Chapter 3. Using teacher appraisal to support and incentivise good teaching

This chapter looks at how the Republic North Macedonia evaluates teaching practice and supports teachers to improve through its teacher appraisal system. The country has made several attempts to create more robust methods for teacher selection and promotion, however efforts have not been sustained and the proposed merit-based career system has still not been implemented. Creating a more effective teacher appraisal system will help to address many of gaps in teacher policy. As a priority, North Macedonia should implement its existing proposals for a merit-based career structure and teacher standards. An essential complement will be greater investment in professional development, within and outside school, so that teachers can access learning opportunities to become expert teachers as they progress in their career.

    

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

Introduction

High quality teaching is shown to be the most important school-level factor related to student learning outcomes. Effective education systems place a strong emphasis on selecting, training and retaining teachers with the competencies needed to help students succeed (Schleicher, 2016[1]). Appraisal supports such a culture of professionalism by first ensuring that all teachers have the aptitudes to teach, while also helping and incentivising teachers to develop higher levels of expertise and responsibility throughout their careers.

In recent years, the Republic of North Macedonia (hereafter referred to as “North Macedonia”) has made several attempts to create more robust teacher selection and promotion methods, with the aim of establishing a more learner-centred education system. Initiatives include, the proposal to develop a merit-based career structure for teachers, as well as efforts to support teachers’ professional development in core areas, such as training on classroom assessment techniques. However these efforts have not been sustained – the merit-based career system is still not implemented – and do not amount to a comprehensive policy to support the teaching profession.

Creating a more effective teacher appraisal system will help to address many of gaps in teacher policy. As a priority, North Macedonia should implement its existing proposals for a merit-based career structure and teacher standards. This will create the basis to ensure that new entrants to the profession develop essential teaching skills while incentivising existing teachers to grow professionally throughout their career. An essential complement will be greater investment in professional development, within and outside school, so that teachers can access learning opportunities to become expert teachers as they progress in their career.

Key features of an effective appraisal system

Teacher appraisal refers to how teachers are assessed and given feedback on their performance and competencies (see Figure 3.1). An effective appraisal system focuses on how well teachers are supporting the learning of all students. It provides teachers with support and incentives to continually develop their teaching competencies and assume roles that contribute to the development of the teaching profession overall. When used in this way, appraisal can positively influence teachers’ attitudes, motivation and classroom practices and, through this, help to improve students’ learning outcomes (OECD, 2013[2]). Countries combine different types of appraisal at different moments of a teacher’s career to inform on-going learning, professional development and career progression (see Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.1. Types of teacher appraisal
Figure 3.1. Types of teacher appraisal

Teacher standards

Standards provide a common reference point for teacher policies, including appraisal

A growing number of OECD countries have developed teaching standards to inform teacher policy and practices. Teaching standards describe what “good” teaching is and how it is demonstrated. They are used to align key teacher policies such as initial teacher training, certification and re-certification, career progression, professional development and teacher appraisal. Teacher standards are an essential part of an effective teacher appraisal system as they provide a common reference point for both teachers and evaluators that establish clear expectations, encourage consistent judgement and focus appraisal on the key aspects of teaching that matter for learning (Santiago et al., 2013[3]).

Teaching standards typically include a general profile setting out expected teacher competencies. Some also include specialised profiles for particular types of teachers such as for more experienced teachers as part of a differentiated career path, or for teachers of different educational levels or subjects (Santiago et al., 2013[3]). Effective teaching standards are aligned with national education priorities, learning standards and curricula to ensure that teachers develop teaching competencies that will support national learning goals (Louden, 2000[4]). They are also grounded in national and international evidence of the types of teaching approaches that have been shown to have the greatest impact on student learning.

Initial teacher preparation

Select candidates with strong academic skills and motivation to teach

Selecting teacher candidates with strong academic skills and the motivation to teach is key to ensure quality learning and teaching in schools. This influences how teachers are recruited both into initial teacher education programmes, and into the teaching profession. A recognised feature of the world’s highest performing education systems is setting a high bar for entry into initial teacher education, with places accorded only to the most able school graduates (Barber, M. and Mourshed, 2007[5]). One way to support this is by setting a minimum threshold on the national school graduation or tertiary entry examinations.

Set a rigorous certification process at the end of teacher education to make sure to select qualified new teachers

Initial certification at the end of teacher education serves as a gatekeeper to ensure that those who enter the profession have acquired the basic competencies required for good teaching. In most OECD countries, initial certification requires successful completion of teacher education programmes which provide at least a Bachelor’s level qualification, and increasingly a qualification at master’s level. However, many OECD countries require in addition that prospective teachers pass an external qualification or licensing examination, which can help to ensure fairness and consistency for selection and guarantee basic standards (OECD, 2014[6]). This is particularly important in countries were teaching is a “career-based” public service, and lifetime employment is largely guaranteed, and where quality assurance in the tertiary sector is weak. Since an examination cannot recognise all the attributes that are important for teaching, countries with examinations often complement them with other forms of assessment such as interviews, which can capture motivation and socio-emotional skills. Finally, in most countries full certification as a teacher is dependent on successfully passing a probation appraisal, where teachers are able to better demonstrate the attitudinal dimensions of good teaching.

Types of teacher appraisal

A probation period and appraisal provides new teachers with essential support in their first year(s) on the job

The first years of teaching are critical to build the foundations of good teaching practices. Most OECD countries set probation periods combining mentorship, classroom observations and formative feedback to ensure that new teachers are provided with support to develop their teaching practice (OECD, 2014[6]). Regular appraisal and feedback to teachers are key components of the probation period. In countries where the latter are not part of the probation period, retention rates of new teachers are often lower (OECD, 2017[7]).

In about half of OECD countries, successfully passing an appraisal at the end of the probation period is a requirement to become a fully certified teacher (see Figure 3.2). Probation appraisals helps to ensure that decisions on full certification are based on an evaluation of all the key competencies for teaching. Appraisal by the school leadership team, the school board or the teacher’s mentor is the most common approach to full certification. These in-school actors have the opportunity to observe a trainee teacher’s practice throughout the year, providing a fuller picture of their readiness to enter the profession. In some countries, the probation appraisal also includes an external evaluator (OECD, 2013[2]). An external dimension for the probation appraisal is particularly important in education systems where the school leadership might lack capacity to make a valid and objective judgement about a teacher’s competencies.

Figure 3.2. Types of teacher appraisals in OECD countries (2015)
Figure 3.2. Types of teacher appraisals in OECD countries (2015)

Source: (OECD, 2015[8]), Education at a Glance 2015: OECD Indicators, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag-2015-en.

Regularly appraising teachers provides meaningful feedback and informs classroom practices

Regularly appraising teachers to provide feedback on their professional practices is a common component of teacher appraisal in the majority of OECD countries (see Figure 3.2). Regular appraisal is primarily developmental, identifying a teacher’s strengths and their learning needs. It draws on information from classroom observations to provide specific feedback to support teachers’ continued professional growth (OECD, 2013[2]). Some OECD countries also use teachers’ self-evaluation and their teaching portfolio as part of regular appraisal, as they encourage self-reflection and provide a range of evidence on a teacher’s practices and needs for professional development (OECD, 2015[8]).

In most OECD countries, the regular appraisal of teachers is led by the school leadership team because they can develop a more accurate understanding of a teacher’s practice, based on multiple observations throughout the year. Since the leadership team is familiar to the teacher, this is also likely to create a more informal setting for appraisal to encourage open and honest feedback (OECD, 2013[2]).

The formative value of regular appraisal is strengthened when the findings are used to inform decisions on teachers’ professional development. In many countries, the school leader or leadership team is expected to work with teachers to establish individualised development plans, which define the type of activities a teacher will undertake in order to improve specific areas of practice. Such plans are most effective when they connect individual goals with school priorities for teacher development, as this helps to encourage teacher collaboration and peer learning (Goe, Biggers and Croft, 2012[9]).

Appraisal for promotion informs teachers’ career progression and rewards performance

An increasing number of OECD countries are setting merit-based career structures to reward and encourage teachers to develop higher levels of competence and take on differentiated teaching roles. External appraisal is often used in countries that introduced a merit-based career structure to inform teacher career advancement. This appraisal is often voluntary, at the request of a teacher, and is led by an evaluator that is external to the school to ensure integrity and transparency. This type of appraisal evaluates teachers’ capacity to take on further responsibilities and rewards effective teaching (OECD, 2013[2]). Recognising and rewarding good teaching is important to ensure a motivated teaching profession. It also helps to make the best use of teachers’ talent, by providing opportunities for career growth and retain talented teachers (OECD, 2014[10]).

Some education systems require teachers to go through an appraisal process to be re-certified as a teacher every couple of years. This re-certification process helps make sure that teachers are periodically appraised by an external appraising body even if they are not applying for promotion (Kitchen et al., 2017[11]).

The teaching profession in North Macedonia

Teaching is a relatively well-respected profession in North Macedonia. Teacher salaries compare favourably with average salaries at national level and there is strong demand to enter the profession. In the absence of rigorous mechanisms to control selection into the profession, this has resulted in a comparatively large (in contrast to a declining student population), and young profession. However, once in the profession, new teachers have few incentives to develop - the salary scale is largely flat and not linked to performance - or opportunities for high quality professional development organised by the government. Instead, many teachers rely on informal teacher networks and collaboration.

Teaching workforce

North Macedonia has a young and expanding teaching workforce

The teaching workforce has continued to expand despite an important fall in the student population. Between 2007 and 2016, the number of teachers in primary and lower secondary increased by 10%, while primary-age students decreased by a similar amount (see Figure 3.3). The mismatch between student and teacher numbers points to an inefficient use of resources. Inefficient resource management limits funds that could be devoted to improving teaching quality, such as investing in continuous professional development programmes (World Bank, forthcoming[12]).

The expansion in teacher numbers has resulted in a relatively young and inexperienced teaching workforce. Almost half of the teachers in North Macedonia in 2015 were below the age of 40 (MAKStat Database, n.d.[13]), compared to a little over a third in OECD countries (OECD, 2018[14]). The share of teachers nearing retirement age (50 years-old or above) is also low compared to OECD countries which tend to have an aging teaching population (26% in North Macedonia for 34% in the OECD) (MAKStat Database, n.d.[13]) (OECD, 2018[14]). As is the case in most European countries, teachers in North Macedonia are mainly women (69% in primary and lower secondary education and 59% in upper secondary education in 2017 (MAKStat Database, n.d.[13]).

Figure 3.3. Evolution of the school network in North Macedonia (2007-17)
2007=100
Figure 3.3. Evolution of the school network in North Macedonia (2007-17)

Source: (MAKStat Database, n.d.[13]), Education and Science, http://makstat.stat.gov.mk/PXWeb/pxweb/en/MakStat/MakStat__ObrazovanieNauka__OsnovnoObrazovanie (accessed on 4 April 2018).

Teacher salaries and career progression

Teacher salaries are higher than in other Western Balkan countries

Average teacher salaries relative to GDP compare favourably with other European countries. The minimum teacher salary for primary teachers represented about 150% of the country’s GDP per capita in 2015, compared to 87% of GDP per capita on average in European Union (EU) countries (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2016[15]). This reflects the steps taken by the ministry over the last decade to increase overall salary levels ‒ in 2014, all teachers’ salaries were increased by 4%. Nationally, teachers’ salaries compare well to average earnings in North Macedonia, with the exception of Skopje where salaries are slightly below the mean (World Bank, forthcoming[12]).

