5. Empowering teaching professionals

Teacher empowerment has been analysed and discussed in the literature for several decades (Bogler and Somech, 2004[1]; Malen, Ogawa R. T. and Kranz, 1990[2]; Rinehart and Short, 1993[3]). It has been described as the process through which teachers, as other members of the school, “develop the competence to take charge of their own growth” and to face the challenges in their daily practice (Short, Greer and Melvin, 1994, p. 38[4]). It stands for teachers believing that they have what is necessary to have an effect on their work environment (Short, Greer and Melvin, 1994[4]).

The belief in ones’ empowerment goes hand in hand with the ability to exercise that influence. This is teacher agency. Agency is a feature of teachers’ engagement with their peers and their environment and the scope they have in defining those relations (Biesta, Priestley and Robinson, 2015[5]). Empowered teachers are professionals that are able to exercise agency.

Teachers’ empowerment and agency can take many forms. What is central is the extent to which teachers’ working environments allow them enough voice, autonomy and confidence through channels of collaboration, active roles in collective decision making and good combinations of support, motivation and autonomy.

This chapter will explore the extent of empowerment and agency among primary and school principals in upper secondary education and teachers in the countries and economies participating in these modules in TALIS 2018. It will explore several dimensions of principals’ autonomy and autonomy transfers to teachers as well as their instructional and distributed leadership. It will analyse teachers’ empowerment and agency through the perception of autonomy, their feelings of self-efficacy and the place that collaboration has in their professional practice. Finally, while traditional mechanisms of empowerment may be in place, there are factors that can hinder the actual development of agency. For this reason, the chapter will explore the perceptions of school principals and teachers on how resource shortages can be a barrier to teachers delivering educational goals.

School autonomy has been identified as a strong lever for the empowerment of school leaders and teachers (OECD, 2020[6]). This section reports on the share of principals that have significant responsibilities for school-level decisions and tasks. As noted in previous TALIS reports (OECD, 2020[6]), when it comes to school autonomy across education levels, school principals usually report more autonomy as the level of education increases. The share of principals that reported significant responsibilities for school-level decisions and tasks reflects this relative increase in school autonomy across education levels.

Advocates for school autonomy consider that local authorities, as well as school governing boards and principals, have better knowledge of their limitations and needs, and they can manage more efficiently, than other centralised instances of administration (Caldwell and Spinks, 2013[7]; Ouchi and Segal, 2003[8]). While school autonomy does seem to have an effect on better efficacy in improving educational outcomes (Eskeland and Filmer, 2002[9]), the actual impact is not uniform across systems (Galiani, Gertler and Schargrodsky, 2008[10]; Hanushek, Link and Woessmann, 2013[11]). Evidence suggests that strong institutional support and good accountability mechanisms allow for strong school decision making based on local knowledge. And this results in better resource allocation and improved school performance (Elacqua et al., 2021[12]).

However, school autonomy is by no means absolute. It often involves a multiplicity of authorities and stakeholders that participate in the decision-making processes (OECD, 2020[6]). The great majority of school-level decision making is usually restricted by national or supra-national regulations (e.g. national regulations on teachers’ salaries and teachers’ salary scales, regulations on teachers’ minimum qualifications and/or training to enter the teaching profession). It is also routinely scrutinised by different authorities (OECD, 2020[13]).

TALIS 2018 asked school principals for which tasks they had “significant responsibility”1 at the school level. The tasks analysed here are divided into four domains (Table 5.1).

The first three are the domains in which principals traditionally intervene when there is a transfer of authority towards greater autonomy (Hanushek, Link and Woessmann, 2013[11]). This constitutes school autonomy in resource allocation, whether it be staffing or budget, and school policies. Moreover, as discussed in previous TALIS 2018 reports, it is not only principals but also teachers who often describe having a considerable role2 in determining certain school policies (OECD, 2020[6]). One domain where teachers have significant participation and shared responsibility concerns decisions on curricular elements and instruction. These are areas of relevant interaction and autonomy transfers to teachers, which can increase their sense of empowerment.

Concerning staffing policies, more than half of primary principals reported significant responsibility in deciding which teachers come to their school by appointing or hiring teachers (52%) but less so in dismissing or suspending teachers from employment (45%) (Figure 5.1). One remarkable exception to this is Denmark where virtually all principals (99%) reported having the responsibility of dismissing or suspending teachers. In England and Sweden, a large majority of principals also reported so (92% and 89%, respectively) (Table 5.4).

In contrast, the areas in which the lowest reported responsibility is observed are two budget policies: determining salary increases (26%) and establishing teachers’ starting salaries (20%). Teachers’ starting salaries and salary scales in public schools are often fixed by regulations and collective agreements (OECD, 2020[13]). In France, principals did not reported responsibility of establishing teachers’ starting salaries whereas in England and Sweden over 70% of principals did (Table 5.4). This should not come as a surprise as policies concerning teachers’ salaries are often centralised or highly regulated (OECD, 2020[13]).3

Regarding budget policies, decisions on budget allocations within schools can benefit from good knowledge of the school and students’ needs (Hanushek, Link and Woessmann, 2013[11]). While over half of school principals in primary education reported significant responsibility in budget allocations (54%), there are differences depending on the country. In CABA (Argentina), 14% and in Turkey about one-fifth (21%) of principals reported having this responsibility while 96% of school principals in Denmark did (Table 5.4).

Between half and more than two-thirds of school principals in primary education reported having significant responsibility in three areas of school policies: “establishing student disciplinary policies and procedures” (70%), “establishing student assessment policies” (54%) and “approving students for admission to the school” (66%) Figure 5.1.

School autonomy in determining disciplinary policies and procedures is not only important for school management as they can federate teachers, students and parents around a common approach to school authority (Gregory et al., 2010[14]) but it may also help teachers increase their confidence and job satisfaction (McCharen, Song and Martens, 2011[15]). Even though, on average, most principals reported significant responsibility for establishing student disciplinary policies and procedures, there are variations across countries. In Korea and Turkey, 40% and 34%, respectively, of principals reported this sort of autonomy, while in Sweden (94%), Denmark (91%), and England (United Kingdom) (91%), over 90% did (Table 5.4).

Cross-country variation on school-level responsibilities for student assessment policies is even stronger. A majority of principals reported significant autonomy in this domain in England (United Kingdom) (93%), Flemish Community of Belgium (90%), Denmark (84%) and Sweden (83%) and about one-quarter or less in Spain (26%), Viet Nam (25%) and Turkey (18%) (Table 5.4). As discussed in previous TALIS 2018 reports (OECD, 2020[6]), in several countries and economies, assessment frameworks are developed and overseen by specific agencies that assume relevant roles in their governance with some degree of independence (OECD, 2013[16]). While teachers at the primary level often assume the responsibility for different assessment strategies, differences in adherence to a more centralised framework could explain part of the difference between countries.

An average of 66% of principals reported participating in students’ admissions but the picture is more nuanced across countries. In Japan (33%) and Spain (26%), no more than a third of principals reported having significant responsibility in students’ admissions. Authorities in many countries set out regulations and frameworks outlining public school admission policies for primary education. While in some cases admission policies may allow some student selection, they are applied mainly in the case of oversubscription (and most often when there is a school choice).4 This does not imply that school principals can determine school admissions, but in some cases, there is room for some school-level selection criteria (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2020[17]).

On the other hand, autonomous decision making at the school level can be transferred to teachers, especially when it affects instruction. Transferring decision making autonomy gives teachers greater authority and voice in the organisation and management of the school and are, therefore, important for teacher agency. These transfers also imply that teachers can be held accountable to parents and the school community.

TALIS 2018 asked principals about teachers' responsibility for educational, instructional and curriculum school policies. At primary level, one topic is outstandingly more prevalent than others: more often than not, principals reported that teachers select which learning materials are used (61%). In Denmark (95%), Sweden (91%), France (89%) and Spain (85%), a majority of principals reported that teachers have the autonomy to do so. In Japan (16%) and Viet Nam (9%), less than one-fifth of principals reported this (Table 5.5).

Teachers’ participation in school policies remains low, on average, according to principals. This is particularly relevant in establishing assessment and disciplinary policies, areas in which principals’ self-reported responsibility can be over 50% and 70%, respectively. About 30% of principals reported that teachers have significant responsibility in establishing student assessment policies and slightly above a third (34%) in establishing student disciplinary policies and procedures – an area that can influence teachers’ job-related stress and satisfaction (McCharen, Song and Martens, 2011[15]).

Principals in primary schools tended to report less autonomy concerning staffing policies compared to principals in lower secondary schools: appointing or dismissing teachers (7 and 5 percentage points difference, respectively). When it comes to hiring teachers, these differences are particularly strong in CABA (Argentina) (28 percentage points difference), France (24 percentage points difference) and Spain (17 percentage points difference) (Table 5.4). These differences suggest that primary schools have less freedom in dealing with shortages in teaching staff and hiring teachers with skill sets that better adapt to students’ needs.

Primary education also differs from lower secondary education in teachers' responsibility for educational, instructional and curriculum school policies, as reported by principals.

According to principals, teachers in primary education have more responsibility for establishing student disciplinary policies and procedures than teachers at the lower secondary level (7 percentage points difference). Conversely, teachers in primary education have less leeway in choosing learning materials (3 percentage points difference).5 Nonetheless, countries can differ significantly. In England (United Kingdom), Korea and the Flemish Community of Belgium, the differences are sharp between both levels (19, 19 and 17 percentage points difference, respectively) but in France, more school principals in primary education reported transfers of significant responsibility here than lower secondary principals by a wide margin (11 percentage points difference) (Table 5.5).

At the upper secondary level, most principals reported significant responsibility in school and staffing policies. The main decision-making area is establishing student disciplinary policies and procedures (TALIS average: 72%). The large majority of principals in Alberta (Canada) (93%), Sweden (92%) and Portugal (90%) reported significant responsibility in this domain while only 31% of principals do in Turkey (Table 5.4).

