how schools address equity issues, 90% of school principals in primary education reported that in their school, teachers teach students to be inclusive of different socio-economic backgrounds on average. While across countries and economies this is largely the case, in three countries principals reporting the existence of such practice are comparatively low: in Sweden 81% of principals reported following this practice, in Japan 78% and in Viet Nam 54% (Table 2.25). In close connection with this, granting additional support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds was reported by 79% of school principals in primary education. Here again it is noted that important differences across countries and economies, ranging from virtually all principals in Viet Nam (99%) to 60% in Denmark, 49% in France and 41% in Sweden. Finally, 74% of school principals in primary education reported having in place explicit policies against socio-economic discrimination in their school, ranging from 90% in Korea to 60% in Sweden, 58% in Viet Nam and 48% in the Flemish Community of Belgium.

These results not only highlight what practices are in place in schools. they also show the importance placed on these issues to support student diversity in participating countries and economies. However, to interpret these findings correctly, it is important to take into consideration that explicit policies addressing equity and diversity are not always enforced within schools but are sometimes addressed through other sets of social policies. In Sweden, for example, support is administered to challenging schools and neighbourhoods and not to individual students in schools. The goal of such sort of equalising polices is to pursue better equity and to avoid stigmatisation.

Policies against gender discrimination are the second most relevant equity practice as 80% of principals reported having explicit policies against this sort of discrimination. Across countries and economies, the picture is quite diverse. While 98% of school principals in primary education reported having such policies in Korea, in Japan the share is 73%, 65% in France1 and 42% in the Flemish Community of Belgium (Table 2.25).

In looking at how schools address diversity,2 the percentage of teachers working in schools with diverse ethnic and cultural student background (i.e. teachers in schools with students from “more than one cultural or ethnic background” hereafter “diverse schools”) that teach students how to deal with ethnic and cultural discrimination amounts to 83% on average, based on reports from school principals in primary education. In 8 out of 13 countries and economies with available data, at least 90% of teachers teach in diverse schools with this practice in place. In Denmark, only 27% of teachers work in schools where this diversity-related practice is implemented (Table 2.26).

The percentage of teachers working in diverse schools that adopt teaching and learning practices that integrate global issues throughout the curriculum amounts to 82% on average. This ranges from 98% in England (United Kingdom) and 96% in CABA (Argentina) to 63% in France and 55% in Japan (Table 2.26).

While these findings are positive, comparatively fewer teachers work in diverse schools that support activities encouraging students’ expression of diverse ethnic and cultural identities. On average, 64% of teachers work in such diverse schools. However, there are strong variations across countries and economies with available data. While in Viet Nam, virtually all teachers work in such schools and 94% of teachers in the United Arab Emirates, 45% do so in the Flemish Community of Belgium, 38% in Sweden, 34% in Japan and 13% in Denmark (Table 2.26).

Finally, 61% of teachers in primary education work in diverse schools that organise multicultural events on average. While this practice concerns 97% of teachers in primary education working in diverse schools in the United Arab Emirates, it concerns 36% of such teachers in France, 35% in Sweden and 18% in Denmark (Table 2.26).

There are no average differences across levels when it comes to the linguistic, cultural and ethnic diversity of schools. This is to be expected as students with diverse linguistic, cultural and ethnic background go through all compulsory levels of education and are taught by teachers at all levels over the course of their time in school, just as any other student. However, in some countries, reports of primary and lower secondary principals differ to important extents. In Sweden, for example, fewer primary school teachers teach in schools with more than 10% of non-native speaker students than lower secondary teachers (6 percentage points difference). There is also a significant difference between the two levels when it comes to teachers that teach in schools with more than 10% of students with a migrant background (4 percentage points difference). Similarly, in the United Arab Emirates, the same differences amount to 3 and 5 percentage points, respectively. Conversely, in France, significantly more teachers in primary education teach in schools with more than 10% of students that are non-native speakers with respect to lower secondary teachers (9 percentage points difference) (Table 2.24).