However, the salary progression of teachers is relatively slow and flat compared to OECD and European countries covered by the Eurydice data collection on teachers’ salaries and compensations1 It takes teachers in North Macedonia an average of 40 years to reach the top of the salary scale, the longest time among European countries, and higher than the OECD average of 25 years (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2016[15]; OECD, 2017[16]). Salary increases are awarded to all teachers and are not contingent on demonstrating good performance through an appraisal process. According to the 2015 Law on Primary and Secondary Education, a teacher’s mark from the School Integral Evaluation, the Bureau for the Development of Education (BDE) advisors’ comments should be used to determine teachers’ salary increases, but this requirement has never been implemented due to conflicting legal arrangements. This is unusual internationally. While salary increases in most OECD countries are linked to years of experience, appraisal results also impact salaries in over ten countries (McKenzie and Santiago, 2005[17]).

There is currently no career advancement structure

Unlike many OECD countries, there is as yet no differentiated career structure in North Macedonia. In schools, there are also few opportunities for teachers to take on new roles, like a subject head or chair. The one exception is the role of teacher mentor, which is also rewarded financially (mentors receive a financial allowance calculated as 20% of novice teachers’ salary). In 2016, the BDE, with technical and financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), developed a proposal for a merit-based career structure with four career levels (novice teacher, teacher, teacher mentor and teacher advisor). The new career structure aimed to encourage and reward increasing levels of teaching competence with opportunities to take on new roles and responsibilities. The 2016 project also included new teaching standards and guidelines for how appraisal should be used to inform career advancement (see Box 3.1). However, the merit-based career structure was never implemented.

Initial teacher education and continuous professional development

Entry to initial teacher education programmes is not selective

To become a teacher in North Macedonia, candidates need to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree and pass a probation appraisal and certification examination. Four universities in Skopje, Tetovo, Bitola and Shtip provide initial teacher education programmes for primary and lower secondary teachers through Faculties of Education and Institutes of Pedagogy. Upper secondary teachers (and lower secondary subject teachers) complete a bachelor’s in the area that they will teach like mathematics, science or the Macedonian language, and for those who did not undertake teaching classes during their studies, they take supplementary courses in pedagogy and psychology in the education faculties.

Subject teachers in lower and upper secondary education can also choose a concurrent model where they take classes on pedagogy in parallel with subject knowledge, or a consecutive model where they follow teacher training after having completed a diploma in their subject area. Having both consecutive and concurrent models of initial teacher education is common in many OECD countries.

As for other tertiary programmes, the government sets quotas for how many students can enter the Faculties of Education and students are selected based on their results in the national examination at the end of upper secondary, the state matura. Also like for other tertiary programmes, students who receive a place within the quota have their place subsidised by the government. However, given the major expansion of tertiary places in recent years, the quotas are very large and therefore do not lead to any real selection - almost all candidates who apply for initial teacher education receive a place. Like for other tertiary programmes, among students who have obtained the matura, universities have limited flexibility in selecting students’ for initial teacher training, and few set their additional entrance requirements (European Commission, 2013[18]). Since universities are funded on a per student basis, universities also have few incentives to be more selective for entry.

This lack of selection into initial teacher education contributes to the oversupply of teacher graduates. The teaching profession is under pressure to absorb an important number of graduates for a limited number of spots available. For every opening in public schools, it was reported to the review team that there are about 30 candidates. In any country, a surfeit of newly trained teachers reduces the prestige of the profession. Furthermore in North Macedonia, it was reported to the review team that political allegiances and clientelism are frequently the deciding factor when schools recruit new teachers (Mickovska et al., 2013[19]). This means that the best teaching candidates may not receive a teaching post, reducing the motivation of the best school candidates to enter the profession and further undermining the professionalism of the teaching profession.

Initial teacher training is mostly theoretical

The content of initial teacher education has not followed reforms in the education system. Despite curricula changes over the past decade towards more student-centred, competency-based learning, initial teacher training continues to focus on theoretical subject knowledge and outdated pedagogical concepts, like focusing on the “average student” instead of more inclusive approaches to learning (European Commission, 2013[18]). The misalignment between initial teacher programmes and education reforms reflects a lack of co-ordination between the universities and the ministry, and weak accreditation. Accreditation is not programme specific, providing limited quality assurance (World Bank, 2013[20]), or few incentives for universities to adapt to changing needs in the education system.

Initial education also provides teacher candidates with limited practical learning opportunities. One issue is duration. Teacher candidates in faculties of education complete a 15-week practicum, only slightly less than in most OECD countries. However, for teacher candidates in non-education faculties, the teaching practicum varies between 10 hours to 100 hours - the lower end is significantly less than in most OECD countries. A broader challenge is the quality of the practicum. In order for the practicum to provide a meaningful learning experience, it should be integrated with the rest of teacher education programme content and provide candidates with experienced mentors in school. Another challenge reported by education faculties in North Macedonia is difficulty in finding placements, as schools receive no financial support or incentive to accommodate the trainee.

The ministry is planning to introduce a new Teacher Academy, which also be under the ministry’s responsibility. This would provide the ministry with greater control on the quality and content of initial teacher education. Teacher candidates from all types of initial teacher education programmes and those who have completed a four-year bachelor’s in a subject would be required to attend. The chosen candidates would attend between six months and one year of initial teacher education in the academies and be assured a post as a full-time teacher. Attending the teacher academies will be mandatory in order to be licensed to teach. This proposal aims to increase the quality of initial teacher training and ensure that all selected teachers have acquired the necessary pre-requisites to teach.

Participation in professional development is limited compared to OECD countries

Teachers are required to participate in 60 hours of professional development over three years. This includes ten mandatory hours in priority areas provided by the BDE, 40 hours chosen from programmes subsidised by the BDE, and a further 10 hours that are undertaken at a teacher’s own cost. However, the BDE lacks the funding to implement this measure and has not funded training programmes beyond the priority areas for a number of years.

Limited funding for professional development may partially explain the low level of participation in North Macedonia compared to OECD countries and other Western Balkan countries. According to the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), about 15% of teachers from North Macedonia participated in professional development activities in 2015 in the three months prior to the PISA test compared to almost half of teachers from OECD countries (OECD, 2016[21]). Additionally, professional development may not always focus on the areas that are most important for raising achievement in North Macedonia. For instance, for the school year 2017-18, information and communication technology skills was one of the priority areas, while key competencies such as student assessment, were not (see Chapter 2).

With limited external training available, most professional development takes place at the school level or informally among teachers. An overwhelming majority of teachers surveyed for this review said that in-school professional development is the main way that they develop skills in areas such as student assessment, pedagogy and teaching students with special educational needs (SEN). Schools are required to include a professional development plan for teaching staff in their school plan every four years. This kind of in-school professional development can be very effective, since it is often collaborative and focuses directly on a teacher’s daily practices. However in North Macedonia, these activities need more external support to ensure that they are sustainable and present in all schools. For example, it is unclear if all schools implement their professional development plans as their financial resources are limited and they do not receive additional funding for professional development.

Teaching and learning

Teachers have dedicated time for lesson preparation, but receive limited guidance on how to do so

Teachers are expected to spend less than half of their mandatory weekly working time teaching. This equates to less than 20 hours per week in both primary and secondary education, which is comparable to teaching time in most OECD countries (Mickovska et al., 2013[19]) (OECD, 2018[14]). This leaves significant time for teachers to carry out their non-teaching tasks as regulated by law (e.g. preparing lesson plans, reviewing students’ work and participating in professional development activities). However, teachers receive very little guidance on how to allocate their non-teaching time to different tasks adequately to support their students’ learning and develop their teaching practices (Mickovska et al., 2013[19]) This means that preparation time might not be used effectively or efficiently, and frequently means that teachers go home during this time, diminishing possible time for collaboration with colleagues.

A multi-actor support team in schools is supposed to help teachers meet diverse learning needs

Schools have multi-actor professional teams for supporting teaching and learning activities. The support teams include a pedagogical advisor, known as the “pedagogue”, a school psychologist, and in some schools an advisor for SEN education known nationally as the “defectologist” (see Table 3.1).

While the team’s stated role is to support teaching staff pedagogically and ensure that needs of all students are met, this is not always the case. One reason is that pedagogues and SEN advisors receive very limited practical training which may hinder their understanding of classroom interactions and how best to support teachers in their tasks. Despite efforts in recent years to promote inclusive education, practices of SEN education in many schools remain influenced by the Soviet-era “defectology” theory which is characterised by focusing primarily on children with significant learning needs or disabilities, often outside the classroom. This contrasts with more inclusive concepts of education and mainstreaming for children with special learning needs that are now common in most OECD countries (Cooc, 2018[22]) (OECD, 2008[23]). Pedagogues are also often over-burdened with administrative tasks that distract them from their core duties.

Table 3.1. The multi-professional school support team

Pedagogue

SEN advisor (“Defectologist”)

School psychologist

Responsibility

Provides advice and support to teachers on how to improve teaching practices.

Conducts classroom observations and provides feedback on teaching and learning.

Organises remedial classes.

Helps teachers adapt their teaching. practices to special education needs of students.

Helps ensure that the classroom and school environment is inclusive.

Provides counseling to students. Helps teachers address the needs of students and promote deep learning and socio-emotional skills. Helps teachers create a positive learning environment.

Ratio to teachers

15 : 1 000

6.6 : 1 000

14.7 : 1 000

Source: Review team’s interviews with school staff.

Teacher appraisal in North Macedonia

North Macedonia has several different processes for regular appraisal, combining both in-school and external evaluators (see Table 3.2). However, these different processes are not currently serving providing effective support to improve teaching quality. This is in part because evaluators’ lack preparation and support in how to undertake appraisals, but also because the wider appraisal framework is underdeveloped. Regular appraisal is not linked to transparent and consistent standards for teaching or professional development opportunities. There is also no means to promote and reward good teaching more formally, through performance-based increases in salary and status, creating few incentives for teachers to invest in their development throughout their careers.

Table 3.2. Teacher appraisal in North Macedonia

Types of appraisal

Reference standards

Body responsible

Guideline documents

Process

Frequency

Use

Initial certification

Teaching standards developed but not implemented

Faculties of education

Rulebook on the content and the form of the teacher diploma (Law 84/2009)

Students need to show successful completion of four years of studies, equivalent to 240 ECTS credits, defend a research thesis and complete practical instruction in school

Assessed throughout their studies

Obtain initial class teacher certification allowing students to apply to teaching positions in schools

Probation appraisal

Teacher mentors

Guidelines available but not used

Classroom observations during the probation period with a report describing the novice teacher's competencies

End of probation period

Informs the decision by the teacher confirmation examination commission (composed of Ministry of Education and Sciences (MoES) representatives, as well as university teaching staff and peer teachers within the same subject)

 

Due to lack of mentors, not fully implemented

Regular appraisal

School principal and school support staff

Template for classroom observation developed by schools

Classroom observations

Four times a year

Provides formative feedback

BDE

BDE protocol

Classroom observations

No defined frequency/ occurs mostly following a major reform

Provides formative feedback

National Examination Centre (NEC)

 

 

 

Responsible for licensing and re-licensing school principals

State Education Inspectorate (SEI)

SEI guidelines for evaluating teachers in primary and secondary education

Review teacher portfolio and records, undertake classroom observation

Every three years

Provide oral feedback to teachers and written score to principal

Vocational and Education Training Centre (VETC)

Guidelines for observing and counselling VET teachers

Classroom observations

No defined frequency. Approximately one every two years

Provides formative feedback

Appraisal for promotion

None. Plans developed in 2016, but not implemented

Appraisal for re-certification

none

Source: (MoES, 2018[24]), Republic of North Macedonia - Country Background Report, Ministry of Education and Science, Skopje.