Approving students for admission to the school is another area in which principals reported significant responsibility. As with primary education, this has to be interpreted with caution, taking into consideration the specific characteristics in each system. Although in upper secondary education, top-level authorities often determine the main admissions criteria, school admission policies are more heterogeneous than at lower education levels. In several countries, upper secondary education is non-compulsory and it often proposes serval pathways that may require students’ selection criteria based on academic achievement (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2020[17]; OECD, 2020[18]; OECD, 2020[13]).

Principals’ participation in school budget allocation and staffing policies is noteworthy at this level. In upper secondary education, a high percentage of principals reported appointing or hiring teachers (69%) and dismissing or suspending teachers from employment (61%) (Table 5.4). One factor that may influence the autonomy upper secondary schools have in staffing policies is its non-compulsory status in several countries (OECD, 2020[13]). Non-compulsory education in some countries is guided by different sets of regulations on hiring and dismissing teachers than those for compulsory schooling.

Deciding on budget allocations within the school is also regarded as significant by a considerable share of principals, on average (61%). It ranges from over 80% in Croatia, Denmark and Slovenia, to a third in the United Arab Emirates (33%) and less than a quarter in Turkey (23%) (Table 5.4).

When looking at autonomy transfers to teachers at the upper secondary level, they are mainly seen in classroom-relevant domains. For example, according to principals, 64% of teachers choose which learning materials to use. However, on average, teacher autonomy transfers remain relatively low for both curriculum and school policies (Figure 5.2). About one-third of principals (33%) reported significant teacher participation in establishing student disciplinary policies and procedures, ranging from about two-thirds in Croatia (68%) and Slovenia (65%) to less than 5% in Sweden (Table 5.5).

Gaps in the main areas of autonomy reveal differences between schools at the lower secondary education level and those at the upper secondary level.

A significantly larger percentage of upper secondary principals reported being responsible for establishing student assessment policies (11 percentage points difference). In Slovenia, the gap is quite significant: 45 percentage points difference (Table 5.4).

On the other hand, principals in the upper secondary level reported less responsibility for approving students for admission to the school (11 percentage points difference) (Table 5.4). As discussed previously, to better interpret these results special attention has to be given to the characteristics in each system. Not only there are important differences in the proportion of private and public schools in each country (which may follow different rules for student selection) but in some education systems students change schools as they go from lower to upper secondary level. Thus, the change in schools may require further general criteria that regulates admissions, granting more authority to centralised authorities than to individual schools (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2020[17]).

Budget policies also show important variations. The two policies that concern teachers’ salaries (establishing teachers’ starting salaries and determining teachers’ salaries increases) have significant differences (of 7 percentage points), as principals at the upper secondary level reported more autonomy here. When it comes to determining salary increases, in Portugal and Viet Nam the difference is 12 percentage points, in Slovenia it is 18 percentage points, while in Denmark it is 28 (Table 5.4). Staffing polices, on the other hand, remain largely similar across the two levels.

Finally, teachers’ interventions in policies concerning the school, and curriculum and instruction, differ at this level from lower secondary in two areas. Teachers in upper secondary education were regarded by school principals as having more autonomy in determining course content with respect to their lower secondary peers (6 percentage points difference).

Principals also reported that teachers in upper secondary assume significantly more leading roles in the definition of student assessment policies with respect to their lower secondary counterparts in Slovenia (17 percentage points difference) and Portugal (12 percentage points difference) (Table 5.5).

School autonomy is an important marker in terms of the empowerment of school leaders and teachers. But increasing autonomy on its own is not a vector of empowerment for school leadership and teachers. Local governance requires information on school capacities, teachers’ and students’ needs and the ability to design good strategies. Therefore, success requires institutional capacity in addition to decision-making capacities. The positive empowering effects of autonomy go hand-in-hand with greater management capacity (Brutti, 2020[19]; Hanushek, Link and Woessmann, 2013[11]; Jensen, Weidmann and Farmer, 2013[20]).

Effective autonomous school practices entail leadership structures that are strong and relevant for the school. School leadership involves not only the management of staffing, budget and school policies but also an active role in building on and delivering the school’s educational goals (Branch, Hanuschek and Rivkin, 2013[21]; Grissom, Loeb and Master, 2013[22]; OECD, 2016[23]).

As school principals fulfil several roles, they must strike a good balance between administrative and community engagement, stakeholder involvement and instructional leadership. Instructional leadership can be divided into indirect and direct. Indirect leadership practices contribute to improving school outcomes by means of actions mediated by people other than principals. Direct instructional leadership focuses only on actions that enhance pupils’ learning by means of direct intervention. TALIS 2018 asked school principals whether they engaged in such activities in their school in the 12 months prior to the survey (Table 5.2).

At the primary level, there are variations between the two types of instructional leadership: indirect and direct. At this education level, principals’ instructional leadership is more often indirect: they engage in actions that indirectly influence instruction. These include taking actions to ensure that teachers feel responsible for their students’ learning outcomes (67%); taking actions to support co-operation among teachers to develop new teaching practices (64%); and taking actions to ensure that teachers take responsibility for improving their teaching skills (63%) (Figure 5.3 and Table 5.13).

As shown in Figure 5.3, on average, slightly more than half of principals engage in instructional leadership activities that require direct contact and interventions with teachers (“collaborating with teachers to solve classroom discipline problems” [57%]; “working on a professional development plan for the school” [56%]; “providing feedback to teachers based on principal's observations” [53%]; and “observing instruction in the classroom” [53%]).

Research has found positive effects in teachers’ self-efficacy when principals provide detailed feedback from in-classroom observation. However, this sort of intervention requires enough availability from principals and is rarely observed large schools (Wahlstrom and Louis, 2008[24]).

One way to increase principals’ availability and flexibility is by opening spaces for distributed leadership. This is when teachers, staff and other stakeholders have real opportunities to address relevant school matters by increasing their participation in collective decision making. Distributed leadership, which is often considered to be an important component of a positive school environment, can also strengthen the legitimacy of decision making by staff other than the school head, thus empowering a broader group of stakeholders.

At the primary level, a vast majority of school leaders agreed that their school is generally characterised by the presence of distributed decision making and collegiality. The majority of principals “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that there is staff-related distributed leadership in their school. Opportunities for staff to participate in decision making and their encouragement to lead new initiatives are the two most characteristic areas at this level (98% and 97%, respectively) (Table 5.6). Interestingly, the average shares of teachers that believe to have such opportunities are 81% and 84%, respectively (Table 5.9). Discrepancies between teachers’ and principals’ views are not uncommon as they may have different notions of their involvement in decision making across different topics. Aspects like the type of leadership exercised by principals can play a role on teachers’ perceptions of their own roles. They may not be perceived the same if a principal has a focus on distributed leadership or if it is more of an administrative leader (OECD, 2016[25]).

Likewise, a large majority of principals agreed that there is a collaborative school culture that is characterised by mutual support (96%), and that the school staff share a common set of beliefs about teaching and learning (91%). Virtually the same proportion of principals agreed their school has a culture of shared responsibility for school issues (91%) (Table 5.6). Here, too, large shares of teachers agree with these statements as, on average, 86% agree on having a collaborative school culture, 85% believe they share a common set of beliefs on teaching and learning and 81% agree on a culture of shared responsibility across the school (Table 5.9).

Distributed leadership involving parents and students shows lower percentages. Principals who agreed that their school provides parents or guardians with opportunities to actively participate in school decisions amount to 79%, and those that agreed that their school provides students with opportunities to actively participate in school decisions amount to 72% (Table 5.6).

Finally, administrative burden plays a role in school principals’ direct instructional leadership, as it can limit their availability. School principals are involved in several administrative and community engagement activities. Their leadership in these activities takes different forms across educational levels. At the primary level, the highest percentage of principals reviewing school administrative procedures and reports is observed (63%) (Table 5.10). However, this is not homogeneous across countries. In Japan, about 10% of principals do this, as do about a third in France (35%) and Sweden (32%). At the opposite end, at least 80% of principals often review administrative procedures and reports in Korea, Spain, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam.

In contrast, other administrative tasks like resolving school timetable problems are less common (45%, on average) as this is often taken care of by support staff and teachers (Table 5.10).

Slightly over a third of principals collaborate with principals from other schools on challenging work tasks (38%) (Table 5.10). Moreover, more than half of principals are engaged in community activities like “providing parents or guardians with information on the school and student performance” (55%). This is more or less shared with teachers according to common practices in each system. It is reported by 88% of principals in CABA (Argentina) and 86% in the United Arab Emirates while in Denmark about 19% of principals do this.

These findings reinforce the idea that principals assume a series of roles according to different understandings of the type of leadership that is necessary for their schools. The issue of the different types of principals’ leadership has been addressed in the literature (Bowers, 2020[26]; OECD, 2016[25]; Urick and Bowers, 2014[27]). Some forms of leadership may require special attention to instructional and distributed leadership, spending time on curriculum and teaching-related tasks. Others see their role as educational leaders, and hence are more engaged in instructional leadership and not so much in other tasks that relate to community engagement, for example. In some cases, principals see themselves as administrative leaders, making sure that school functions well, and less involved in instructional leadership (OECD, 2016[25])

Recent research using TALIS 2018 data suggests that, while different principals’ profiles and approaches to school leadership abound, sensitivity to the relationship between types of leadership and teachers’ profiles can better align leadership for learning in schools (Bowers, 2020[26]).

Across primary and lower secondary levels, principals reported the same involvement in indirect instructional leadership practices that concern teachers’ roles and responsibilities, on average. There is similar participation in actions that ensure teachers feel responsible for their students’ learning outcomes as well as for improving their teaching skills. These are actions that, if successful, can increase teachers’ capacity for professional judgement and autonomy, ensuring they take responsibility for their students’ performance (Gomendio, 2017[28]; Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012[29]).