One further interesting difference between the two levels concerns refugee students. The average difference between primary and lower secondary education is important, going from 25% of teachers in primary education teaching in schools with refugee students to 30% of lower secondary teachers (5 percentage points). In some countries, these differences are quite strong. In England (United Kingdom) and France, the differences are larger than 20 percentage points between the two levels (24 and 22 percentage points, respectively). In Sweden, which is the country with the largest proportion of teachers teaching in primary schools with refugee students (66%) across countries with available data, the proportion rises to 84% of teachers in lower secondary education (Table 2.24).

The different patterns described here are likely to be linked to migration flows of humanitarian refugees, asylum-seekers and isolated minors within these countries, which vary through time but increased between 2014 and 2016 in several countries (OECD, 2020[43]).

Concerning other students’ characteristics, the average difference between primary and lower secondary levels is significant when it comes to schools where more than 10% of students have special needs as the proportion of primary school teachers that teach in such schools is larger (4 percentage points). In England (United Kingdom), this difference reaches 13 percentage points, and in Japan 17 percentage points. Conversely, in Sweden and Turkey, the proportion of teachers in primary education teaching in these schools is smaller with respect to lower secondary education (3 and 1 percentage points difference respectively) (Table 2.24).

Finally, regarding the percentage of teachers in primary education that teach in schools where more than 30% of students come from socio-economically disadvantaged homes, while there is no average difference between levels, in France, the percentage of teachers in primary education teaching in such schools is significantly lower than in lower secondary education, rising from 25% to 42% (16 percentage points difference). Differences on how students are registered at each education level and how the information on students’ socio-economic background is systematised at higher education levels could account for part of this difference. In the Flemish Community of Belgium, Viet Nam and Sweden the opposite is true, as fewer teachers in primary education teach in such schools than lower secondary teachers (6 to 5 percentage points difference) (Table 2.24).

Across countries and economies with available data for both levels, three equity domains show no difference on average: having explicit policies against gender discrimination, teaching students to be inclusive of different socio-economic backgrounds and having explicit policies against socio-economic discrimination. This is a relevant issue given the importance of teaching equitable behaviours and practices to students at early ages, especially so since primary schools are as diverse as lower secondary schools in several countries and economies.

Nonetheless, in some countries the differences are important. In Viet Nam, teaching students to be inclusive of different socio-economic backgrounds is significantly less prevalent in primary education than in lower secondary education (54% and 78%, respectively), according to principals’ reports. Likewise, with respect to explicit policies against gender discrimination, in France, 65% of principals reported having such polices in their school in primary education compared to 89% in lower secondary education. The opposite pattern is observed in Japan with 73% of school principals in primary education reporting such policies against gender discrimination compared to 63% for their lower secondary peers (Table 2.25).

When it comes to having additional support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the same two countries show marked differences across levels of education. In France, just under half of principals reported such support in primary education (49%) while a majority of lower secondary principals reported this (86%). Japan shows the opposite pattern again with 79% of school principals in primary education reporting this support for students compared to 68% of lower secondary principals (Table 2.25).

When looking at diversity policies and actions pursued by teachers, there are no differences in the percentages of primary and lower secondary teachers working in diverse schools and reporting supportive activities or organisations encouraging students’ expression of diverse ethnic and cultural identities, teaching how to deal with ethnic and cultural discrimination and adopting teaching and learning practices that integrate global issues throughout the curriculum.

However, across countries and economies with available data for the two education levels, some interesting differences emerge. With respect to supporting activities or organisations encouraging students' expression of diverse ethnic and cultural identities, there are significant differences in 7 out of 13 countries and economies. In Denmark, fewer teachers work in diverse primary schools that implement such practice than in diverse lower secondary schools (11 percentage points difference). Conversely, in Korea, the opposite pattern is true and more teachers in primary education work in such schools (13 percentage points difference) (Table 2.26).