Teaching standards have been developed but are not yet implemented

The teaching standards developed in 2016 by the BDE with the support of USAID cover the core areas of teaching identified in the Danielson Framework for Teaching that has inspired the appraisal system in many OECD countries: instruction, the classroom environment and professional responsibilities (Danielson, 2007[25]). In addition to the core competencies expected from all teachers, the teaching standards also include specific competencies at four levels of the teacher career: novice teacher, teacher, teacher mentor, and teacher adviser (see Box 3.1).

However, a change in government and policy direction in 2015-17 halted the implementation of the teaching standards, which are currently not used to inform teacher appraisal or any other aspect of teacher policy in North Macedonia. This constitutes a major gap in North Macedonia’s teacher appraisal framework as there are no common standards used by all actors in the appraisal system to inform their judgement of teaching quality.

Box 3.1. The merit-based career development structure reform proposal

In 2016, the Ministry set up a Working Group including education experts, teachers and representatives from the BDE and the Vocational Education and Training Centre (VETC) to develop a plan for a merit-based career structure based on clearly defined teaching standards. The Working Group also defined standards for the school support staff (i.e. pedagogues, psychologist, etc.) as well as guidelines for teachers on what the expected competencies and criteria are to move up in the merit-based career structure.

The career structure

The merit-based career structure includes four different categories of teachers: novice teacher, teacher, teacher mentor and teacher advisor. To become teacher mentors or advisers, teachers need to demonstrate that they have the competencies required for these positions during an external appraisal for promotion by the BDE or the VETC.

Level of teacher career

 

Novice teacher

Teacher

Teacher mentor

Teacher advisor

Responsibilities

Teaching students under supervision of teacher mentor.

Teaching students autonomously, participating actively in teacher groups (“Teacher Actives”).

Provides guidance and assistance to novice teachers and helps them prepare for the teacher confirmation examination. Also provides support to other teachers. Appraises the novice teacher regularly and provide feedback.

Co-ordinates teacher networks. Monitors and appraises students from teacher training programme during their practicum.

Contributes to school self-evaluation and school planning.

Requirement to reach this career level

Successful completion of initial teacher education programme.

Pass confirmation examination (personality test, conducting a lesson, oral test on relevant laws and defending a research project).

External appraisal by BDE advisor or VETC advisor.

External appraisal by BDE advisor or VETC advisor.

Source: Review team’s interviews with school staff.

Initial certification does not provide a reliable indicator of teachers’ readiness to teach

As is the case in most OECD countries, universities in North Macedonia are responsible for teachers’ initial certification (OECD, 2014[6]). Students that validate 240 credits ECTS (four years) during their initial teacher education training become initially certified teachers and can be recruited by schools to begin their probation period (see Table 3.2). However, weak quality assurance and certification requirements mean that there are few mechanisms to ensure that students graduating from initial teacher education are competent to teach. In most OECD countries, teacher standards provide the reference for developing quality assurance mechanisms for initial teacher education programmes and determining the criteria for initial certification.

The above situation means that new teachers might not meet minimum competence requirements to teach. It also means that schools lack transparent and reliable information when selecting candidates, making them more vulnerable to being influenced by clientelism.

A probation period aims to provide important mentorship and feedback, but is rarely implemented in practice

The probation period in North Macedonia lasts a year, at the end of which novice teachers are appraised and take a confirmation examination as part of the probation appraisal to become fully registered teachers. During their probation period, novice teachers are supposed to be mentored by an experienced teacher in their subject or field (see Box 3.1). In 2016, the BDE, with the help of USAID, developed guidelines detailing the mentoring process. According to these guidelines, mentors should develop a plan with their mentee, which includes regular observations of the mentee’s teaching, feedback and professional development activities (USAID, 2016[26]).

However, the mentorship guidelines have not been implemented and many trainee teachers never receive a mentor. Moreover, the differentiated teacher career path – on which “mentor” teacher is a step ‒ is not yet implemented which means that there is not currently a pool of teachers who have been formally recognised as mentors. Instead, mentors are chosen by school principals among available teaching staff, and do not receive any training or guidance on how to observe classroom practices or provide meaningful feedback. These teachers undertake mentorship activities on top of their regular teaching responsibilities.

In practice, the probation appraisal is based only on the confirmation examination in many schools

At the end of the probation period, the probation appraisal in supposed to be based on the mentor’s report on the trainee teacher that appraises their competencies and a confirmation examination. However, since the mentorship is not fully implemented (and there are no mentor reports for trainee teachers in all schools), for many trainee teachers the confirmation examination currently serves as the main form of probation appraisal.

For the examination, teachers prepare a research project and teach a lesson plan to a jury. The examination is positively designed to assess some important pedagogical knowledge and practice, as well as subject knowledge and motivation to teach. However, alone it is not sufficient for assessing other teaching competencies which are better captured by observing the teachers’ interactions in the classroom. Moreover, the vast majority of trainees pass, which given the lack of selection into initial teacher education may suggest that it is not rigorously controlling the quality of new entrants into teaching. Examinations are rarely used in probation appraisal in OECD countries (OECD, 2013[2]).

North Macedonia has three processes for regular appraisal

Two external agencies, the BDE and the State Education Inspectorate (SEI) appraise teachers and provide feedback for improvement (see Table 3.2). The SEI appraises all the teachers in each school that is evaluated as part of School Integral Evaluations, which are conducted every three years (see Chapter 4). Inspectors observe classroom practices, review the teacher’s portfolio and collect information from students, teachers and school principals’ questionnaires, provide oral feedback to teachers and give them a mark from 1-5. The BDE’s advisors may also visit teachers to observe their teaching practices and provide feedback. Within schools, the school principal and the pedagogue also appraise teachers at least once a year.

Various factors mean that regular appraisal in North Macedonia is failing to effectively support teachers’ development. One is that improvement of student-learning outcomes is not a central component of the SEI’s guidelines, the BDE’s protocol or the school principals’ practices. Another is that the externality of SEI and BDE evaluators means that they are not familiar with individual teacher’s work and will struggle to create the open, informal atmosphere that is important for regular appraisals. On the other hand, school principals – who are the main actor for regular appraisal in most OECD countries – lack adequate preparation or guidance in how to make an educated judgement about teaching quality. Overall, there is a general lack of training and guidance for all evaluators on how to undertake appraisals. For example, SEI inspectors receive just three days of training at the start of their careers, primarily focused on the legal framework and regulations. While the BDE has developed a classroom observation protocol which provides directions to the advisors on how to undertake such observations, it is not sufficiently detailed to ensure quality and consistency across advisors.

Plans to introduce an external appraisal for promotion purposes remain on hold

At present, North Macedonia does not have a career structure with differentiated roles and responsibilities and an appraisal system to recognise and reward performance. However, the 2016 plans propose that external evaluators from the BDE or VETC undertake appraisals to determine teachers’ readiness for promotion to teacher mentor or advisor level. If North Macedonia is to implement these plans, it will need to determine the process for appraisal for promotion in greater detail, such as eligibility requirements and the sources of evidence upon which the appraisal will be based.

Appraisal for reward

Teachers that are training students for academic competitions like Olympiads receive a small financial bonuses. Such a practice incentivises teachers to focus primarily on high achieving students instead of every student in the classroom.

Policy issues

Achieving North Macedonia’s goals for raising student achievement and creating more learner-centred instruction will require far greater support for teachers. The teacher appraisal system needs to be revised to better identify teachers’ development needs, and recognise and encourage the teaching practices that will help to improve student learning. As a priority, the ministry should implement its 2016 plans to introduce a performance-based career structure to incentivise good teaching. The latter needs to be complemented by expanding the range of quality professional learning and development opportunities throughout a teacher’s career.

Policy issue 3.1. Ensuring that entry into, and progression along the teaching career path is based on professional competence

The ministry should ensure that selection into, and initial certification at the end of teacher education, is more rigorous. This will help to ensure that new teachers start their career with the minimum competence to teach. At the same time, implementing the merit-based career path that was developed in 2016 will help motivate teachers to develop new competencies and take on new roles and responsibilities (Santiago et al., 2013[3]). Many OECD countries are moving towards introducing similar career structures, which serve not only to identify and reward the most effective teachers, but also to leverage their expertise to improve the quality of teaching across the education system. In North Macedonia, teachers who are promoted to advisor and mentor levels will support other teachers. The latter will mean that teachers can receive regular, sustained guidance related to their daily teaching practice. These are some of the features of the most effective models of teacher support, and in North Macedonia will be essential to meet the challenge of improving teaching and learning at the national level.

Recommendation 3.1.1. Introduce the planned performance-based teacher career structure

Before implementing the 2016 plans for a merit-based career structure, the BDE and the ministry will need to clearly define the process of external appraisal. The 2016 plan broadly defines how appraisal for promotion should function (e.g. the responsible body and the pre-requisites for teachers to apply), but it does not spell-out how teachers seeking a promotion will be appraised by BDE advisors and the process of this appraisal. The latter is essential for effective implementation, so that the new appraisal is a professional process that genuinely rewards merit, and is recognised and trusted by teachers as being fair.

The ministry will also need to ensure that BDE and VETC evaluators receive sufficient preparation and guidance for accurate and fair judgements about teaching competence. Finally, the ministry will need to ensure that other teacher policies such as professional development are based on the new teacher standards and are well-aligned with the new career structure.

Focus appraisal on collecting authentic evidence of teachers’ readiness to move up the career path

To make a fair judgement on teaching competence, evaluators from the BDE will need to draw on different sources of information. These might include:

  • Classroom observation: classroom observation is a key component of all types of appraisal since it enables direct observation of the core aspects of teaching (Goe, Biggers and Croft, 2012[9]). To help evaluators conduct this process as consistently and objectively as possible and ensure that it is able to discriminate the competencies required by teachers to move to the next level, further guidance will need to be developed (see below).

  • Teacher portfolio: BDE advisors might also review teachers’ portfolios, since portfolios also provide authentic examples of teaching practices. However, the current design of teacher portfolios in North Macedonia means that they do not currently provide this information. At present, the portfolios include lesson plans and student work, which are a helpful indication of their classroom practices. However, they also include other forms and documents that teachers prepare specifically for the portfolio such as minutes of meetings. This portfolio is checked by the SEI during the School Integral Inspection, but it seems to fulfil a primarily administrative compliance role.