More school principals in primary education support teachers co-operating to develop new teaching practices than in lower secondary (3 percentage points difference). While the difference is particularly strong in England (United Kingdom) (15 percentage points) and Spain (12 percentage points), it is very much the opposite in France where more lower secondary principals reported exerting this kind of indirect leadership (14 percentage points) (Table 5.13).

Direct leadership practices are very similar across the two levels, on average. However, one important difference concerns providing feedback to teachers based on principals’ observations (4 percentage points difference). This is already less frequent than other leadership practices in primary education but still more so than in lower secondary education. In some countries and economies, the difference is large: in CABA (Argentina) 75% of principals engage in this activity “often” or “very often” at the primary level, while less than half do (49%) at the lower secondary level (26 percentage points difference). The gap is also substantial in Japan (16 percentage points difference), England (United Kingdom) (13 percentage points difference) and Spain (9 percentage points difference). Conversely, in France, feedback to teachers based on principals’ observations is more practiced in lower secondary education (9 percentage points difference) even if not very often (23%) (Table 5.13).

Distributed leadership is broadly the same in primary and lower secondary education. Yet, two differences observed when moving up through the education levels reveal a change in perspective:

  • Principals in lower secondary education consider that their school provides students with opportunities to actively participate in school decisions to a larger extent than their counterparts in primary education (6 percentage points difference) (Table 5.6).

  • The sense of collegiality and teaching harmony at the primary level seems to be higher. At this level, principals “agree” or “strongly agree” that school staff share a common set of beliefs about teaching and learning to a larger extent than at lower secondary level (3 percentage points difference) (Table 5.6). From teachers’ perspectives, this sense of collegiality is also perceived more often in primary than in lower secondary education, including a common set of beliefs about teaching and learning, mutual support in their school and a culture of shared responsibility (5 percentage points difference each) (Table 5.9).

Finally, on average, principals’ engagement in other leadership practices is very similar in primary and lower secondary education. However, there are some important differences in principals’ involvement in administrative tasks across countries. In the Flemish Community of Belgium, primary principals reported significantly higher involvement in reviewing school administrative procedures and reports, and resolving problems with the lesson timetable in the school than principals in lower secondary education (20 and 21 percentage points difference, respectively). The opposite can be seen in France, where the change in principals’ involvement in these same tasks in significantly higher in lower secondary education (20 and 37 percentage points difference, respectively) (Table 5.10).

According to principals’ reports, indirect instructional leadership activities are the type of actions in which they engage the most at upper secondary education – between 65% and 75% of upper secondary principals reported engaging "often" or "very often" in such activities, on average. Ensuring that “teachers feel responsible for their students’ learning outcomes” (75%) is still the most reported practice. Very similar shares of principals reported both “taking actions to ensure that teachers take responsibility for improving their teaching skills” (67%) and supporting “co-operation among teachers to develop new teaching practices” (65%) (Figure 5.4 and Table 5.13).

Over half of principals engage in the four direct instructional leadership activities at this level and 61% in “working on a professional development plan for the school” (Figure 5.4).

When it comes to sharing decision making with other school staff and stakeholders, the majority of principals encourage staff to lead new initiatives (98%) and give “staff opportunities to actively participate in school decisions” (97%). A majority of principals agreed as well that there is a “collaborative school culture that is characterised by mutual support” (95%) and 91% of principals agreed that their school has a “culture of shared responsibility for school issues” (Table 5.6). As with primary education, teachers are slightly less emphatic, as 81% of teachers in upper secondary believe staff can lead new initiatives and 75% feel they have opportunities to participate in school decisions. Likewise, 79% of teachers agreed that there is a collaborative school culture while 76% agreed about the presence of a shared-responsibility culture in the school (Table 5.9).

Distributed leadership involving students is significant in upper secondary education. Some 88% of principals agreed that their school “provides students with opportunities to actively participate in school decisions”. This is less for parents’ participation with 77% of principals agreeing that their school provides them with “opportunities to actively participate in school decisions” (Table 5.6). Slightly above half of principals reported “providing parents or guardians with information on the school and student performance” (52%), most likely a responsibility shared with other members of the school staff. Less than 10% of upper secondary principals in Sweden engage often in this type of leadership practice while 80% do so in Brazil and 86% the United Arab Emirates (Table 5.13).

There are some significant differences between direct instructional leadership in lower and upper secondary. Fewer principals collaborate with teachers to solve classroom disciplinary issues at the upper secondary level (6 percentage points difference). In Denmark, about half of principals reported engaging in such collaboration at lower secondary level while about a quarter do so at upper secondary (24 percentage points difference). Brazil and Slovenia also show strong changes (14 and 17 percentage points difference, respectively) (Table 5.13).

The higher the education level, the fewer principals frequently observe instruction in the classroom, on average (4 percentage points difference). However, it is important to note that this difference is influenced by a few countries with strong values. In Slovenia, for example, at the lower secondary level, seven in ten principals do classroom observation while, at the upper secondary level, the percentage is about half (20 percentage points difference) (Table 5.13).

Concerning community engagement, one difference stands out between upper and lower secondary. In upper secondary education, there is a lower percentage of principals who give parents or guardians information on the school and student performance (4 percentage points difference). Some important gaps can be seen in Sweden (27 percentage points difference), Denmark (15 percentage points difference) and Turkey (13 percentage points difference). However, one country stands out for its opposite relationship. In Portugal, principals in upper secondary education reported higher engagement in this sort of community and accountability leadership than principals in lower secondary education by an important margin (11 percentage points difference) (Table 5.13).

Finally, it can be seen that, the higher the education level, the less principals engage in providing parents or guardians with information on student performance. This can be partly explained by differences in the characteristics and structure of upper secondary schools with respect to schools at lower levels. Differences between students’ and parents’ involvement in schools are also to be expected as students grow up (Sinclair, 2004[30]) and as part of the school learning process. That said, students do not replace parents as stakeholders. While parents have channels of communication through which they receive information about school, these channels are sometimes less effective as children advance to higher levels of education. When students advance to the secondary level, certain types of co-operation between parents and schools seem to change or even disappear (Sliwka and Istance, 2006[31]).

TALIS 2018 asked school principals the extent of their responsibility in a series of decision-making areas in school management. However, principals’ views on the exercise of autonomy show only part of the picture. To analyse other facets of school autonomy, which involve multiple actors and stakeholders, TALIS asked teachers about their level of control and responsibility in several domains.

Teachers that reported having control over areas related to their work, have more autonomy and, thus, assume responsibility for their teaching and students’ learning outcomes. Tailoring teaching to students’ needs can have more space in school environments that promote autonomy as they provide teachers with more incentives to adapt their teaching practice. Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results have shown that, in many countries, when the right mechanisms are in place, school autonomy can be associated with teachers adapting their lessons to their students’ needs. This sort of practice can, in turn, have positive effects on students’ performance (OECD, 2016[23]) and students’ predispositions to learn (OECD, 2021[33]).

Moreover, previous TALIS 2018 analyses have shown the relationship between teacher autonomy and self-efficacy across OECD countries (OECD, 2020[6])). Teacher autonomy is a factor in empowering teachers, giving them the ability to choose, to act and to experiment (Dierking R. C. and Fox R. F., 2012[34]). Teachers gain confidence and greater self-efficacy.

Primary school teachers reported high levels of autonomy. Most teachers in primary education reported having control over three core areas of in-classroom autonomy. Over 90% of teachers on average reported control in “selecting teaching methods” (95%), “assessing students’ learning” (94%) and “disciplining students” (91%), and there is large homogeneity across countries in these three areas (Table 5.15).

Over 80% of teachers at this level reported control in “determining the amount of homework to be assigned” (87%) and “determining course content” (84%). The latter is an area where the most difference is observed between countries. At least 90% of teachers reported determining course content in 5 out of 12 countries with available data. In Japan (73%), Spain (73%), and England (United Kingdom) (70%), at least 70% of teachers reported this and 68% of teachers in primary education in Turkey (Figure 5.5). In some of these countries, teachers reported less leeway in determining course content because of compulsory assessments and the need to follow national curriculums closely.

Teachers’ reports on their autonomy in determining course content contrast with school principals’ responses on how much responsibility their teachers have (84% and 36%, respectively) (Tables 5.5 and 5.15). It is important to note that teachers and principals may be reporting on different issues: teachers’ responses concern autonomy in determining course content for one target class, while principals’ reports regard the participation and responsibility of different stakeholders in decision making.6

Autonomy by itself does not guarantee better teaching practices. Previous findings suggest that teachers are more likely to create positive learning environments for their students if they feel confident they are competent to do so. Teachers’ self-efficacy is strongly related to learning environments that enable better student outcomes (OECD, 2014[35]). Self-efficacy can be regarded as teachers’ conviction that they can successfully perform the professional actions that are required to meet the changing demands encountered in their professional practice (Runhaar, Sanders and Yang, 2010[36]) (see Box 5.2 for an overview of the relationship of self-efficacy and teacher collaboration).

In TALIS 2018, teachers’ self-efficacy in classroom management has to do with their efficacy concerning student behaviour and rule following in the classroom. Even if the differences are small, teachers in primary education reported a better sense of control in communicating their expectations and achieving respect for classroom guidelines than for controlling specific behaviour. Most teachers at primary level (above 90%, on average) feel they can make their expectations about student behaviour clear and get students to follow classroom rules “quite a bit” or “a lot” except in Japan where around 63% of teachers feel confident about these two actions (Table 5.16).

Teachers in primary education also feel strongly about being able to control disruptive behaviour in the classroom (87%) and calm down a student who is disruptive or noisy (86%). Japan is an exception here, as well, with 64% and 59% of teachers who feel able to control this sort of behaviour and calm down a disruptive student, respectively (Table 5.16).

Teachers’ self-efficacy in instruction is their ability to adapt to students’ learning needs by means of a variety of teaching strategies, methods and materials. The majority of teachers in primary education feels comfortable adapting to students’ learning needs by providing alternative explanations when teaching (TALIS average: 92%). Likewise, using a variety of assessment strategies (79%), crafting good questions for students (87%) and varying instructional strategies (87%), are approaches with which teachers at this level are largely confident. This is also the case in most countries with few exceptions. In France, about 67% of teachers are confident about varying instructional strategies, and in Japan half of teachers are (Table 5.19).