Moreover, on average, more teachers in primary education work in diverse schools that organise multicultural events than their lower secondary peers (5 percentage points difference). In some countries and economies, the differences can be quite large. In Korea, while 78% of teachers in primary education work in diverse schools that organise multicultural events, only 54% do so at the lower secondary level. Similar strong differences can be seen in England (United Kingdom) (18 percentage points), CABA (Argentina) (15 percentage points) and Viet Nam (15 percentage points). In the Flemish Community of Belgium, the opposite pattern is found with fewer primary than lower secondary teachers working in diverse schools that organise multicultural events (13 percentage points difference) (Table 2.26).

In upper secondary education, TALIS data on average school composition show that 20% of teachers teach in schools with substantial linguistic diversity (i.e. schools where more than 10% of students are non-native speakers), and 18% teach in schools with ethnic or cultural diversity (i.e. schools where more than 10% of students have a migrant background. Moreover, principals’ reports show that one-quarter of teachers in upper secondary teach in schools with refugee students (TALIS average: 25%) (Figure 2.9 and Table 2.24).

Across countries and economies, when it comes to linguistic diversity, almost half of teachers teach in upper secondary schools where over 10% of students are non-native speakers in Alberta (Canada) (46%) and 61% of teachers do so in Sweden. Conversely, in Portugal this concerns 5% of teachers at this level, while in Brazil and Croatia the proportion is only 1% (Table 2.24).

Sweden is the only country with available data for upper secondary education in which more than half of teachers teach in schools with ethnic or cultural diversity (64%). Also in Sweden, the proportion of teachers teaching in schools with refugee students is the highest, concerning 77% of teachers at this level (Table 2.24). This is not surprising as large numbers of humanitarian refugees were admitted to Sweden between 2014 and 2016 (OECD, 2018[52]).

Alberta (Canada) and Denmark are two other countries where at least half of the teachers teach in schools with refugee students (52% and 68%, respectively) even if less so teach in upper secondary schools with more than 10% of students with a migrant background (43% and 26%, respectively) (Table 2.24). In contrast, less than 10% of teachers in upper secondary teach in schools with refugee students in Brazil, Croatia and Slovenia, while no teacher at this level reported this in Viet Nam. Likewise, less than 10% of teachers in upper secondary in Brazil, Slovenia, Turkey and Viet Nam teach in ethnically or culturally diverse schools, while none reported this in Croatia (Table 2.24).

Regarding other student characteristics, principals’ reports show that less than one-fifth of teachers in upper secondary (19%) teach in schools where more than 10% of students have special needs. Nonetheless, across countries and economies, there are important contrasts. In Alberta (Canada) over half of teachers (59%) report this, while in Sweden (36%), Denmark (26%), Slovenia (26%) and Portugal (21%), the share of teachers teaching in schools where more than 10% of students have special needs is between one-fifth and over one-third. In Viet Nam, this concerns only 2% of teachers at this level (Table 2.24).

Moreover, according to principals’ reports, 17% of teachers in upper secondary teach in schools where more than 30% of students come from socio-economically disadvantaged homes on average. But across countries and economies participating in TALIS this ranges from 39% of teachers in upper secondary in Portugal and 33% in Brazil to only 5% in Viet Nam (Table 2.24). In connection with this, 86% of school principals in upper secondary reported that students in their school are taught to be inclusive of different socio-economic backgrounds. Yet, in three countries, principals reporting the existence of such practice are relatively low: Viet Nam (67% of principals reported this), Denmark (66%) and Sweden (63%) (Table 2.25). Perhaps related to the relatively low share of teachers in schools with high concentrations of students from socio-economically disadvantaged homes, explicit policies against socio-economic discrimination at this level are the least prevalent (TALIS average: 77%) but there are important variations across countries. While over 90% of principals reported this sort of policy in their school in Slovenia (92%) and Brazil (91%), 58% reported this in Alberta (Canada) and 51% in Sweden.