    The portfolios will need to be revised to include more meaningful information about teaching by limiting the documents included in the portfolio to those that teachers produce or collect from students as part of their regular classroom practices. Such documents include samples of lesson plans, student work and student report cards (Santiago et al., 2017[27]). Teachers who are seeking promotion should also be required to include evidence of more complex teaching pedagogical approaches like performance-based assessments. Other documents produced primarily for the purpose of being included in the portfolio such as minutes from teacher-parent meetings can be a source of distraction from a teacher’s core functions, reveal little about teaching competence and should be excluded.

    Documents such as activity plans for extra-curricular activities can be considered as optional and left to the discretion of teachers to include in their portfolio. In general, the teacher portfolio should provide a narrative of a teacher’s experience in the classroom and his or her aspirations for the future (Tucker, Stronge and Gareis, 2013[28]). Thus, teachers should be given the possibility to add documents that they deem helpful in illustrating their teaching competencies.

  • Interview with the candidate: an interview between the evaluator and teacher provides the opportunity to discuss how the teacher views the development of their career, their motivation and career maturity. To focus the interview on relevant information for the promotion decision, evaluators should be provided with prompts like “ how have you demonstrated aptitudes required for the next teaching level?”

Develop indicators and descriptors of quality teaching

Appraisal for promotion should focus on teachers’ readiness to move to the next level in the teaching career path. The appraisal by the BDE or VETC advisors needs to focus on observing teaching practice that demonstrates teachers have developed higher levels of teaching competence. In order to do this, BDE and VETC advisors need greater guidance when undertaking the appraisals. At present, there is a BDE classroom observation protocol for regular appraisal. However, it is not aligned with the 2016 teaching standards. It also does not include descriptors to guide advisors’ judgement about the performance of appraised teachers.

Appraisal indicators and descriptors should be developed to guide evaluators when undertaking promotion appraisals. In many OECD countries, frameworks and guidance for appraisal for promotion have been inspired by the four-point performance scale in the Danielson’s Framework for Teaching (Danielson, 2007[25]). This includes Chile’s Good Teaching Framework indicators that identifies four levels of performance and the criteria required to reach each. North Macedonia might consider these criteria when developing teacher appraisal indicators (see Box 3.2).

Develop BDE and VETC evaluators’ capacity for appraisal

The 2016 plans propose that the BDE would be the main institution responsible for appraising teachers for promotion, drawing on advisors from the VETC when appraising vocational subject teachers. However, the BDE has a limited number of permanent advisors (70 advisors for about 25 000 teachers in 2017), who had previously worked as teachers and are well-regarded in the country. The BDE needs to be given the financial resources to hire sufficient advisors for the appraisal for promotion. Evaluators would need to receive training and guidelines on how to appraise teachers’ competencies in line with the teaching standards. This step is necessary to ensure that advisors have the professional competence to undertake their new role. This will help to build the trust of the teaching community and limit political interference. In Chile, practising teachers go through selection and training and only those who are rated as outstanding and competent can apply to become peer evaluators (Box 3.2). They receive training in two full-day seminars, during which they learn about the questions to be asked in the peer interview and the rubrics to be applied in assigning performance ratings. The training also includes exercises and feedback to the participants (Santiago et al., 2013[3]).

Box 3.2. Performance criteria and levels in teacher standards

In Danielson’s Framework for Teaching, the four main dimensions of the teacher framework (planning and preparation, the classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities) relate to further components, (for example, one component of “the classroom environment” is creating an environment of respect and rapport). Each component is related to an element to be evaluated, for example, “creating an environment of respect and rapport” is assessed by evaluating “teacher interaction with students”. Each element is accompanied by a brief description of performance according to a four-point scale:

  • Unsatisfactory: interaction with at least some students is negative or inappropriate to the age or culture of the students; students exhibit disrespect for the teacher.

  • Basic: interaction is generally appropriate but may reflect inconsistencies, favouritism or disregard for students’ cultures; students exhibit minimal respect for the teacher.

  • Proficient: interactions are friendly, demonstrating warmth, caring and respect, and appropriate to developmental and cultural norms; students exhibit respect for the teacher.

  • Distinguished: the teacher demonstrates genuine caring and respect for individual students, and students respect the teacher as an individual.

Chile’s Good Teaching Framework

The Good Teaching Framework that guides appraisal in Chile set out four domains of teacher responsibilities (preparation for teaching, creation of an environment favouring the learning process, teaching that allows the learning process of all students, and professional responsibilities). Each domain is linked to a specific set of criteria that teachers should demonstrate within each domain as well as descriptors that set out how teachers can be expected to demonstrate the criteria.

Example of domains and criteria from Chile’s Good Teaching Framework

Domains

Criteria (the teachers should be prepared to)

Examples of descriptors

A – preparation for teaching

A1. Master the subject taught and the national curricular framework.

A2. Know the characteristics, knowledge and experiences of his/her students.

A3. Master the didactics of the subjects or disciplines taught by him/her.

A4. Organise the objectives and contents consistently with the curricular framework and the characteristics of particular students.

A5. Use assessment strategies that are consistent with the learning objectives, the subject taught, and the national curricular framework, and allow all students to show what they have learnt.

The teacher

- knows and understands the core principles and concepts involved in the subject(s) or discipline(s) taught by him/her.

- knows the different perspectives and the new developments in the subject(s) or discipline(s) taught by him/her.

- understands the relationship between the contents taught by him/her and the contents taught in other subject(s) or discipline(s)

- knows the relationships between the contents of the sub-sector taught by him/her and the reality.

- masters the principles of the curricular framework and the focus of the sub-sector taught by him/her.

Four levels are used to describe teacher performance against the standards (outstanding, proficient, basic, poor). Examples of performance at each level are provided for each descriptor. The table below sets out the performance levels for descriptor A.1.1. – “the teacher knows and understands the core principles and concepts involved in the subject(s) or discipline(s) taught by him/her”:

Outstanding

The teacher shows a wide knowledge of the contents taught by him/her and establishes connections between such contents and the different aspects of his/her subject or discipline and reality, showing a permanent updating of such knowledge.

Competent

The teacher shows a strong knowledge of the contents taught by him/her and establishes connections between such contents and the different aspects of his/her subject by relating them with reality.

Basic

The teacher shows a basic knowledge of the contents taught by him/her, but is unable to establish connections with other aspects of his/her subject, or relate them with reality.

Unsatisfactory

The teacher makes mistakes regarding the contents of the subject taught by him/her, and/or is unable to be aware of the mistakes made by the students.

Sources: (Danielson and McGreal, 2000[29]), Teacher evaluation to enhance professional practice, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), Alexandria, Virginia; (OECD, 2013[2]), OECD Reviews of evaluation and Assessment in Education, Synergies for Better Learning: An International Perspective on Evaluation and Assessment, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/ 9789264190658-en; (Santiago et al., 2013[3]), Teacher Evaluation in Chile 2013, OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264172616-en .

Link career promotion to a salary increase to reward performance

Contrary to practices in most OECD countries, the 2016 career structure plan does not explicitly define how career advancement will be linked to salary progression. The absence of a financial reward in the career advancement plan may discourage many teachers from applying for a promotion. For instance, in neighbouring Serbia, while a merit-based career advancement plan was introduced in 2011, only a limited number of teachers apply for advanced positions due to the limited financial incentive to do so.

Introducing differentiated salaries for teachers as they move up the career path might be accompanied by a general review of the teacher salary structure in North Macedonia. Aside from linking promotions to higher salaries (which should address the slow salary progression at present), this should also focus on creating a stronger link between performance and salary. At present, salary increases in North Macedonia are based on years of experience. However, in most OECD countries salary progression is also based on good results from regular appraisals to incentive good teaching practices, as well as years of experience (OECD, 2013[2]). In order to implement a similar system in North Macedonia, there needs to be more clarity around the criteria that teachers have to meet for a positive regular appraisal and the steps that should be taken to address underperformance.

Clarify the link between professional development and career advancement

In a merit-based career development structure, teachers need to demonstrate more advanced competencies to move up the career path (OECD, 2013[2]). This often requires professional development to gain new skills and update practices. This is recognised in North Macedonia’s 2016 plans, which requires teachers to complete a specified number of professional development credits to qualify for promotion and in the requirement that teachers develop their professional development plan based on the results of their self-evaluation.

However, teachers are not provided with guidance about which professional development training will best help them gain the competencies needed to move up the career path. Without such guidance, the professional development requirement risks becoming a compliance exercise with teachers attending training simply to gain the necessary points for promotion. To ensure that the career structure effectively encourages teachers to improve their skills, the following should be considered:

  • Clearly identifying the competencies targeted by the trainings provided. As part of its role for accrediting and cataloguing continuous professional development training, the BDE should clearly signal the competencies that are targeted by each accredited training (see Recommendation 3.3.1). It is important that the VETC be engaged when a similar exercise targeted at the vocational education and training sector is undertaken.

  • Ensuring that school principals and pedagogues are able to orient teachers towards the training that will be help them. To do so, the BDE needs to organise training sessions for school principals, pedagogues, psychologists and SEN specialists on how to help teachers identify their learning needs and relevant professional development that will meet them. Linking teachers’ development plans explicitly with the new teacher competencies will also help. The VETC has an important role in helping support school principals and pedagogues in VET institutions.

  • Requiring teachers to demonstrate how they have applied completed professional development to their role. Teachers should be required to demonstrate how they have integrated what they learn during professional development into their classroom practice as part of the promotion appraisal, to demonstrate increasingly sophisticated teaching knowledge and practice. As part of the appraisal interview, this might include discussing specific examples of the changes that they have made to their lesson planning, classroom activities and student tasks, demonstrated by items from their portfolio.

  • Developing built-in rewards to incentivise teachers to progress in the career path by, for example, offering salary progressions or other benefits (e.g. scholarships). Support mechanisms and specific rewards targeted at teachers in less developed regions of the country should be established to ensure that they have the same opportunities to progress as their peers in advantaged regions.

Recommendation 3.1.2. Select the most qualified candidates for teaching and ensure that they receive adequate support during probation

Countries with strong education systems invest significantly in making sure that they attract and select talented and motivated candidates into teaching, and provide them with adequate training to develop the competencies required to be effective teachers (Schleicher, 2015[30]). In North Macedonia, entry into teacher initial education is not selective. A study has shown that the acceptance rate into initial teacher education programmes in universities is almost 100% across the country (Mickovska et al., 2013[19]). Moreover, while there is university accreditation, it is not providing robust quality assurance.

North Macedonia needs be more rigorous in the certification and full registration of new teachers. This will require introducing minimum national standards of quality in the certification process, based on the expected competencies for novice teachers, and enforcing them across initial teacher training providers. The mentorship model developed in 2016 should also be implemented to ensure that all trainee teachers receive the necessary in-school support to become confirmed teachers.

Set higher standards for accreditation of initial teacher education programmes

The ministry is aware that ensuring all teacher candidates meet minimum competence standards at the end of initial teacher education is critical to improve teaching quality in the country. This is reflected in the proposal to create an academy that would introduce an additional year of initial teacher training at the end of a candidate’s bachelors, for the purpose of selecting and training teacher candidates.