As seen previously, teachers in primary education largely feel they are in control of “assessing students’ learning” (Table 5.15). Nonetheless, the least confidence in self-efficacy among teachers in primary education is seen in the use of a variety of assessment strategies (79%). In France, about 59% of teachers reported this while in Japan one-third of teachers in primary education did (33%) (Table 5.19). These results are in line with the fact that assessment frameworks are often developed or overseen by central authorities and agencies. This may affect the relative autonomy of assessment practices in the classroom as teachers’ grading must have some stability in order to guarantee consistency both within the school and between schools in the system (OECD, 2013[16]). It is nonetheless important to note that a significant share of teachers in primary education (TALIS average: 21%) do not feel confident about using a variety of assessment strategies. This is an important point for policy makers as summative and formative assessments help teachers and schools keep track of students’ progress (OECD, 2013[16]).

Teachers’ self-reported autonomy in teaching methods, assessment, discipline and course content is high at both levels. However, teachers in primary education reported somewhat less autonomy than lower secondary teachers do.

Of the five areas of autonomy observed here, only disciplining students is the same on average in both levels. In 6 out of 13 countries and economies with available data, however, differences are significant. In five countries, more teachers in primary education reported control over disciplining students. The opposite is only seen in Viet Nam, where the gap is wide , with 60% of teachers in primary education reporting this while 80% of lower secondary teachers “agree” or “strongly agree” that they are in control of disciplining students (Table 5.15).

One big difference, on average, concerns determining the amount of homework to be assigned to students. Teachers at the primary level reported less control with respect to their lower secondary peers (5 percentage points difference on average) (Table 5.15). This is in line with the overall feeling of autonomy among primary school teachers: even if they reported high levels of autonomy in determining what teaching and assessment methods they use in their classroom, this feeling is, on average, stronger among lower secondary teachers.

Interestingly, teachers’ reports on self-efficacy in classroom management suggest that it is, on average, higher at primary level (2 percentage points difference for all domains). The differences between primary and lower secondary education are also seen across countries and, in some cases, they are important. In Korea, significantly more teachers consider they can make their expectations about student behaviour clear at the primary level (9 percentage points difference). Also in Korea and in Spain, teachers in primary education feel more capable of controlling disruptive behaviour (6 and 7 percentage points difference, respectively). Teachers in primary education in Spain feel more able to calm down a student who is disruptive and get students to follow classroom rules (8 and 7 percentage points difference, respectively) (Table 5.16).

When it comes to self-efficacy in instruction, teachers in primary education reported significantly more efficacy in varying instructional strategies in the classroom than lower secondary teachers. While the average difference is of 4 percentage points across countries, differences in this domain are of at least 5 percentage points in England (United Kingdom), Korea, Spain and Turkey (Table 5.19).

In other domains, primary and lower secondary teachers reported similar levels of self-efficacy in instruction, notably in using a variety of assessment strategies. In France, however, significantly fewer teachers reported confidence in the use of a variety of assessment strategies at the primary level (16 percentage points difference) (Table 5.19).

At the upper secondary level, a large majority of teachers reported classroom autonomy. On average, over 90% of teachers reported they “agree” or “strongly agree” that they have control over most areas (“selecting teaching methods”, “assessing students’ learning”, “disciplining students” and “determining the amount of homework to be assigned to students”) (Table 5.15). There are relatively small cross-country variations in determining course content. Portugal is the sole country in which less than half of teachers reported having control over determining course content. This is the sole area where less than 80% of teachers in upper secondary reported control in four out of ten countries (Figure 5.6).

Strong autonomy is reported for selecting teaching methods and assessing students as about 90% of teachers in upper secondary or more reported control over these two domains in all countries and economies for which there is available data (Table 5.15).

Concerning self-efficacy in classroom management at the upper secondary level, most teachers feel they can make their expectations about student behaviour clear (93%). Teachers also feel strongly that they are able to get students to follow classroom rules (90%), control disruptive behaviour in the classroom (88%) and calm down a student who is disruptive or noisy (88%).There is little variation across participating countries (Table 5.16).

Teachers in upper secondary feel on average highly confident in their self-efficacy in instruction. The percentage of teachers who feel confident they can provide an alternative explanation when students are confused is the highest (94%). Teachers also feel confident about crafting good questions for students (90%) and varying instructional strategies in their classroom (84%) (Table 5.19).

Finally, only a small percentage of teachers reported feeling little confidence about using a variety of assessment strategies, with 84% of teachers mastering this at this education level. Across countries, at least 70% of teachers reported confidence in this area (Table 5.19).

There seems to be no relevant difference in autonomy between lower and upper secondary education as reported by teachers, on average. However, control over determining course content shows variations across countries. Higher levels of autonomy are seen at upper secondary level in this area in Alberta (6 percentage points difference), Viet Nam (4 percentage points difference), Croatia (3 percentage points difference) and Slovenia (3 percentage points difference). However, in Denmark (7 percentage points difference), United Arab Emirates (4 percentage points difference) and Sweden (2 percentage points difference), fewer teachers in upper secondary reported control here (Table 5.15).

One important difference between the two levels concerns the percentage of teachers that feel confident in varying instructional strategies in the classroom. A lower share of teachers in upper secondary education feel confident about this (3 percentage points difference). In Alberta (Canada), Turkey and Slovenia, the differences are of 5 percentage points or more (Table 5.19).

A sense of collegiality and support among teachers can have positive effects on both student learning and school climate (Bryk and Schneider, 2003[37]). Collaboration among peers is at the core of a collective sense of support. Research has shown that teacher collaboration can be associated with better teacher motivation and more student-centred instructional strategies, among other benefits (Vangrieken et al., 2015[38]) (see Box 5.3 and Box 5.4 for an overview of professional networks and collaboration).

Teacher co-operation is an important component in teacher empowerment and agency and it can improve students’ learning (Goddard, Goddard and Tschannen-Moran, 2007[39]). PISA results have shown that when teachers engage in professional collaboration it can have a positive effect on student performance (OECD, 2016[23]).

However, there are a series of conditions that must be fulfilled to achieve successful collaboration. They include maintaining teachers’ sense of autonomy and ensuring that collaboration comes with the right balance in terms of time and workload for teachers. A support structure that facilitates participation in collaborative activities and determines clear roles is key (Vangrieken et al., 2015[38]).

TALIS 2018 asked teachers about their participation in collaborative actions, whether these concern the exchange of information, materials and co-ordination among teachers or collaboration in lessons.

At primary level, exchange and co-ordination among teachers are the most practiced forms of collaboration. Over 60% of teachers reported discussing the learning development of specific students with colleagues at least once a month. In England (United Kingdom), France and Sweden, over 80% of teachers in primary education reported discussing student development at least once a month while less than 40% reported doing so in the Flemish Community of Belgium and Viet Nam (Table 5.22). Working with other teachers to address specific student challenges and plan interventions is an important element in teacher empowerment. Not only can it help identify potential difficulties and find collegiate solutions but it can strengthen the role of teachers and provide students with the possibility of benefitting from the experience of more than one teacher (OECD, 2019[40]; Visscher and Witziers, 2004[41]).

Moreover, over half of teachers exchange teaching materials with their colleagues (59%) and participate in team conferences (57%). These conferences are planned gatherings of teams responsible for specific areas of work (e.g. subject matter domains, grade levels, or individual classes) for exchanging information, consultations or taking decisions. Teacher participation shows variations across countries: in Sweden a large majority of teachers reported attending such conferences (94%) while about 20% of teachers do so in Turkey (Table 5.22).

On the other hand, professional teacher collaboration on lessons is less frequent among teachers in primary education compared to exchanging and co-ordinating actions, on average. This is a tendency that has been described in the literature as teachers tend to engage more in collaborative actions that are considered to be less intrusive (Vangrieken et al., 2015[38]).

In accordance with this, observing other teachers’ classes and providing feedback about their practice is less reported at primary level (19%). Across countries, only a majority of teachers in Viet Nam reported doing this, with 81% of teachers doing it at least once a month. In 10 out of 12 countries with available data, this is not a common practice, concerning 20% of teachers or less, probably due to time constraints and due to it being considered a more intrusive action (e.g. respect for teachers’ practices and liberty of choice of teaching methods) (Table 5.22).

Teaching jointly as a team in the same class is an action that is reported by over half of teachers in Japan (64%) and Sweden (56%) but only 17% in England (United Kingdom) (TALIS average: 34%). Actions like participating in collaborative professional learning concern the participation of 30% of teachers, on average. In Sweden (54%) and the United Arab Emirates (57%), over half of teachers engage in this type of professional development. About 10% or less of teachers do so in the Flemish Community of Belgium and France (Table 5.22).

Collaborative professional learning comes across as a relevant policy area as it combines three significant elements. As discussed in the previous section, taking part in collaborative professional learning is positively associated to a better feeling of self-efficacy in classroom management and instruction. Moreover, as reported in previous TALIS 2018 reports, findings show that participation in collaborative forms of professional development is associated with teachers’ frequent engagement in professional collaboration (OECD, 2020[6]). One likely reason for the low incidence of this practice is the lack of opportunities teachers have to engage in this sort of professional learning. However, when asked about impactful professional development they participated in, teachers often cited opportunities for collaborative learning as a key feature of their professional development (OECD, 2020[6]).

As shown in Figure 5.8, in terms of teacher participation in this form of professional development, data suggest that novice teachers, female teachers and full-time teachers are more inclined to take part in collaborative professional learning at least once a month on average and in most countries (Table 5.23).