In addition to this, granting additional support for students form disadvantaged backgrounds is a type of equity school policy reported by 83% of school principals in upper secondary. But while virtually all principals reported having this type of support in their school in Viet Nam, 67% reported this in Denmark and 37% in Sweden (Table 2.25). As mentioned before, explicit policies addressing disadvantaged students are not in place in countries like Sweden as support is designed to address challenging schools and neighbourhoods rather than individual students.

In what concerns practices addressing diversity, the percentage of teachers in upper secondary working in diverse schools (i.e. schools that include students from “more than one cultural or ethnic background”), that adopt teaching and learning practices that integrate global issues throughout the curriculum amounts to 82% on average. This ranges from 95% in the United Arab Emirates, 94% in Sweden and 92% in Brazil to 66% in Denmark and 61% in Turkey (Table 2.26).

As far as teaching how to deal with ethnic and cultural discrimination is concerned, 80% of teachers in upper secondary do so, according to principals. While the share is over 90% in Portugal (94%), the United Arab Emirates (93%) and Viet Nam (92%), it concerns 22% of teachers in upper secondary in diverse upper secondary schools in Denmark (Table 2.26).

On average, 69% of teachers in upper secondary work in diverse schools that support activities or organisations encouraging students’ expression of diverse ethnic and cultural identities. However, there are strong variations across countries and economies with available data. While these policies and practices addressing diversity are very prevalent in Viet Nam (97% of teachers in upper secondary work in such schools), the United Arab Emirates (94%) and Alberta (Canada) (92%) they are less so in Croatia (47%), Sweden (37%) and Denmark (17%) (Table 2.26).

Finally, 61% of teachers in upper secondary work in diverse schools that organise multicultural events on average. But while this practice is nearly universal in the United Arab Emirates (concerning 97% of teachers working in diverse upper secondary schools) and Brazil (90%), it concerns 38% of such teachers in Sweden, 37% in Turkey, 32% in Croatia and 29% in Denmark (Table 2.26).

Two indicators on school composition show differences between the two levels of education. The share of teachers teaching in linguistically diverse schools show that, on average, more teachers teach in such schools in lower secondary than in upper secondary education (TALIS average difference: 4 percentage points). In 3 out of 11 countries and economies with available data, the difference is large. In Turkey, the difference reaches 10 percentage points (from 21% in lower secondary to 11% in upper secondary education). However, in Sweden, the opposite pattern is found, with more upper secondary school teachers teaching in schools with over 10% of non-native speakers among students (6 percentage points difference, from 55% to 61%) (Table 2.24).

Likewise, the percentage of teachers who teach in schools where more than 10% of students have special needs shows that fewer teachers teach in such schools in upper secondary than in lower secondary education (TALIS average difference: 4 percentage points). This holds true in 5 out of 11 countries and economies with available data for the two levels. In Portugal and Sweden the differences between the two levels are significant (12 and 17 percentage points) (Table 2.24).

Regarding policies and practices addressing equity and diversity, the only significant differences are seen in teaching students to be inclusive of different socio-economic backgrounds. Fewer school principals in upper secondary reported doing so compared to lower secondary principals (TALIS average difference: 5 percentage points). This average is based, however, on only three countries with strong differences. In Denmark and Sweden, the differences between the two levels are large (18 and 20 percentage points difference, respectively). In Viet Nam, the difference reaches 11 percentage points. As pointed out before, these three countries have the lowest shares of school principals in upper secondary that reported that they teach students to be inclusive of different socio-economic backgrounds in their schools (Table 2.25).

As was the case for primary and lower secondary comparisons, no differences can be seen in the percentages of upper and lower secondary teachers working in diverse schools in which diversity practices are implemented, with one exception: the share of teachers working in diverse schools that organise multicultural events. At the upper secondary level, slightly more teachers work in such schools on average (3 percentage points difference). In some countries and economies, however, the differences can be quite large. In Portugal, while 73% of teachers in upper secondary work in diverse schools that organise multicultural events, 51% do so at lower secondary level. Similar strong differences can be seen in Viet Nam (17 percentage points) and Alberta (Canada) (14 percentage points). Conversely, in Croatia, fewer upper secondary than lower secondary teachers work in such schools (14 percentage points difference) (Table 2.26).