While the intent of the academy is positive, it will not address the deeper problem of lack of selection and heterogeneity in the quality of initial teacher education programmes. Instead of introducing an additional layer of initial selection, it would be more efficient and effective to make initial teacher education more selective and rigorous. There are currently no common standards and no means to compare the quality of training across initial teacher training providers. The ministry has very weak leverage points on the universities to enforce quality standards. The university programme accreditation system uses similar quality criteria for all tertiary education programmes, which means that it does not provide effective quality control of the content of initial teacher education.

As part of a wider reform of the accreditation of tertiary, North Macedonia needs to ensure that the accreditation of initial teacher education programmes in universities is specific to teacher education and is aligned with the 2016 teaching standards. Along with the standards, the BDE has developed guidelines explaining the competencies that a novice teacher is expected to have. As part of accreditation, universities should be expected to clearly demonstrate how their training programmes will help students meet the competencies of novice teachers described by the teaching standards in order to be accredited (see Box 3.3).

Box 3.3. Ireland’s initial teacher education criteria and guidelines

In 2010, the Teaching Council in Ireland, which accredits initial teacher education programmes, established an Advisory Group on Initial Teacher Education as part of the country’s efforts to revise initial teacher education by engaging relevant stakeholders and co-ordinating their input. The Advisory Group consisted of representatives of the Teaching Council, Ireland’s Department of Education and Skills, initial teacher education providers and schools. Its main responsibility was to advise the Council on new criteria and guidelines to be followed by providers of initial teacher education programmes. The Group also formed a bridge between the Teaching Council’s policy and the development and implementation of initial teacher education programmes.

The criteria and guidelines the Teaching Council established emphasise that programmes should prepare teacher candidates “for teaching, learning and assessment” related to the school curriculum. Specifically, a number of criteria and guidelines highlight preparation in classroom assessment. For example, initial teacher education providers must ensure that:

  • Teaching, learning and assessment are mandatory elements of the programme.

  • School placements provide opportunities for teacher candidates to practice teaching, learning and assessment using a wide range of strategies.

  • Graduates of initial teacher education programmes achieve knowledge of key principles of planning, teaching, learning, assessment, reflection and self-evaluation (e.g. knowing the theory, concepts and methods of formative and summative assessment; understanding students as active learners). Graduates should also have developed skills in planning, teaching, learning and assessment (e.g. using a range of strategies to assess students’ progress; assessing students’ achievement of curriculum objectives and adapting their teaching accordingly).

Source: (The Teaching Council, 2017[31]), Initial Teacher Education: Criteria and Guidelines for Programme Providers, http://www.teachingcouncil.ie/en/Publications/Teacher-Education/Initial-Teacher-Education-Criteria-and-Guidelines-for-Programme-Providers.pdf.

Make entry into initial teacher education more selective

As well as addressing accreditation, North Macedonia should prioritise reforming entry into initial teacher education. The current approach, which means that almost all candidates who apply receive a place, has a number of negative consequences for the teaching profession. First, it does not ensure that only candidates with strong academic skills and a clear motivation to teach enter the profession. Second, it is resulting in a significant oversupply of new teachers which undermines the attractiveness of the profession, especially in the absence of fair and consistent information to help schools select new teachers. Finally, it is an inefficient use of government resources (since all initial teacher education places within the quota are subsidised by the government), in an education system where education spending is consistently below international benchmarks.

The current oversupply of teachers, combined with the declining student population creates significant space to be more selective about who enters teacher education. One simple way to do this in the short term is to reduce the quotas for government-funded places. The revised quota would encourage universities to use matura results to be more selective about candidates who receive a place. The ministry might also consider introducing minimum marks in core subjects like mother tongue and mathematics for eligibility for teacher education programmes. This would ensure that all teacher candidates have strong core academic skills. In the future, universities might also be encouraged to use interviews to select candidates. An interview provides the opportunity to evaluate a candidate’s motivation to teach, as well as socio-emotional skills which are essential for good teaching.

Consider introducing a national qualification exam

The ministry should also consider introducing a national qualification examination at the end of initial teacher education to make sure that all certified teachers meet minimum standards to teach. In OECD countries with similar practices, qualification examinations include an assessment of teachers’ subject knowledge, pedagogy and basic numeracy and literacy skills (Hobson et al., 2010[32]). For example, in Germany prospective teachers must pass the Second State Examination after the completion of initial teacher education. The examination assesses candidates’ knowledge of their chosen subject, civil service legislation and school administration. In addition, candidates undertake a practical teaching examination (see Box 3.4). An examination will also put pressure on universities to adapt their programmes to meet the standards of the qualification examination. Making the passing rates by university in the national examination public will also help inform the choices of students, and further incentivise universities to invest in the quality of their training. To avoid redundancy and examination burden, the national qualification examination can replace the confirmation examination, currently at the end of the probation period. While an examination gives a good measure of teachers’ knowledge, it is not enough to fully certify a teacher. Full registration requires a broader assessment of a teacher’s competencies, including classroom practices (Hobson et al., 2010[32]). Appraisal for probation, including classroom observations, is a better method to evaluate a novice teacher’s competence.

Box 3.4. Certification examination after ITE in Germany

Following the completion of initial teacher education (a consecutive three-year Bachelor and a two-year Masters’ degree, concluded by the First State Examination) and of the preparatory service (that consists of teaching practicum and attendance to teachers’ seminars), prospective teachers must pass the Second State Examination (‘Staatsexamen’). The Second State Examination has to be taken before a State Examination Board or a State Examination Commission.

Although the content varies across Länder, the Second State Examination usually consists of four parts (some states only have three components to the examination). The first part consists in the majority of Länder of submitting a major written paper relating to educational theory, pedagogic psychology or the didactics of one of the subjects studied. Second, prospective teachers have to pass an oral practical teaching examination involving demonstration lessons in the chosen subjects. The third part consists of an examination on basic questions of educational theory, educational and civil service legislation and school administration and occasionally on sociological aspects of school education. The fourth part consists of an examination on didactic and methodological issues in the subjects studied. It generally includes a written thesis, an oral assessment, and a demonstration/evaluation of teaching skills. Nearly all teachers pass this examination. The weighting of each component of the Second State Examination vary across the Länder. The second State Examination is a pre-requisite for, but not a guarantee of permanent employment in the state school sector.

For alternative routes into teaching, candidates must have a master’s degree, which must include “at least two teaching-related subjects,” and complete the preparatory service and Second State Examination or a state-approved equivalent.

Sources: (NCEE, n.d.[33]), NCEE | Germany: Teacher and Principal Quality, http://ncee.org/what-we-do/center-on-international-education-benchmarking/top-performing-countries/germany-overview/germany-teacher-and-principal-quality-2/ (accessed on 14 April 2018); (Eurydice, n.d.[34]), Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education, Eurydice, https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content /initial-education-teachers-working-early-childhood-and-school-education-30_en (accessed on 14 April 2018); (Krueger, n.d.[35]), Teacher Education in Germany, Ministry of Education, State of Hessen, http://entep.unibuc.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/NAT_REPORTS_KRUEGER.pdf.

Ensure that all teachers receive quality mentorship during their probation

Mentorship programmes are an effective way to help new teachers learn from experienced peers (OECD, 2010[36]).The existence of a framework for mentorship in North Macedonia is a positive component of the teacher induction process. The country has clear guiding documents defining the role and responsibilities of mentors and mentees, and how the process should be carried out. However, this framework has not been implemented and many trainee teachers do not receive mentorship as part of their probation period.

As part of implementation of the new teacher career structure, the teacher mentor role will be recognised and rewarded as a higher level in the teacher’s career path. School principals can then assign mentors to novice teachers from a pool of mentors. To make sure that quality mentorship is effectively taking place in schools, the ministry needs to consider:

  • Ensuring that mentors receive adequate training on how to coach a novice teacher and how to appraise their performance. Such training should be mandatory for all newly appointed teacher mentors. In developing the training, the ministry and BDE can draw on the experience of countries with well-established mentoring programmes, such as Estonia (see Box 3.5). The mentorship guidelines developed in 2016 by the BDE and USAID should be provided to all mentors.

  • Legally setting the time requirement for mentors. Effective mentoring requires adequate time and effective preparation. In North Macedonia, teacher mentors should be given significant, dedicated time for mentoring and its preparation, which will mean reducing their teaching time.

  • All teachers in North Macedonia would also benefit from greater guidance on how to spend non-teaching time. For example, novice teachers should receive specific time for receiving mentoring.

  • Creating a network of teacher mentors that work with several schools. Giving the demographic changes in North Macedonia and the need to reduce the number of teachers recruited into the profession, there will not be a need for teacher mentors in every school. Mentors can thus be assigned across several schools and work as a network to exchange ideas and practices. This might be co-ordinated by the BDE or the municipalities.

Box 3.5. Estonian strategy to further develop school leaders, 2014-20

Plans to strengthen the evaluation of school leader performance

School leaders should be regularly assessed against the competence requirements for the position. The role of a school leader in creating a school’s culture is of crucial significance, because the learning environment depends first and foremost on the school leader – whether they value, motivate and support a learner and their developmental potential, whether they support the development of teachers and other school staff members, and whether the school works well with the community and families. In order for Estonian schools to be led by competent and motivated school leaders, who have the determination and ability to carry out the objectives set out in the strategy, the following steps need to be taken:

  • Associations of School Leaders of pre-primary institutions, general education schools, vocational schools and institutions of professional higher education, and school owners will develop and the Ministry of Education and Research will implement competence requirements for school leaders. This will be the basis for recruiting school leaders, providing feedback on their performance, as well as offering additional training, which among other things also emphasises the objective of implementing the new approach to learning.

  • The Ministry of Education and Research will launch a training programme for future school leaders, from which the best candidates will be chosen through open competition (see below).

  • The Ministry of Education and Research, in co-operation with school owners, will develop an external appraisal system for school leaders, through which they will get regular professional feedback about their work and how it relates to the school’s results, as well as suggestions for additional training. The quality indicators of the institution will be used as the basis in assessing the results of the work of the school leader.

New professional development programmes for school leaders in 2015

  • School team development programme: 12-month management training programme with the school leader and two other staff members, covering different school management topics. Each module includes tasks which form the basis of a school development project. There is a follow up six months after the end of the programme to observe how the project is being implemented.

  • School Leader Offspring Programme: 24-month development programme for future school leaders, open to school staff, plus individuals from other sectors. Participants are selected via a competition. Each participant has a mentor and performs field training in schools. The programme offers different modules, including an introduction to pedagogy and the management of learning for those not in the education sector.

  • Programme for new school leaders: A programme designed to help new school leaders with implementing their responsibilities and to shorten their introduction period. It provides an overview of legislation, financial management, innovation in education, trends, etc. and provides a co-operation network.

Source: (Santiago et al., 2016[37]), OECD Reviews of School Resources: Estonia 2016, OECD Reviews of School Resources, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264251731-en .

Make BDE advisors the final decision makers for probation appraisal

By ensuring that all novice teachers receive a mentor who develops a report that contributes to their probation appraisal, probation appraisals in North Macedonia will provide a more accurate reflection of a novice’s teachers’ competencies. However, given the high stakes that probation appraisal carries for a teacher’s career and the challenges of ensuring objectivity and independence at the school-level, consideration should be given to strengthening and formalising BDE advisors’ involvement in the probation decision. This might follow a similar arrangement as other countries where an external evaluator is involved in probation appraisal, with the BDE advisor responsible for taking the final decision but informed by evidence from the mentor’s report. As discussed below, this will need to be accompanied by a revision and reinforcement of the BDE’s role (see Recommendation 3.3.3.).