School environment and support is likely to be important in teachers’ interest in this type of collaborative practice. Results from TALIS 2013 showed that there was an association between principals who show greater instructional leadership and teachers that are more engaged in collaboration at the primary and lower secondary levels (OECD, 2014[35]). As shown in Figure 5.9, TALIS 2018 data suggest that, when principals take action to ensure that teachers feel responsible about improving their teaching skills at the primary level, teachers are more likely to participate in collaborative professional development.

This may reinforce the idea that there is a positive association between the steps taken by principals to strengthen teacher agency and teachers’ involvement in professional collaboration activities. These results have to be interpreted with caution as this relationship is non-significant in several countries and many other conditions must to be met in order to provide teachers with opportunities and incentives to participate in different collaborative practices.

Teacher collaboration stands out not as one defined and unique practice but as a series of actions and interactions that take place in many settings. It can take the form of almost informal and relatively simple interactions, as when teachers discuss the development of specific students, or it can be regarded as occurring in more formal and organised settings, like teaching jointly as a team in the same class, attending team conferences or participating in collaborative professional learning. Still, independent of the format or setting of such interactions, collaboration in all its forms is a way to nurture teaching and learning by helping to improve and adapt teaching practice.

Teachers’ responses suggest significantly different approaches to collaborative actions between primary and lower secondary levels. Teachers in primary education reported stronger collaborative actions. Differences between the two levels can be seen both on average and across countries, and they can be large.

Two of the exchange and co-ordination actions show the largest differences between both levels. Exchanging of teaching materials and attending team conferences each show 12 percentage points difference. These activities are significantly more practiced among teachers in primary education, and this holds true across countries. In Japan, Korea and Spain, the difference between levels reaches over 20 percentage points. Furthermore, significantly more teachers reported working with their peers to ensure common standards in evaluations for assessing student progress at primary level (8 percentage points difference). In 5 out of 13 countries with available data, differences between levels are of at least 10 percentage points (Table 5.22).

Teachers engaging in discussions about the learning development of specific students also shows higher incidence across primary education by 9 percentage points difference, on average. In some countries, teachers at the primary level reported significantly higher involvement in such practices. In Korea, more than half of teachers in primary education reported discussing student learning development with colleagues while about a third reported this at lower secondary (25 percentage points difference). In CABA (Argentina), the Flemish Community of Belgium and Japan, gaps amount to at least 10 percentage points (Table 5.22).

These findings suggest that primary school teachers may have a stronger sense of collegiality than lower secondary teachers as they seem to engage more frequently in one another’s practices. The sorts of practices described here suggest that teachers in primary schools may structure collaboration around aspects of their work over which they aim to increase control (e.g. teaching materials, assessments and student progress) and on which they feel they can have a positive impact. Other factors may also influence this sense of collegiality, including the variety of teachers’ profiles and the organisation of secondary schools. Teachers in secondary education are often content-oriented. This may reduce exchanges with other colleagues whose field of specialty is different (Honingh and Hooge, 2014[42]; Van Veen et al., 2001[43]).

Two other teamwork actions are significantly more relevant in primary education though they are not used very often. Teaching jointly as a team and taking part in collaborative professional learning are both more frequent practices at this level (10 and 9 percentage points differences, respectively). While almost half of teachers in the Flemish Community of Belgium teach jointly in primary education (46%), about 18% do so in lower secondary education (28 percentage points difference), and in Spain the same is seen for both teaching jointly and collaborative professional learning activities (26 percentage points difference each) (Table 5.22).

A great deal of useful knowledge for teaching is generated in the classroom. Collaboration allows for sharing, appropriating and reinterpreting that knowledge (Vescio, Ross and Adams, 2008[44]). These findings show important differences in collaborative practices between primary and lower secondary teachers – practices that are key to improving teaching practices and student learning (Bezzina, 2006[45]).

Exchange and co-ordination actions have higher incidence among teachers in upper secondary even if they engage less in such activities.

Virtually half of teachers at this level exchange information on the learning development of specific students (TALIS average: 49%). In Alberta (Canada) and Sweden, more than 70% of teachers do this while less than 30% reported doing so in Viet Nam (Table 5.22).

Other exchange and co-ordination activities are not as frequent at this level: exchanging teaching materials (41%), attending team conferences (37%) and working with other teachers in school to ensure common standards in evaluations for assessing student progress (36%) (Table 5.22).

According to teachers’ reports, less than a quarter of teachers reported taking part of collaborative professional learning (22%) and in teaching jointly as a team in the same class (16%).

At the upper secondary level, this sort of professional development is not only infrequent but it does not show the type of significant association with principals’ instructional leadership seen at the primary level. Previous TALIS reports had already pointed out the lack of significant association between principals who show greater instructional leadership and teachers engagement in collaboration at the upper secondary level (OECD, 2014[35]).

Figure 5.10 shows that, on average at this education level, female teachers are more inclined to take part in this sort of professional development (4 percentage points difference). Years of experience and employment status do not have an impact on teachers in upper secondary’ participation in collaborative professional learning, on average (Table 5.24).

At this level too, collaborative activities that require in-class participation, like providing feedback to other teachers about their practice and engaging in joint activities across different classes and age groups, are actions that have very low incidence (TALIS averages 14% and 12%, respectively) (Table 5.22).

Teachers in upper secondary education reported less engagement in all collaborative activities described here than their peers in lower secondary education. Very similar differences can be seen for exchange and co-ordination actions, between 5 and 7 percentage points difference (i.e. exchange teaching materials with colleagues, engage in discussions about the learning development of specific students, work with other teachers in this school to ensure common standards in evaluations for assessing student progress and attend team conferences). Relatively similar decreases in teacher participation for the four activities are shown in Slovenia (between 16 and 19 percentage points difference) and Sweden (between 6 and 10 percentage points difference) (Table 5.22).

Likewise, professional collaboration in lessons shows important differences as teachers in upper secondary engage less in these activities. As discussed above, practices that are considered more intrusive tend to show lower participation. Teaching jointly as a team in the same class and participation in collaborative professional learning show significant decreases among teachers in upper secondary (5 and 3 percentage points difference, respectively) (Table 5.22).

These differences could be explained in part by teachers’ profiles and the organisation of secondary schools. Teachers at this level are often oriented and organised towards their course content and, in general, this concerns specific academic disciplines (Honingh and Hooge, 2014[42]; Van Veen et al., 2001[43]). Upper secondary schools also have a more diverse curriculum, especially when vocational tracks are offered in the school. Upper secondary schools can be large and its organisation may require sub-structures (e.g. departments by disciplines), which can reduce exchanges and collaboration at the school level (Honingh and Hooge, 2014[42]).

In addition, as noted above, some of the relationships found between principals’ instructional leadership practices and teachers’ participation in specific formal collaborative practices do not hold at the upper secondary level. These findings suggest that teachers in upper secondary miss important opportunities for sharing and enriching their teaching practice as collaboration is a relevant instrument when facing instructional challenges (Vescio, Ross and Adams, 2008[44]).

Shortages of school personnel may have direct impacts on teachers’ autonomy and agency. Shortages are often dealt with by increasing class sizes or student-teacher ratios, and working hours for teachers, (Carlo et al., 2013[48]; Santiago, 2002[49]), hindering their capacity to provide quality instruction. These shortages jeopardise school leaders’ and teachers’ empowerment as they challenge their capacity to act, get organised and innovate (see Box 5.1 for an overview on flexibility for innovation). School personnel shortages require special attention from school leaders, authorities and policy makers, as they may hinder the development of education systems, increase pressure over school staff and jeopardise the quality of educational provision (Santiago, 2002[49]).

Measures of the amount of human resources available in schools have been analysed, together with data on students’ reading performance in PISA 2018, showing that shortages can be negatively associated to student achievement among 15-year-olds (OECD, 2020[18]).

Teacher shortages are one sensitive aspect of personnel shortcomings that pose significant pressure in some education systems. These may be the result of a number of issues, including changing demographics and attractiveness of the teaching profession (Guerriero, 2017[50]). However, even if they are essential players, teachers are only one of several professionals with active and significant roles in schools. Schools’ support staff, special educators, teaching and classroom assistants, social workers, career guidance counsellors, caretakers and school guards are all key to schools functioning properly (see Table A B.4 for country details) (OECD, 2020[18]; OECD, 2019[40]).

TALIS 2018 asked school principals how personnel shortages hinder the school's capacity to provide quality instruction.

At primary level, shortages in support personnel come across as the main challenge to schools' capacity to provide quality instruction, with 42% of principals reporting this on average. The lack of support personnel in schools potentially increases teachers’ work overload and is significant in some countries. Over half of primary principals in France (57%), Japan (56%) and Spain (53%) reported such challenges, and over 75% in the Flemish Community of Belgium and Viet Nam (Table 5.27).

One-quarter of primary principals (24%), on average, reported problems with teacher shortages. As discussed in Chapter 2, the attractiveness of the teaching profession and the systems’ capacity to attract good candidates is a challenge faced by schools in some countries. This is a challenge for 7 out of 13 countries with available data, where at least 20% of school principals in primary education reported so. In Viet Nam, there is a strong demand for qualified teachers as 79% of primary principals reported instruction to be hindered by lack of qualified teachers (Table 5.27).

Teachers and educators with specific skills are important members of schools’ pedagogical personnel. TALIS 2018 data show that an average of 27% of primary teachers work in schools where at least 10% of students have special needs and, in some education systems, more than 50% of primary teachers do (see Chapter 2 for further details). With policies on the inclusion of students with special needs in mainstream schools in several countries there is a more pressing need for staff with different sets of skills and training (OECD, 2019[40]).

In TALIS 2018, slightly more than a third of school principals in primary education reported shortages of teachers with competence in teaching students with special needs. While countries may differ in how and when special needs are diagnosed, previous findings show that teachers at lower levels of education are more likely to report higher proportions of students with special needs in their classrooms (OECD, 2014[35]).

For a majority of school principals in primary education in Viet Nam (67%) and in France (62%), shortage of teachers with competence in teaching students with special needs significantly hinders the school's capacity to provide quality instruction. In England (United Kingdom) only 10% of principals reported this type of challenge (Table 5.27).