The type and quality of interactions and relationships established between teachers and students at schools can be important to various extents. Students’ personalities and attitudes towards adults may shape the type of interactions they establish with teachers. Yet, these relationships are often constructed mutually, with students and teachers equally responsible for establishing solid bonds (Sabol and Pianta, 2012[53]). Good student-teacher relationships may have a positive effect on students’ feelings of confidence in the classroom and allow them to learn more on their own, with their teacher’s support (O’Connor and McCartney, 2007[54]). Indeed, positive teacher-student relations based on mutual trust have shown to lead to positive learning outcomes (O’Connor and McCartney, 2007[54]). Moreover, studies suggest that the effects of positive teacher-student interactions go beyond these individual interactions. They likely improve relations among students themselves, thus improving the school environment (Hughes, Cavell and Willson, 2001[55]).

In order to measure teacher-student relations, TALIS 2018 asked school teachers if they “agree” or “strongly agree” that in their school: “teachers and students usually get on well with each other”, “most teachers believe that the students’ well-being is important”, “most teachers are interested in what students have to say” and “if a student needs extra assistance, the school provides it”.

Teacher-student relations are also pertinent for teachers’ appreciation of their own work. When the scale of teacher-student relations is higher (i.e. the scale measures teachers’ attitudes about these interactions based on the four dimensions described above), teachers tend to report better views on how the teaching profession is valued in society. On average, teachers in primary education that reported better student-teacher relations are 13% more likely to report teaching to be valued in society (odds ratio=1.13), and teachers in upper secondary are 17% more likely to do so (odds ratio=1.17) (Tables 2.27 and 2.28).

While teachers’ assessments of the value of the profession is undoubtedly influenced by external factors (e.g. media attention or policy influence), these results reinforce the idea that there may also be a sense of value picked up from within the school and in teachers’ daily practice, including good interactions and relationships with students, and other relationships influencing those (e.g. teacher-parent interactions and relationships with colleagues) (Skaalvik and Skaalvik, 2011[56]; OECD, 2005[2]).

When it comes to teacher-student relations in primary education, most teachers (at least 90%) believe they usually get on well with students (98%), believe that students’ well-being is important (98%), are interested in what students have to say (96%) and if a student needs extra assistance, the school provides it (90%) (Table 2.29).

Across countries, the first three items show little variation. The 13 countries and economies with available data for primary education are all close together with high percentages between 93% and 100%. Interestingly, there is more variation when it comes to the extra assistance provided to students if they need it. This is of course relative to the fact that in 11 of 13 countries and economies, at least 90% of teachers agree on this. Yet, in Denmark 66% of teachers in primary education believe so and 77% in Sweden, signalling that despite the overall homogeneity, in these two countries, between one-third and one-quarter of teachers believe schools do not readily provide extra assistance to primary students when needed (Table 2.29).

Moreover, in addition to the teacher-student interactions and relations observed here, TALIS 2018 asked teachers about teacher-teacher interaction and relations, and how they felt about mutual reliance. On average across participating countries and economies, a large majority of teachers “agree” or “strongly agree” that teachers can rely on each other (92%), ranging from 84% in Turkey to 97% in Viet Nam (Table 2.29). This observation complements the analysis on student-teacher relations with insight into how peer reliance and collegiality can help teachers in primary education address issues arising from their relationships with students.

Interestingly, teachers in primary education in 9 out of 13 countries and economies with data for these two levels agree more often that teachers and students usually get along well with each other and that students’ well-being is important compared to lower secondary teachers. In Korea, the difference between the two levels is the largest, with 4 percentage points for both areas (Table 2.29).

Moreover, as shown in Figure 2.10, in all countries and economies with available data for both levels, more teachers in primary education believe that teachers are interested in what students have to say compared to their lower secondary peers. In Spain (5 percentage points), Japan (4 percentage points) and Korea (4 percentage points), the difference between the two levels is the largest (Table 2.29).