Policy issue 3.2. Developing a culture of learning and feedback in schools

North Macedonia has three processes of regular appraisal – as part of external school evaluations by SEI inspectors, by BDE advisors and school-level appraisal by school leadership. These processes are not co-ordinated, overlap and show little evidence of improving teaching practices.

One reason is that the processes are currently not underpinned by common teaching standards. The BDE, SEI and school leaders use different guidelines and different descriptors of teaching quality (see Table 3.2). Some teachers reported to the review team receiving contradictory feedback from the SEI inspectors and the BDE advisors. Teachers also reported feeling a high level of administrative burden from the required reporting and paperwork for both processes. Another challenge is that two of these processes – by the SEI and the BDE ‒ are external to the school and are led by agencies that do not have the human resources for regular and meaningful classroom observations.

This review recommends that North Macedonia phase out the role of the BDE and the SEI in regular appraisal. Instead, the SEI should focus on undertaking the whole of school evaluations (see Chapter 4). The BDE should become the main external body for teacher appraisal, responsible for appraisal for probation and promotion (see Recommendation 3.1.1.), and for providing guidance and support to the “Teacher Actives” (see Recommendation 3.2.2.). The VETC would continue to play a role in the appraisal of teachers in vocational subjects. This clear definition of roles will help reduce redundancies and improve school evaluation and teacher appraisal practices in North Macedonia.

The review recommends that the ministry focus on developing in-school practices for regular appraisal and support for teachers. Research shows that support at the school level, which is sustained and connected to teachers’ daily practices, is the most effective in improving teaching practices. North Macedonia has several in-schools practices to help teachers ‒ the “Teacher Actives”, the multi-professional support team and the regular process of in-school teacher appraisal. However, they are not well-implemented in all schools and there are few external resources to support them. The BDE will need to provide guidance to schools and additional tools to develop these practices into a coherent system of in-school feedback and development. This is particularly important given the fact that North Macedonia has a young teaching workforce that needs support and guidance to develop good teaching practices.

Recommendation 3.2.1. Guide principals and pedagogues to make regular appraisal a more meaningful process

Regular appraisal in North Macedonia already draws on many of the processes and sources of evidence that are recognised to provide some of the most relevant insights into teaching practice. This include classroom observations and teacher portfolios. However, these processes are not effectively focused on the most important aspects of teaching for student learning. They are also disconnected from the fundamental purpose of regular appraisal – to support teachers to consolidate existing skills and acquire new skills, to move up the teaching career path.

Focus regular appraisal on teacher competencies

In order to support teacher development, regular appraisal needs to be clearly connected to the overall competencies that teachers are expected to develop. However in North Macedonia, a third of teachers surveyed for this review reported that they did not know what criteria they were evaluated against during their regular appraisal. Once the new teacher standards are implemented, they should clearly guide the regular appraisal process in North Macedonia. This review recommends that North Macedonia revises regular appraisal to focus on classroom observations for formative feedback, reviewing a teacher’s portfolio together and a teacher’s self-reflection at the end of the year. This can be followed by a discussion between the evaluator and teacher to identify areas for improvement and establish a development plan for the coming year.

Each of these elements needs to be clearly focused on appraising a teacher against the new teacher standards, and encouraging their further development to higher levels of teaching competence. For example, guidance for principals and pedagogues on how to observe classroom practices should encourage them to look for evidence of the competencies set out in the teacher standards. The standards might be used to develop a report template and a simple appraisal grid.

North Macedonia should ensure that regular appraisal informs individual development plans for all teachers. Development plans provide specific and discrete areas of improvement and set out how the teacher intends to address them during the coming year. Evaluators and teachers being evaluated should work together to establish plans at the end of a regular appraisal, guided by the new teacher standards. For example, if the appraisal has indicated a learning need in one or more competency areas, this should be the focus of the teachers’ development plan for the coming year. Principals and pedagogues should also use previous appraisal reports and development plans to guide future regular appraisals. If, for example, a particular area has been flagged as a development need, during the classroom observation the evaluator might focus on this competency area in particular.

Revise teacher portfolios

Teachers’ portfolios can be a powerful tool for regular appraisal, as they can provide authentic examples of a teacher’s practices. It is also a tool for self-reflection on one’s teaching practices (OECD, 2013[2]). However, as North Macedonia’s current experience with portfolios demonstrates, it can be difficult to make them effective in this way. At present, the teacher portfolio is not systematically used by principals and pedagogues in regular appraisal to provide feedback, and is perceived by teachers as an administrative burden that distracts them from teaching.

Given that many principals, pedagogues and teachers are not accustomed to using the portfolio in a formative manner, the BDE can develop guidelines on how to meaningfully use it and examples of good practice. One option to help focus portfolios on teachers’ growth and development might be to use the new teacher standards to orient the portfolio towards demonstrating competencies. Portfolios might focus specifically on areas for development as set out in a teacher’s development plan for the coming year. In this way, the portfolio would provide a record of how the teacher had pursued their development over the year and evidence of this, which can inform their self-reflection as part of the regular appraisal process.

Introduce self-evaluation

Contrary to practices in most OECD countries, teachers in North Macedonia are not required to evaluate their own performance and identify the areas they would like to develop (OECD, 2013[2]). Self-appraisal allows teachers to play a more active role in their professional development, by reflecting on their teaching practices, the personal organisational and institutional factors that may impact this, and how they plan to develop. Self-appraisal can also encourage teachers to set up regular professional development goals for themselves and objectives for their teaching (OECD, 2013[2]).

North Macedonia should consider introducing self-appraisal as part of the in-school regular appraisal process. To support this, teachers should be provided with simple self-appraisal templates that they can use if they need direction. Information from self-appraisal can inform the discussion between the teacher and the school leadership to develop the teacher’s professional development plan.

Provide principals and pedagogue with training on teacher appraisal

Principals and pedagogues do not receive the necessary training and technical support to make appraisal a meaningful exercise (Mickovska et al., 2013[19]). In 2005, North Macedonia introduced an initial training programme for principals but it is relatively short (12 days). The programme’s main purpose is to prepare principals to take a licensing examination rather than acquiring the skills needed for a pedagogical leader like appraisal techniques. Since initial training has only been recently introduced, the majority of in-service principals have not received any preparation for their role.

It is important that future school principals and pedagogues receive sufficient training in appraisal techniques as part of their initial preparation. This will require lengthening the initial preparation programme for principals, and ensuring that training focuses on practical knowledge for observing teaching and providing feedback for improvement. The initial principal training specifically on appraisal might also be opened up to school pedagogues. In the short term, the BDE can also organise training sessions on appraisal for school principals and pedagogues. These training sessions can be provided by school principal training providers from other European countries with established programmes for principals’ initial preparation.

Recommendation 3.2.2. Develop the “Teacher Actives”

Teachers in North Macedonia have an informal culture of in-school collaboration. They exchange teaching material and discuss students’ learning and work with each other as part of in-school teacher subject groups called “Teachers Actives”. This kind of in-school collaboration is one of the most effective modes of continuous learning for teachers. It helps teachers better understand and meet students’ learning needs, and increases their self-esteem and sense of self-efficacy (Schleicher, 2016[1]). It is unclear however if North Macedonia’s “Teacher Actives” are effectively in place in all schools. There is no clear expectation that teachers participate in the “Actives” or dedicated time to devote to it, and the “Actives” lack any external support or funding. Schools need to be provided with more help and guidance to develop the “Teacher Actives” and foster a culture of in-school learning and development.

Give “Actives” a clear mandate for teachers’ professional development

The BDE can encourage schools to develop their “Teacher Actives” by giving them an official role in teacher professional development. This might entail:

  • In the immediate term, giving schools examples of collaborative professional development activities that “Teacher Actives” can undertake. Such activities might include: observing each other’s classes and providing feedback, organising in-school training activities by choosing programmes most suited to the needs of teachers from the BDE catalogue; and leading guided collaborative inquiries (Content-Based Collaborative Inquiry) to better understand what changes in teaching practices can help improve students’ learning (Kedzior and Fifield, 2004[38]). In Vietnam for example, teachers from the same subject group observe each other’s classes and organise in-school professional development activities (see Box 3.6 ).

  • Another immediate step could be to invite teachers from other European countries with a long experience of in-school teacher collaboration such as teachers from the Nordic or Baltic countries to visit schools in North Macedonia and share their experiences with collaborative learning. Such activities could be financed by European Union funds as part of Erasmus+.

  • Specifying a minimum number of hours that teachers are expected to contribute to participating and contributing to the “Actives” or other forms of collaborative learning activities at the school level as part of their non-instructional time. This can support a more effective use of non-teaching time and improve teaching practices.

Box 3.6. Subject groups in Vietnamese schools

Teachers in Viet Nam are personally responsible for their professional development. Teachers are expected to design and implement an annual personal professional development plan for the year based on feedback from the performance management system, which is monitored by the school principal.

Informal professional learning takes place through the work of subject groups, a distinctive feature of the Vietnamese education system. Under the co-ordination of the subject lead, teachers from the same subject observe each other, grade each other’s teaching and provide diagnostic feedback. As such, subject groups act as an accountability mechanism and a forum for professional development based on classroom-level peer coaching. The regular classroom visits principals make to observe teaching also appear to provide an important form of pedagogical coaching for teachers. As with the subject group, monitoring by principals is about coaching teachers as well as grading teaching quality.

Source: (Mcaleavy, Ha and Fitzpatrick, 2018[39]), Promising Practice: Government Schools in Vietnam, education Development Trust, Reading, https://www.educationdevelopmenttrust.com/our-research-and-insights/research/promising-practice-government-schools-in-vietnam.

Train co-ordinators of “Teacher Actives” and ensure that this role is recognised in the merit-based teacher career structure

Within schools the BDE should designate and train co-ordinators of the “Teacher Actives” to ensure that “Actives” are developed across all schools. The ministry can prioritise training for co-ordinators in priority subjects and grades such as reading and mathematics in primary schools, or how to best support students from the Albanian ethnic minority (see Box 3.7 for example of Georgia). Once the merit-based career structure is implemented, teacher advisers should be given a clear mandate to co-ordinate the work of “Actives”, with this stated in their responsibilities.

In North Macedonia, the informal teacher groups – the “Teacher Actives” also need to be provided with some small discretionary funds to undertake their development activities. The main cost for “Actives” are the materials used in meetings and training sessions. Funding, can also cover the costs of bringing an external expert to moderate or guide a training session.

Box 3.7. Teacher Learning Circles in Georgia

Launched in 2011, and ending in 2016 the Georgia Primary Education Project (G-PriEd) was programme designed by USAID to provide comprehensive assistance to around 28% of Georgia’s public schools to improve the reading and mathematics competencies of students in grades 1-6, and to introduce financial literacy. A major component of the project was supporting teachers to improve reading and mathematics instruction. The emphasis was on creating school-based professional development. In particular, teacher learning circles for mathematics and reading were created for teachers to collectively discuss student achievement and ways to enhance instructional effectiveness through discussion of examples of lesson plans and model classes. G-PriEd trained over 1 000 facilitators for each subject group to take on coaching functions and undertake classroom observation.