As discussed in previous TALIS 2018 reports, one key issue for policy makers and school leaders is to address teachers’ readiness to teach in multicultural settings (OECD, 2019[51]). Having trained personnel to work in diverse cultural classes at primary schools is relevant, as children in multicultural classes often have varied approaches to learning. Students benefit the most from their learning experiences when the teaching staff is prepared to build on their specific skills (OECD, 2019[51]).

Shortages of other staff with specific skills and training prove to be relevant as well. About a quarter of principals in primary schools consider the quality of instruction impaired in their schools by shortages of teachers with competence in teaching students in a multicultural or multilingual setting (25%) on average but almost half in France (49%) and Viet Nam (43%).

Finally, across countries, about 31% of primary principals reported that their capacity to provide quality education is hindered by shortages or inadequacy of time for instructional leadership9 and one-quarter reported shortages or inadequacy of time with students (25%)10, on average. Around 10% of primary principals reported that quality education was hindered by shortages of time with students in Sweden (12%), CABA (Argentina) (11%) and England (United Kingdom) (7%) but over 40% in Viet Nam (56%) and the Flemish Community of Belgium (41%) (Table 5.27). Good combinations of school personnel enable all school staff to carry out their tasks effectively and to better cope with students’ demands and needs (OECD, 2019[40]). The right staffing mix allows school staff enough time to engage with students and involve themselves in other instructional leadership activities (see Table A B.4 for country details on support staff).

Primary and lower secondary education principals have similar views on the challenges posed by shortages of educators and staff with specific skills to address the needs of specific students (e.g. students with special needs, teaching students in a multicultural or multilingual setting or from socio-economically disadvantaged homes).

One area that is less relevant at primary level concerns shortages of qualified teachers. According to principals’ reports, the difference between levels reaches 4 percentage points, on average. This is especially so in England (United Kingdom) where more than a third of lower secondary principals reported these shortages (38%) compared to 12% at primary level (26 percentage points difference). Differences are also great in France (15 percentage points) and Japan (11 percentage points). Only in Spain did more school principals in primary education reported shortages in qualified teachers than their lower secondary peers (8 percentage points), although the percentage is low (14%) (Table 5.27).

Challenging shortages that concern qualified teachers and support personnel are reported by slightly over a quarter, on average, of upper secondary principals. As addressed before, these shortages show the tension between the supply of qualified teachers, on one hand, and the need for a good mix of school staff to strengthen teacher agency on the other (see Table A B.4 for country details on support staff). Shortages of qualified teachers are particularly striking in Viet Nam (79%) and in Brazil (43%). Shortages in support personnel are reported by over half of school principals at this level in Viet Nam (60%) and in Portugal (57%) (Table 5.27).

As in primary education, at the upper secondary level teachers and educators with specific skills are of great importance. While primary and lower secondary teachers are more likely to report higher proportions of special needs students in their classrooms (OECD, 2014[35]), at the upper secondary level, the highest percentage of principals are concerned about shortages of teachers with competence in teaching students with special needs. On average, almost a third of principals reported these shortages (32%). This is a more pressing issue in some countries like Viet Nam (57%) and Brazil (55%), where instruction of quality hindered by these shortages is reported by over half of principals. Conversely, in Croatia (25%), Denmark (24%), Slovenia (21%), Alberta (Canada) (19%) and Sweden (17%), about a quarter or less of principals reported this (Table 5.27).

Ensuring the quality of education for students with special needs is more pressing, on average, than addressing the needs of other students. Shortages of teachers with other sets of specific skills concern about one-fifth or less of upper secondary principals. This includes shortages of teachers with competence in teaching students in a multicultural or multilingual setting (21%) and teachers with competence in teaching students from socio-economically disadvantaged homes (17%) (Table 5.27).

Staff with specific skills in secondary education include as well teachers and educators teaching in vocational programmes. Programme orientation at this level requires its own approach for staff supply and mix in schools as students’ preferences may have an impact on the demand for specific types of teachers (Santiago, 2002[49]). Shortages of vocational teachers hindering the quality of education provision is reported by over a fifth of principals in upper secondary education (21%), on average, ranging from over 40% in Brazil to 15% or less in Slovenia (15%), Sweden (15%) and Croatia (7%) (Table 5.27). Demand in vocational programmes may also depend on other factors that vary across countries like labour market characteristics. Therefore, the supply of teachers with vocational skills is complex as very often teachers and educators in these programmes are required to have working experience in their teaching domain (see Chapter 2).

As discussed above, getting the right combination of school personnel has the potential to increase school leaders and teachers’ capacity for empowerment. Conversely, time available for school staff to get involved in other activities can be challenged by shortages in pedagogical personnel. About a quarter of upper secondary principals report, on average, shortages or inadequacy in the time spent with students (24%). In Viet Nam (49%) and Portugal (47%), almost half of principals reported this. Likewise, lack of time for instructional leadership is identified as hindering an instruction of quality by 31% of principals on average and by 64% in Portugal (Table 5.27).

Principals in upper and lower secondary education reported similar challenges to the quality of the education provision in their schools caused by personnel shortages. However, in some countries the picture is less homogeneous. In Brazil, shortages of teachers with specific skills (i.e. teachers with competence in teaching students in a multicultural or multilingual setting and teaching students from socio-economically disadvantaged homes) are significantly higher at the lower secondary level where about half of principals reported they hinder their capacity to provide quality instruction (54% and 50%, respectively). These percentages drop by 11 and 13 percentage points at the upper secondary level, respectively (Table 5.27).

One remarkable difference between the two levels concerns challenges posed by shortages of support personnel. The percentage of principals reporting these challenges drop, on average, 6 percentage points when moving from lower to upper secondary education. The difference is the strongest in Denmark (23 percentage points difference) and it is striking as well in Portugal (16 percentage points difference) and Viet Nam (13 percentage points difference) (Table 5.27). These differences suggest that upper secondary schools have, on average, better configurations and balances in staff mix. They could also signal the differences in staff needs across different levels.

Effective teaching and learning require good infrastructure and facilities: well-adapted instructional spaces, classrooms and classroom furniture, school buildings, and other features, like heating or cooling and lighting. Availability of good learning environments and educational resources are important elements for the provision of an education of quality as they have direct effects on students’ and teachers’ ability to engage in learning activities effectively (OECD, 2020[18]; Schneider, 2002[52]).

The relevance of material resources available for teachers and students has been put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is estimated that, at the peak of the crisis in 2020, school closures affected more than 1.5 billion students worldwide (UNESCO, 2021[53]). Teachers’ agency has taken a turn that goes beyond the classroom walls.

Resources available to teachers also include instructional materials like textbooks or library materials as well as digital technology for instruction, including software, computers, tablets and Internet access. These are all key elements for the support of teaching practices in a context where teachers are faced with new challenges. They have to be well adapted to provide good support for instruction. Lack of or shortages in material resources can seriously jeopardise teacher’s agency and self-efficacy.

The relationship between material resources and student performance has been analysed among 15-year-olds, based on PISA data (OECD, 2020[18]). These analyses have shown that this relationship is positive when a series of conditions are met: 1) material resources are available where they are most needed and in sufficient quantity, 2) they are appropriate in quality and type to meet students’ needs and 3) they are used effectively (OECD, 2020, p. 112[18]). These conditions are particularly true for the use of digital technology for instruction as they seem to have limited impact in student performance (OECD, 2020[18]; OECD, 2015[54]). This underlines the importance of teachers’ agency on this matter as digital technology in itself is often less relevant than teachers’ effectiveness of instruction. Teachers’ support through professional development to incorporate digital technology into teaching has to be taken into account when adopting these technologies in schools.

In 2018, TALIS asked school principals if shortages of material resources hinder their school’s capacity to provide quality instruction, whether these concern instructional materials, digital technology, Internet access or even instructional space and physical infrastructure.

The highest percentage of principals reporting quality education provision to be hindered by shortages of resources at this level concerns digital technology for instruction (32%) (Figure 5.11). This includes software, computers, tablets and smart boards. Principals’ reports differ across countries on this issue just as approaches do. The use of digital technologies in schools does not refer to a single type of approach but to different practices that are subject to schools’ and teachers’ learning objectives and strategies (Ross, Morrison and Lowther, 2020[55]).

Figure 5.11 shows that, in Viet Nam, 82% of primary principals reported that shortages in digital technology for instruction hinder their capacity to provide quality instruction, and slightly more than half reported this in France. About a third of principals in the Flemish Community of Belgium (37%), Spain (35%) and Turkey (33%) reported this problem while less than one-fifth did in Sweden (18%) and Denmark (17%), thus signalling better equipped primary schools (Table 5.28).

Likewise, on average, a quarter of principals reported insufficient Internet access (TALIS average: 25%). In Viet Nam, this concerns 66% of primary principals and 43% in France. Less than 10% of principals are concerned by this issue in Korea (9%), Sweden (9%) and Denmark (6%) (Figure 5.11).

On average, 30% of school principals in primary education consider that the quality of education in their school is hindered by the inadequacy of instructional space, including classrooms. In Viet Nam (70%) and the Flemish Community of Belgium (50%), at least half of principals reported so, over a third of principals in France (34%) and about a quarter in CABA (Argentina) (27%), England (United Kingdom) (27%), Sweden (27%), the United Arab Emirates (27%) and Japan (26%) (Table 5.28).

On average, just above a quarter of principals reported shortages or inadequacy of physical infrastructure (28%), like school buildings, classroom furniture, heating/cooling and lighting. Across countries, this is the case for 80% of primary principals in Viet Nam, about a third in the Flemish Community of Belgium (32%), and Japan (33%), and a fifth or less in Spain (20%), Denmark (19%) and England (United Kingdom) (18%) (Table 5.28).

Primary and lower secondary levels are very similar when it comes to shortages in material resources that may jeopardise the provision of an education of quality, as reported by principals.