Regarding teachers’ belief that when a student needs extra assistance, the school provides it, while there are no average differences between the two levels, in 3 out of 7 countries and economies where the differences are significant, fewer primary than lower secondary teachers reported this. In Denmark, the difference is large (9 percentage points difference) (Table 2.29). On the other hand, of the 4 countries where the opposite is true, teachers in primary education in Korea and Spain reported the highest differences with respect to their lower secondary peers (4 and 3 percentage points, respectively).

Finally, on average, more teachers in primary education than lower secondary teachers believe they can rely on each other, even if the difference is small (2 percentage points). The difference is significant in 7 out of 13 countries with available data for the two levels. The largest differences are seen in Japan (6 percentage points), Korea (6 percentage points) and France (5 percentage points). In no country or economy did fewer teachers in primary education than lower secondary teachers report that they can rely on each other (Table 2.29).

At this level, when it comes to teacher-student relations, most teachers (at least 90%) believe they usually get along well with students (96%); believe that students’ well-being is important (96%), feel that if a student needs extra assistance, the school provides it (91%); and are interested in what students have to say (90%) (Table 2.29).

Across countries and economies, similar shares of upper secondary and lower secondary teachers agreed with these statements. Only in Brazil (83%), Croatia (84%), Slovenia (85%) and Turkey (87%) the shares of teachers in upper secondary who reported that they are interested in what students have to say are below 90%. Likewise, in Brazil (74%), Sweden (85%) and Turkey (87%), less than 90% of teachers in upper secondary reported that if a student needs extra assistance, the school provides it (Table 2.29).

When looking at teachers’ beliefs that they can rely on each other, on average 86% of upper secondary school teachers agree with this, ranging from 76% in Turkey and 77% in Croatia and Portugal to 95% in Alberta (Canada) and Viet Nam (Table 2.29).

Three areas of teacher-student relations show that fewer teachers in upper secondary reported good relations compared to their lower secondary peers. Yet, these differences have to be interpreted with caution as they are, on average, quite small. The three areas are: teachers and students usually get on well with each other (1 percentage point); they believe that students’ well-being is important (1 percentage point difference); and most teachers are interested in what students have to say (2 percentage points difference) (Table 2.29).

While in the majority of countries and economies in which there is a difference between the two levels, teachers in upper secondary show lower percentages, the low magnitude of the differences suggests that student-teacher relations at both levels are on average quite similar.

When it comes to teachers’ beliefs that when a student needs extra assistance, the school provides it, the TALIS average difference suggests that more teachers in upper secondary than lower secondary teachers feel this is true by a very small margin (1 percentage point). Interestingly, this average is heavily influenced by a strong difference in Denmark (18 percentage points) and Sweden (8 percentage points), mainly. Yet, teachers in upper secondary reported less agreement with this statement than lower secondary teachers in 6 out of the 9 countries and economies in which the difference between the two levels is significant, ranging from 5 percentage points in Brazil to only 1 in Viet Nam (Table 2.29).

Finally, as shown in Figure 2.11, fewer teachers in upper secondary reported they can rely on other teachers than their lower secondary peers (2 percentage points difference). This is true also in 6 out of 11 countries with available data for the two levels, ranging from 6 percentage points of difference in Croatia, Slovenia and Turkey, to 2 in Viet Nam. Conversely, in Denmark and the United Arab Emirates, more upper secondary than lower secondary teachers believe they can rely on their colleagues even though the difference is small (2 percentage points, each) (Table 2.29).

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Notes

← 1. The French translation of the question “In this school, are the following policies and practices implemented? Explicit policies against gender discrimination” failed to attain the full scope of the questionnaire item. Therefore, any international comparisons of French principals’ responses to this item are not relevant.

← 2. In TALIS, “diversity” is understood as the recognition of and appreciation for differences in the backgrounds of students and staff. In the case of cultural diversity, it refers, most notably, to cultural or ethnic backgrounds.

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