Source: (USAID, 2018[40]), Georgia Primary Education Project (G-PriEd), https://www.chemonics.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Georgia-Primary-Education-Project-G-PriEd-Final-Report.pdf.

Recommendation 3.2.3. Review the role of the in-school support team

Schools in North Macedonia fail to meet the learning needs of a majority of students. In 2015, over half of the students participating in PISA failed to reach proficiency Level 2 in science, mathematics and reading – considered the baseline level of skills required for productive participation in society (OECD, 2016[41]). A United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) study about inclusive education in North Macedonia showed that teachers were unable to reflect on the quality of their own teaching and how it impacts learning (UNICEF, 2010[42]).

The pedagogue, the SEN advisor, the psychologist and the principal are supposed to help teachers ensure that all students’ needs are met. However, the school support staff lack practical training to provide meaningful feedback to teachers. The review team observed that understanding of roles and responsibilities of pedagogues and SEN advisors varied across the sample of schools visited. Moreover, some of the school support staff, in particular SEN advisors and pedagogues, have no practical training or teaching experience, and their initial education focuses on outdated theories of special educational needs that in many respects run contrary to the principles of education inclusion. Significant changes will be required to how support staff work and are prepared if they are to have a positive influence on teachers’ classroom practice.

Revise the role of the school support team

The mandate of support staff should be clarified to focus more strongly on providing support to teachers on how to create a more effective and an inclusive learning environment. In some of the schools visited by the review team, pedagogues perceived their role as being limited to helping teachers manage “problem” students at high risk of failure, instead of supporting teachers to understand the learning needs of each student and help them design lesson plans that are adapted to their needs. This narrow definition of support for learning is not wide enough if the education system is to rapidly and significantly improve student learning outcomes. This will require a significant change to the role of the school support team and how they work with teachers.

The ministry should consider introducing a multi-tier support model, similar to that used in OECD countries such as Finland. This provides different “tiers” of support to meet the different needs of learners both in the classroom and outside through targeted support (Mitchell, 2014[43]). In a multi-tier approach, the school support team works together with teachers and the school principal to make sure that lesson plans effectively address the individual learning needs of students (Tier 1); students at risk of falling behind are provided with additional support in the classroom and through remedial classes (Tier 2); and students with serious learning deficiencies are provided with additional specialised support (Tier 3) (see Box 3.8). In order to introduce such comprehensive approach, the ministry will need to introduce major changes to how the school support team works: the MoES can build on the Guide for School Inclusive Teams developed in 2017 by the BDE in collaboration with UNICEF (BDE, 2017[44]).

  • Meeting regularly as a group to review teachers’ learning plans. Teachers in North Macedonia are required to set medium and long-term plans for their classes. These plans are mainly an administrative requirement with limited impact on teaching and learning practices. Instead, the multi-professional team should review the plans to ensure that teachers have identified the different learning needs of the students in their class (e.g. who is on track to achieve national standards, who needs further support and who needs to be challenged) and put in place differentiated strategies to meet these needs. Teachers should be provided with practical, specific and constructive feedback to help them improve their plans.

  • Meeting regularly with teachers to provide guidance and feedback on classroom practices. Currently, teachers meet with pedagogues and SEN advisors to discuss specific student cases. As part of the multi-tier approach, the support team should also provide teachers with advice on classroom-wide approaches to improve learning outcomes in addition to helping address specific cases. This kind of support would be particularly valuable at the start of the school year, to help teachers develop effective plans for the coming year, at regular intervals during the year (e.g. end of semester) and at the end of the school year to review how it has gone and discuss strategies for the coming year.

Box 3.8. Multi-tier intervention model in Finland

In 2007, Finland introduced a new Special Education Strategy that was fully implemented by 2011. The new strategy was a response to concerns expressed by several municipalities about the increasing number of students referred to SEN support. The new strategy introduced a three-tier level of support to students at risk of falling behind:

  • Tier 1: General support is accessible to all students and includes further in-class differentiation of learning, remedial teaching, co-teaching with specialised education needs teacher and part-time special education support. Organisation of this support is left at the discretion of the classroom or subject teacher.

  • Tier 2: A learning plan for intensified support is prepared for students who need additional support. Teachers identify the students at risk through a pedagogical assessment and develop an action plan. The plan is often the same as the Tier 1 support but implemented more intensively. It is left to the school to decide on whether to offer other evidence-based targeted interventions.

  • Tier 3: Special support is available when Tier 2 has proven ineffective to meet a student’s needs. A pedagogical evaluation is conducted by multi-professional team in the school. Access to Tier 3 support requires confirmation by the municipality. The planned actions are specified in an official document the Individual Education Plan” which has to be monitored and adjusted regularly.

Almost every school in Finland has multi-professional support teams that help teachers implement the multi-tier approach. These teams are led by the school principal and include psychologists, social workers, school nurses, special educators and occasionally speech therapists and medical doctors. The composition of the team and the intensity of the work vary to some extent by school size and location. In bigger cities and towns, the core team is present at school every week, which makes it easy to have regular meeting times. In remote areas, some professionals may be present only once or twice a month and not necessarily at the same time with the other professional groups. In those cases, more responsibility lies with the regular school personnel who need to select more carefully, which topics to discuss with the rarely seen team members.

In the majority of the Finnish schools, the teams meet weekly or bi-weekly to design and co-ordinate school- and class-level preventative work and general interventions. The team also monitors the situation of each class in the school to identify students at risk of falling behind in their learning. In practice, every class teacher or class supervisor attends the team meeting at least once a year to go into detail through the situation of their class and the individual students in it.

This policy was heavily supported by national authorities which provided municipalities with financial support over a period of four years to renew their curriculum, develop guiding documents for schools and train teachers prior to the legislation change.

Sources: (Thuneberg et al., n.d.[45]), Conceptual change in adopting the nationwide special education strategy in Finland, http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10833-013-9213-x; (Ahtiainen et al., 2012[46])Tehostettua ja erityistä tukea tarvitsevien oppilaiden opetuksen kehittäminen 2007–2011. Kehittävän arvioinnin loppuraportti [Development of Teaching Improved and Special Needs Students 2007-2011. Final report of the development] http://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/handle/10024/79219 (accessed on 27 April 2018).

Ensure that the school support team has the necessary skills and training to work as a multi-tier support team

Revising the role of the current school support team to become a multi-tier support team as outlined above will require a major reskilling of the existing team. In the immediate term, the ministry should provide mandatory training to pedagogues and SEN advisors on how to work with teachers to identify students’ needs and how they can be best supported. In the medium term, once the competency standards for school support staff developed in 2016 are implemented, the ministry needs to make sure that initial training of school support staff in universities is aligned with these standards and with modern concepts of SEN and inclusive education.

To make more effective use of the pedagogues, in the future the ministry may consider shifting their role from undertaking classroom observations of individual teachers to supporting the “Teacher Actives” (as well as working in the multi-tier support teams). This kind of support might include reviewing lesson plans in collaboration with other members of the school support team. Moreover, pedagogues should cover several schools in a municipality (as in the Finnish example Box 3.8).

Policy issue 3.3. Strengthening external support for teachers’ professional development

While strengthening in-school professional development is important to support teachers in adopting more effective practices, there remains an important role for external training, especially in a context such as North Macedonia, where the gaps in teacher knowledge and skills are significant and genuine pedagogical leadership capacity within most schools remains weak. At present, however, there are concerns with both the availability and the quality of external training courses in the country. The take-up of professional development is relatively low compared to OECD and Western Balkan countries, and schools receive very little financial support to organise in-service training for their staff. Moreover, there is a lack of alignment between the areas of priority for professional development identified by the BDE and the training needs of the teaching profession. As access to official training programmes is limited, teachers in North Macedonia often find and pay for training themselves and through informal teacher networks. To adequately respond to this demand, the BDE need to be provided with the necessary resources to offer quality professional development programmes. North Macedonia should also consider building on the experience of its informal online teacher networks to develop online training tools and resources for teachers.

Recommendation 3.3.1. Ensure that professional development meets teachers’ needs

Teachers’ participation in professional development is relatively low in North Macedonia, reflecting limited supply and quality. The country has a market-based teacher professional development model, with more than half of required professional development hours administered by external providers such as local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and universities. While this model can help to provide a range of professional development opportunities, especially when central government’s means are limited, it needs to be complemented by mechanisms for quality assurance. In North Macedonia however, the BDE has stopped accrediting professional development programmes. Insufficient financial resources also means that the BDE no longer provides funding to schools to subsidise teachers’ professional development.

Accredit training programmes based on teachers’ and national priorities

The BDE was responsible for maintaining a catalogue of accredited teacher professional development programmes. Teachers chose their training programmes from the catalogue based on their needs. The BDE needs to ensure that the accreditation process of training programmes is transparent, credible and based on international evidence about effective professional development. Some actors met by the review team questioned the transparency of the criteria used by the BDE to accredit training programmes in the past. A study in 2013 also pointed out that many teachers were unaware of the training programmes included in the catalogue (Mickovska et al., 2013[19]).

The areas of training that are accredited need to be informed by national priorities for learning. These areas can be identified through:

  • Teachers’ core competencies defined in the teaching standards. The training catalogue should be designed so that teachers can develop the full range of expected competencies. For each accredited training programme, the catalogue should clearly state the core competency it targets. This will enable teachers to identify training that will help them progress up the new teacher career path.

  • National priorities for teaching and learning as defined by the Education Strategy 2018-25 and the Action Plan for 2020. For example, the catalogue should offer training on key reforms such as the on-going curriculum reform.

  • Gaps identified in students’ learning. Effective professional development is informed by students’ learning needs. Standardised student assessments are a good source of information to identify areas in which students are facing difficulties (Kedzior and Fifield, 2004[38]). North Macedonia can use data from the proposed national student assessment once implemented to identify areas for training for teachers. Information from or national studies like the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and the Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) can also be used to identify needs for training.

  • Teachers’ training needs identified by the appraisal system. The BDE needs to systematise how information is collected about teachers’ training needs through appraisal. The BDE can request that school principals and pedagogues fill a questionnaire regularly about the main needs for training they observe in their schools.

Provide sufficient funding for teacher professional development

Increasing the funding for professional development is necessary to increase take-up and availability. As part of a new multi-year budget for the BDE, the ministry should ensure that the BDE has sufficient resources to fund the ten hours of quality training in national priority areas, which should continue to be provided free of charge to teachers. For the remaining hours of professional development that teachers are required to undertake (50 hours), earmarked subsidies should be given directly to schools as discretionary funding for choosing training that best serve the needs of their teachers.

Recommendation 3.3.2. Develop more digital resources to support continuous professional development

In North Macedonia, like in many other countries, the Internet has made it easier for teachers to collaborate beyond their schools and increased the range and amount of teaching tools that they can access (Schleicher, 2016[1]). It has also filled a gap left by limited investment in more traditional professional development tools. However, teachers’ use of the Internet is not supported by the government at present, making it difficult to scale-up in a structured way and ensure that all the content that is exchanged online meets minimum quality standards. The BDE should prioritise developing the online infrastructure for teachers to access tools and ideas and learn from each other. Such a policy would allow for flexibility in how teachers learn.