Challenging shortages in schools’ physical infrastructure and instructional space are comparatively similar across both levels. Likewise, shortages concerning instructional and library materials are equally low, on average.

However, there is an important difference to highlight. As mentioned above, the highest percentage of principals reporting education provision to be hindered by shortages of resources in primary education concerns digital technology for instruction, on average. This is also an area where the differences across levels are the most salient and where school principals in primary education show higher concerns than their lower secondary peers (5 percentage points difference). These concerns are strong in France (27 percentage points difference) and in the Flemish Community of Belgium (21 percentage points difference) and but inverse in CABA (Argentina) where fewer principals in primary education reported education to be hindered by shortages in digital technology for instruction (18 percentage points)) (Table 5.28).

This points to a relevant issue: the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the relevance of digital technology in schools not only in terms of the accessibility of software, computers, tablets and smart boards but also in terms of the capacity of teachers and school leaders to provide accurate support for students. This is particularly the case when considering the strong shift in the use of digital technology from the time when TALIS 2018 data were collected to the moment the pandemic reached its peak as it became the basic means by which to guarantee instruction. Moreover, it raises the question of the relevance of such infrastructure and support at lower levels of education, and on the possible evolution of hybrid learning for the future.

Another important difference concerns the relevance of having insufficient Internet access, which is also a significantly higher concern at primary level (3 percentage points difference), on average. In France and Turkey, the difference between both levels are the strongest (15 and 12 percentage points difference, respectively) (Table 5.28).

Principals’ reports suggest that primary school teachers could find it more challenging to feel autonomous and confident in teaching with digital technologies.

Principals at this level are on average less concerned with shortages in resources available to teachers like library (17%) and instructional materials (16%). But inadequate digital technology tools for instruction (software, computers, tablets and smart boards) concern about a quarter of principals (26%) (Table 5.28).

Only in Viet Nam are about a half of upper secondary principals concerned about shortages in instructional and library materials (52% and 51%, respectively) while in Sweden, these concerns are almost inexistent (about 1%). However, as shown in Figure 5.12, the percentages of principals reporting that shortages in digital technology for instruction hinder their school’s capacity to provide quality instruction show more variation. While three-quarters of upper secondary principals reported this issue in Viet Nam (75%), around half do so in Brazil (58%) and Portugal (49%) and over one-fifth in the United Arab Emirates (29%) and Croatia (21%). This is a considerably less pressing issue in Slovenia (8%), Alberta (Canada) (5%), and Sweden (5%) (Table 5.28).

Below one-fifth of upper secondary principals believe there is insufficient Internet access in their schools (TALIS average: 19%). Across countries, this concern ranges from 58% of principals in Brazil to virtually none in Sweden (Table 5.28).

Programme orientation at the upper secondary level concerns several pathways that can be in high demand by both students and employers. About 21% of upper secondary principals reported that their capacity to provide quality education is hindered by a shortage or inadequacy of necessary materials to train vocational skills. As vocational education and training (VET) systems can be highly specialised, depending on differences in education systems and labour markets, it is not surprising to see important variations across countries. While in Brazil this concern is reported by half of principals (51%) and by about a third in Portugal (33%) and Viet Nam (36%), a quarter of upper secondary principals reported so in the United Arab Emirates (25%) and less than a fifth in Turkey (17%), Alberta (Canada) (14%) and Slovenia (9%). In Sweden, only 2% of principals share this concern (Table 5.28).

Finally, regarding infrastructure and learning environments, less than a quarter of upper secondary principals regard shortages of instructional space and physical infrastructure as hindering their educational provision, on average (24% and 23%, respectively). However, in some countries this is quite relevant. In Viet Nam, half of upper secondary principals reported that shortages of instructional space hinder the school's capacity to provide quality instruction (50%), 38% in Brazil, 31% in Croatia, 30% in the United Arab Emirates and 29% in Portugal. Also in Viet Nam, 59% of principals reported these challenges due to shortages in physical infrastructure and half of principals in Brazil (50%) (Table 5.28).

Upper and lower secondary education show contrasting visions on how material shortages are perceived by school principals.

Apart from challenges concerning shortages of instructional materials, principals’ reports are significantly different in upper secondary education. Shortages in material resources are perceived as less challenging in lower secondary education.

Inadequate digital technology for instruction and Internet access are not as much of a problem at the upper secondary level (4 and 6 percentage points difference, respectively) (Table 5.28).

When it comes to instruction materials, an important difference concerns library materials, which is less of a concern for upper secondary principals (5 percentage points difference). This is also true of the materials that are necessary for training vocational skills: upper secondary VET programmes come across as better equipped than programmes in lower secondary education (4 percentage points difference). Nonetheless, this is not a general rule as in Croatia, lower secondary school principals reported fewer shortages in instructional materials and materials to train vocational skills (14 and 13 percentage points difference, respectively) (Table 5.28).

Likewise, strong differences in principals’ reports suggest a perception of better-equipped schools in upper secondary level when it comes to physical infrastructure (7 percentage points), and in some countries differences between these two levels can be big: 20 percentage points in Viet Nam, 14 percentage points in Portugal, 13 percentage points in Denmark and 10 percentage points in Sweden. In Slovenia, however, the opposite is observed, as lower secondary principals are less concerned with shortages in physical instruction by 6 percentage points (Table 5.28).

School principals’ views on resource shortages are one way to voice the challenges faced in schools. Another important perspective is that of teachers as they are on the front lines of the learning process. As discussed in previous TALIS 2018 reports, principals’ and teachers’ views on resource priorities are quite relevant. They can be seen as mechanisms of upward feedback for school leadership but also for administrators and policy makers (OECD, 2019[51]).

Listening to teachers on resource priorities is also a form of teacher empowerment and agency. It increases teachers’ visibility and directs supportive resources to where they may be the most needed by means of shared decision making. Indeed, listening to teachers about school priorities can help establish pertinent school objectives and more transparent decision making (OECD, 2017[56]).

TALIS 2018 asked teachers to rank spending priorities if the budget for education were to be increased by 5%. Their take on these spending priorities signals challenges to schools’ capacity for instruction and to their own self-efficacy but also points to development opportunities.

The largest percentage of teachers in primary education consider reducing class sizes by recruiting more staff (66%) as a spending priority of “high importance”. In some countries, the proportion of teachers that reported this as a spending priority is high, as in the Flemish Community of Belgium, Japan, Korea and Spain where more than 70% of teachers reported so. In CABA (Argentina), England (United Kingdom), Sweden, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, at least 60% of teachers reported this as a spending priority. Only in Viet Nam is the percentage below half of teachers (36%) (Figure 5.13). While the effect of class sizes on student outcomes is a matter of debate (Blatchford and Russell, 2019[57]), there is general consensus that smaller classes contribute to better learning as teachers’ feelings of self-efficacy increases. In some contexts, teachers feel more confident about their instruction and class management by means of closer and better relationships with students (Ehrenberg et al., 2001[58]).

The second ranking priority, considered of high importance for more than half of teachers in primary schools, on average, is the improvement of their salaries (59%). However, this is not as relevant in all countries. In Denmark (18%), less than one-fifth of teachers in primary education consider this a high priority, and about a third in the Flemish Community of Belgium (34%). It is nonetheless a high priority for a majority of teachers in primary education in CABA (Argentina) and Viet Nam where over 80% of teachers reported so (Table 5.29).

Reducing teachers’ administration load by recruiting more support staff is a topic that is also considered of high importance by 58% of teachers in primary education, ranked as the third highest priority on average (see Table A B.4 for country details on support staff). Teachers’ administrative overload may be due to several reasons. In some systems, shortages of specific types of staff may increase the administrative burden of teachers. In others, teachers are burdened by a great deal of mandatory administrative requirements (OECD, 2020[13]; OECD, 2019[40]). Variations across countries show important differences. At least 60% of teachers in primary schools reported this as a high priority in England (United Kingdom), the Flemish Community of Belgium, Japan, Korea, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates. In Denmark, only 19% of teachers consider reducing their administration load by recruiting more staff a high priority (Table 5.29).

On average, more than half of teachers in primary education consider supporting students with special needs (57%) a high priority. This is in line with principals’ reports discussed previously. As mentioned above, the inclusion of students with special needs in mainstream schools has increased in recent years. Schools have been required to find better mixes in teaching staff and to support teachers’ acquisition of new teaching skills (OECD, 2019[40]). However, TALIS 2018 findings show that over a third of teachers in primary education reported that modifying lessons for students with special needs was a source of stress (Chapter 6). At primary schools, this is a pressing issue also for professional development. As discussed in Chapter 4, professional development covering special needs students is in high demand by teachers in primary education. Countries have different approaches on how to tackle these issues and variations on how teachers at this level consider supporting students with special needs as high priority are evidence of that. About three-quarters of teachers at primary level consider this a high priority in the Flemish Community of Belgium (78%), Spain (76%) and CABA (Argentina) (74%). Only 18% of teachers in primary schools consider this a high priority in Korea (Table 5.29).

Differences between primary and lower secondary teachers concerning spending priorities show some interesting contrasts. While reducing class sizes by recruiting more staff is the top priority for teachers in both levels, on average, more teachers in primary education consider this to be of high importance (3 percentage points difference). While in CABA (Argentina) and Denmark, the difference between the two levels is large (7 percentage points difference, each), in England (United Kingdom) the difference is inverse, as more teachers in lower secondary education consider this to be high priority (8 percentage points difference) (Table 5.29).

The second priority is also the same across the two levels, namely, increasing teachers’ salaries. While there is no difference in the percentage of teachers that consider this as high priority, on average, across countries some differences are significant. In Turkey, more teachers in primary education consider increasing teachers’ salaries a high priority (5 percentage points difference) (Table 5.29).

On average, reducing teachers’ administrative load by recruiting more support staff is a more pressing issue among primary school teachers than for their lower secondary peers (see Table A B.4 for country details on support staff). They also reported this topic as being of high importance more often (2 percentage points difference) (Table 5.29).

A strong and significant difference between both levels can be seen in the priority given to supporting students with special needs. This is not only less relevant for teachers in lower secondary education (ranking sixth) but significantly more teachers in primary schools, on average, consider this as high priority (10 percentage points difference). This is also a priority area that shows strong and significant differences across most countries, ranging from 19 percentage points difference in the Flemish Community of Belgium to 4 percentage points difference in Korea (Table 5.29). Other indicators discussed in this report (Chapters 4 and 6), including stress associated with adapting lessons to students’ with special needs, as well as professional development needs, suggest that this is an area that jeopardises primary school teachers’ feelings of self-efficacy and agency.

Moreover, another interesting difference between these two levels concerns the availability of high-quality professional development for teachers. This is the third most relevant topic for lower secondary teachers, even if more teacher in primary schools consider this as high priority on average (3 percentage points difference). Only in Sweden did more lower secondary teachers reported this as high priority (4 percentage points difference) (Table 5.29).

At upper secondary level, the largest percentage of teachers reported improving teacher salaries as a spending priority of high importance, as almost two-thirds of teachers consider this a spending priority, on average (65%). In Brazil and Viet Nam over 80% of teachers in upper secondary reported this as high priority, about half in Slovenia (55%), and less than a quarter in Denmark (22%) (Table 5.29).

The second priority area for teachers in upper secondary concerns the availability of high-quality professional development for teachers. About 60% of teachers regarded this as high priority, on average. This is a relevant topic across counties as no less than a third of teachers in upper secondary reported so, ranging from over 90% in Brazil to over 60% in Croatia, Portugal, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, and slightly above one-third in Alberta (Canada) (38%) and Denmark (36%). Interestingly, the offer of high-quality professional development is the first priority area for teachers in upper secondary in Slovenia (59%) and Turkey (74%) (Table 5.29).

After high-quality professional development, reducing class sizes by recruiting more staff is an issue of high importance for teachers at this level. PISA 2018 data suggests that the effects of class size on student performance are mixed and not homogeneous across countries (OECD, 2020[18]). Yet, this is not only a matter of student performance but of teachers’ perception of working conditions. Almost 60% of teachers in upper secondary education reported “reducing class sizes by recruiting more staff” as high priority. This was the case for 90% of teachers in Portugal and 82% in Brazil, about half of teachers in Denmark (52%), Sweden (53%) and Slovenia (54%), and slightly more than a quarter in Viet Nam (27%) (Table 5.29).

Administrative overload is an important issue that can lead to frustration and put teacher agency at risk. It can reduce the time available for tasks related to instruction like individual planning or preparation of lessons, marking students’ work, and collaborating with other colleagues. In most of the countries with available data, teachers in upper secondary carry out general administrative work (including communication, paperwork and other clerical duties) that are a mandatory part of their job with no compensation for teaching time (OECD, 2020[13]). Inadequate distribution of administrative requirements can be a cause for teachers’ administrative burden in some countries (OECD, 2019[40]). Half of teachers consider reducing teachers’ administrative load by recruiting more support staff (51%) a spending priority of high importance (see Table A B.4 for country details on support staff). This ranges from 73% of teachers in Portugal and 70% the United Arab Emirates to 15% in Denmark (Table 5.29).

At the upper secondary level, about 43% of teachers consider supporting students with special needs as high priorities (ranking sixth), on average. However, variations across countries can be important, as shown in Figure 5.14. In Brazil 83% of teachers in upper secondary consider this high priority, and in Croatia (52%), Turkey (54%), Portugal (57%), and the United Arab Emirates (61%) more than half of teachers do so. In Denmark, 14% of teachers in upper secondary level consider this high priority (Table 5.29).

Teachers in upper and lower secondary education distribute relevance almost identically across topics that they consider high priority.

While the difference is small on average (1 percentage points), more teachers in upper secondary reported increasing teachers’ salaries as a high importance priority than lower secondary teachers. This is a sensitive issue that requires further analysis. Teachers’ salaries are comparatively lower than salaries of other professionals with the same level of qualification on average across OECD countries (OECD, 2020[13]). Moreover, salaries tend to be lower when teaching at lower education levels, partly due to the entry-level qualifications required. This is undoubtedly one important factor when weighing the reasons for salary dissatisfaction and related issues with work motivation (OECD, 2019[40]). This has also important consequences in the attractiveness of the teaching profession.

TALIS index of job satisfaction with the profession measures how teachers generally feel about the teaching profession, including whether they believe the advantages of being a teacher outweigh the disadvantages, or whether they think it would have been better to choose another profession. The index also measures teacher motivation, asking if they would still choose to work as a teacher if they could decide again. On average across countries with available data, teachers in upper secondary schools were about 7% less likely to consider an increase in teachers’ salaries as high priority when they were more satisfied with the profession (odds ratio=0.93) after accounting for teacher characteristics (Table 5.31).

Undoubtedly, there are serval factors that influence this subject and it is possible that other “positive” aspects are involved. Previous TALIS 2018 reports have explored several factors that can have an effect on lower secondary teachers’ likelihood of reporting that salary increases are highly important. These include motivational aspects, class configuration or school location (OECD, 2019[51]). As discussed in this chapter, teachers’ self-efficacy is an important component of teachers’ agency. Confident teachers not only feel validated in deciding how to perform their duties autonomously but they may also have expectations about the conditions in which to carry them out effectively. When assessing the relevance of salary increases, teachers may also be assessing their own skills and experience. Teachers in upper secondary that report higher levels of self-efficacy in classroom management are about 13% more likely to report salary increases as highly important (odds ratio=1.13) (Figure 5.15 and Table 5.33).

After increasing teachers’ salaries, offering high-quality professional development for teachers is the second most important priority for teachers in upper secondary while it is third for their lower secondary peers. However, this is something that shows contrast across countries with available data. In 6 countries out of 11 with available data, there are no differences across levels. In Croatia (8 percentage points difference), Alberta (Canada) (7 percentage points difference) and Slovenia (3 percentage points difference), more teachers in upper secondary consider this as high priority. In Brazil and Denmark, more lower secondary teachers consider offering high-quality professional development high priority than teachers in upper secondary (2 and 5 percentage points difference, respectively) (Table 5.29).

The strongest significant difference between both levels concerns supporting students with special needs. More lower secondary teachers reported this as high priority (6 percentage points difference). Differences are particularly strong in Denmark where the percentages of teachers go from over a third in lower secondary education (37%) to 14% among teachers in upper secondary (23 percentage points difference). In the United Arab Emirates, the proportion of teachers remains above 60% at both levels even if there is a change of 2 percentage points as more teachers in lower secondary schools consider this high priority (Table 5.29).

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Notes

← 1. The use of the word “significant” does not refer to the statistical properties of the results but to the wording used in the questionnaire to phrase the question to principals. Whenever school leaders play an active role in decision making, they are considered as having “significant responsibility” for that task.

← 2. A “considerable role” is when 25% to 50% of principals reported that a given actor has significant responsibility on average across participating countries.

← 3. Differences in principals’ responses within a same system can be due to different reasons, including the extent of their participation in the process of determining either statutory salaries or additional payments, which can be dependent on other factors. For example, in some systems, private schools are not required to follow centrally regulated or national pay ranges as public schools do, even if in many cases they do observe them by choice (OECD, 2020[13]). Moreover, the relative autonomy of school principals can also be dependent on the status of teachers, for example, if they are considered civil servants or not and, therefore, if guidelines have to be consistent with other regulations.

Variations in principals’ responses may also be due to how they interpret the question. In some systems, additional payments that are added to statutory salaries can depend on many factors. Financial compensation can be offered for activities that are understood to be out of regular or required teachers’ work, like participating in extra-curricular activities, taking on student counselling or participating in special tasks like training student teachers. Thus, these financial compensations can have impacts on actual teachers’ salaries independently of the existence of regulated pay scales. Depending on the system, principals may have more or less autonomy in determining which of these activities can be offered in their school and also which teachers participate in them.

← 4. Free school choice is understood as the possibility for parents or guardians to choose a school and, hence, students are not necessarily assigned to specific schools; or, if they are, they can opt for another school.

← 5. Differences in responsibilities between primary and lower secondary teachers for choosing which learning materials are used can be due to several factors. In some countries, secondary schools are subject-oriented and, thus, secondary teachers are often given greater responsibilities concerning choosing learning materials than primary teachers. Likewise, in several systems, there is no option to choose learning materials like textbooks for main subjects (e.g. language of instruction, social science, mathematics, science) in primary schools; but in lower secondary schools they can be chosen from among various authorised texts. In these contexts, secondary teachers can have more responsibility for choosing learning materials than their primary peers.

← 6. Teachers were asked about their control over these areas of their planning and teaching in a target class. Principals were asked to report who has a significant responsibility for determining course content, including national/regional curricula.

← 7. The other form of collaboration that has been associated with the use of cognitive activation practices is when teachers participate in joint activities across different classes and age groups. Here, the focus is on collaborative professional learning only, given that it has been identified by teachers as an impactful professional development, and as a policy lever for initiating and extending a culture of collaboration in schools that requires a limited mobilisation of resources (OECD, 2020[6]).

← 8. In some contexts, schools observe rules of privacy and non-interference that had been identified in the literature as potentially weakening efforts to encourage teachers to get involved in some types of collaborative actions (Levine and Marcus, 2010[59]). This sort of “informal” teacher collaboration is taken here as an indication of the existence of open teacher dialog and collaboration.

← 9. As discussed in the first section of this chapter, instructional leadership can be direct and indirect, and it involves the active collaboration of principals and teachers on issues regarding instruction, curriculum, assessment and professional development.

← 10. Shortages or inadequacy of time with students refers to the availability of contact time between school staff and students. For example, it may refer to the time teachers have for student-teacher interactions outside of working time devoted to preparing for classes, correcting students’ work, and other activities related to their teaching and administrative tasks.

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