Make better use of online training and sharing of lesson materials

More than two-thirds of teachers responding to this review’s survey indicated that they rely heavily on student assessment tools and lesson plans from the Internet (OECD and UNICEF, 2018[47]). Such an ad-hoc practice can be systematically encouraged by the BDE creating a national repository of lesson plans and assessment tools. A national repository is also a good practice to ensure that teaching materials shared on line meet minimum quality criteria. This can be done by encouraging peer reviews of materials uploaded to the platform. In Moscow, the Russian Federation, for example, teachers upload their lesson plans to a municipal platform; they also review other teachers’ lesson plan and provide comments (see Box 3.9). Peer reviewers would need to be complemented by professional staff, perhaps from the BDE, to moderate content and assure quality.

In addition to material uploaded by teachers, the BDE can also develop templates and upload them to the platform to fill some gaps. The BDE can, for example, develop models of diagnostic assessments that teachers can use to better understand the learning needs of their students and upload them to the online repository (see Chapter 2).

The BDE can also develop online training courses as a complement to in-person professional development programmes. This can be done by making better use of the video and production material that was provided to the BDE as an in-kind donation. The BDE can use this material to produce short videos illustrating how to apply good teaching practices in the classroom. These short videos can be used to illustrate for example how teachers can make better use of formative assessment or implement the new curriculum. A similar online training model is used in Shanghai, China where teachers were provided with videos illustrating how to implement child-centred teaching practices in their classroom by showing how a lesson is conducted in a real classroom under this teaching model (OECD, 2011[48]).

Box 3.9. Moscow’s online school platform

In 2016, Moscow launched the Moscow Online School (MOS) as a pilot in six public schools, and it was fully rolled out in 2017. By October 2017, more than 90% of schools and 70% of kindergartens were using MOS. MOS is an online platform that contains digital textbooks, class registers and online daybook records. Daybooks allow teachers to record lesson content, related materials, home assignments and student’s academic performance and attendance that both students and parents can access.

Teachers use the MOS platform during class to upload their lesson plan and resources, which are projected on an interactive white-board. Students may also join through an app from their own personal devices, where they can also access additional information, from either school or home.

MOS also stores over 360 000 ready-made lesson plans and teaching resources, such as student assignments, which teachers can use and adapt accordingly. This platform encourages peer learning and exchanges among teachers. In addition, the system tracks the number of downloads of such materials, thereby encouraging competition among teachers. Moscow officials indicated an improvement in students’ grades and savings in administrative costs, since this programme has been adopted by schools.

Sources: (Medium, 2017[49]), Moscow to Revolutionize School Education with Online School Project, https://medium.com/smart-city-moscow/moscow-to-revolutionize-school-education-with-online-school-project-4cf131a8a386 (accessed on 4 May 2018), (MOS, 2016[50]), Moscow Online School, Instructions for use, https://www.mos.ru/en/news/item/16981073/ (accessed on 5 May 2018), (MOS, 2016[50]), Moscow Online School, Official Website, https://www.mos.ru/city/projects/mesh/ (accessed on 5 May 2018).

Develop online teacher networks

Collaborative learning and exchange of good practices in a teacher network are among the most effective modes of professional development. These forms of professional development tend to respond more closely to the needs of teachers in terms of learning (Schleicher, 2016[1]). In North Macedonia, as is the case in OECD countries, teachers are making use of new technologies and social media to exchange ideas with other teachers and learn from each other. This practice should be formalised and encouraged by building on pre-existing ad-hoc online platforms or creating an official online forum, perhaps as part of the new online platform for sharing teaching resources, where teachers can collaborate and solve problems that they face in their teaching practice.

Recommendation 3.3.3. Strengthen the role of the BDE

While North Macedonia has undertaken a number of policies in recent years to better develop the teaching profession, the approach has not been comprehensive. Policies and programmes are also not consistently supported ‒ like the development of teacher standards and a performance-based career path, which remains unimplemented. Resourcing for the teaching profession is also not managed efficiently, while funds are being channelled into preparing new teachers despite an oversupply, professional development is not adequately funded.

The teaching profession needs to be recognised as a political priority and adequately resourced. One reason this is currently not the case is that there is no organisation with pedagogical expertise and a strong voice to represent the profession’s needs during the policy-making process. While the BDE has a number of functions that support the teaching profession, such as providing professional development and undertaking regular appraisals, lack of resources mean that neither is fully implemented. This reflects a wider issue with the BDE, which is expected to perform many roles, but is not adequately resourced to perform any effectively.

This review recommends that the BDE be formally recognised as the key government body that is responsible for supporting the teaching profession. While the minister and ministry would remain responsible for final decision making regarding teaching policy, the BDE would be responsible for formulating policy recommendations and advising the minister. More broadly, the BDE would be responsible for key areas of teacher policy. The BDE might be redefined and restructured along the following lines, to support this change in function:

  • One unit focused on external appraisal.

    As discussed above, the BDE will no longer undertake regular appraisals, but provide external evaluators for probation and promotion appraisals. As suggested in Chapter 4, it should also contribute evaluators to support the evaluation of teaching and learning as part of school inspections and undertake a new appraisal for school principals. As well as taking on these appraisal responsibilities the BDE will need to oversee in-school appraisal activities, for example by developing guidance and training for principals to undertake regular appraisals.

    In order to take on these functions, the BDE will need to ensure that it has sufficient evaluators. For example, the BDE has only one advisor for Albanian language, which is sufficient to cover all of its appraisal responsibilities.

  • One unit focused on teachers’ professional development

    This would include the BDE’s existing activities to accredit and catalogue training programmes. In addition, it should also include support for professional development more widely, including at school level. For example, the BDE would help to develop the new multi-tier support teams and support the “Teacher Actives”. The BDE should also receive resources for developing tools and training for identified gaps in teachers’ skills and knowledge, as it recently did with its initiatives to support formative assessment. It is important that the BDE consult with the VETC and the NEC to identify gaps and overlaps.

The existing functions in the BDE for the curriculum and research would continue but need to be adequately resourced; creating separate units within the BDE should help to ensure the latter. The restructuring would need to be accompanied by other steps to professionalise the BDE (see Chapter 5).

Conclusion

North Macedonia has the foundations to create a professional, well-skilled, motivated teaching profession. The 2016 plans for a merit-based career structure are a major step towards creating a profession that is supported and incentivised to grow professionally. There are also strong informal activities among teachers – the “Teacher Actives” and sharing of teaching materials online – for professional learning. The ministry now needs to take a clear decision to implement these plans, and formalise these important informal practices. Explicitly mandating and adequately resourcing the BDE as the country’s main institution for teacher policy will also help to ensure that this central area of education policy receives the recognition that it deserves.

Box 3.10. Recommendations

Ensuring that entry into, and progression along the teaching career path is based on professional competence

3.1.1 Introduce the planned performance-based teacher career structure. Issues like how teachers seeking a promotion will be appraised and the impact on teacher salaries were not addressed in the 2016 plans, so the first step for the ministry and the BDE will be to clearly define the process for the new external appraisal. This should include developing guidance for evaluators on the kinds of evidence they should collect to determine teachers’ readiness for promotion (e.g. classroom observations, reviewing teachers’ portfolios, and interviews with the candidate). Indicators and descriptors of quality teaching should also be developed to orient evaluators towards what they should focus on when observing teaching practices. The above will need to be accompanied by training for evaluators on how to appraise teachers’ competencies in line with the teaching standards.

The ministry will also need to determine how the new appraisal will impact other aspects of teacher policy, including linking career promotion to a salary increase to reward performance. Teachers will need to be supported to identify and undertake professional development that will help them advance up the new career path. One way to support this is by clearly identifying the teaching competencies targeted by accredited training programmes in the new professional development catalogue (Recommendation 3.3.1). Another way is by providing school principals and pedagogues with training on how to orient teachers towards professional development that best meets their needs.

3.1.2 Select the most qualified candidates for teaching and ensure that they receive adequate support during probation. Greater selection of aspirant teachers into teacher education programmes could be achieved by reducing the quotas for government-funded tertiary places and requiring that candidates attain minimum matura marks in core subjects such as mother tongue and mathematics. In the future, universities may also be encouraged to also evaluate a candidate’s motivation and their socio-emotional skills, for example, through interviews. The ministry needs to introduce programme-specific accreditation criteria aligned with the 2016 teaching standards to help ensure that all accredited initial teacher education programmes provide quality theoretical and practical training.

The ministry should also consider more robust mechanisms for initial and full licensing of new teachers. One option is to introduce a national qualification examination at the end of initial teacher education so that all selected teachers meet minimum requirements. This new examination might replace the confirmation examination at the end of the probation period to avoid redundancy. It would also need to be accompanied by a stronger probation appraisal to evaluate classroom practice and other attributes that are hard to assess in an examination. BDE evaluators might become the final decision maker for probation appraisal, given the high stakes that this decision carries for a teacher’s career. All novice teachers should also receive a mentor who can report on their performance across the year, both as input to their probation appraisal and to provide more formative feedback. Ensuring that all new teachers receive quality mentorship during their probation is important to support novice teachers in developing their pedagogical knowledge and skills, recognising that many have not benefited from a quality practicum.

Developing a culture of learning and feedback in schools

3.2.1 Guide principals and pedagogues to make regular appraisal a more meaningful process. Given the redundancies and overlap created by three different regular appraisal processes, this review recommends phasing out the role of the BDE and the SEI in regular appraisal. Instead, regular appraisal would be led solely at the school level by principals and pedagogues. This is in line with international practices and research which highlight the value of in-school appraisers leading regular appraisal as they have a more accurate understanding of a teacher’s performance and can create more open conversations that are conductive to the developmental objectives of regular appraisal (OECD, 2013[2]).

Principals and pedagogues will need support to focus regular appraisal on evaluating teachers against the country’s new teacher standards (when they are introduced), and encouraging development towards higher levels of teaching competence through:

  • Guidance on how to observe evidence of the new teacher competencies.

  • Suggestions on how to use teacher portfolios more meaningfully, for example, by focusing on a teachers’ learning goals in their development plan.

  • Introducing teacher self-evaluation to encourage teachers to reflect on their teaching practices and development objectives.

  • Establishing a development plan that identifies specific, discrete areas for learning and improvement for the coming year.

The school principals and pedagogues that undertake regular appraisals also need to receive training in appraisal techniques. Practical guidance on how to observe teaching and provide formative feedback should be included in principals’ initial preparation. Training sessions should be developed for this purpose for in-service principals and pedagogies.

3.2.2 Develop the “Teacher Actives” by giving them an official role in teacher professional development. For example, the BDE might provide examples of collaborative professional development activities that “Teacher Actives” can undertake like peer classroom observations and organising in-school training. The BDE should also designate and train co-ordinators of the “Teacher Actives” to ensure that “Teacher Actives” are developed across all schools. The “Actives” might be provided with some small discretionary funds to undertake their development activities.

3.2.3 Review the role of the in-school support team to focus on helping teachers to create an effective, inclusive learning environment. One option is to introduce a multi-tier support model to provide different “tiers” of support to meet learners’ different needs, similar to the approach used in Finland (Mitchell, 2014[43]). The support team might meet regularly as a group to review teachers’ learning plans to ensure that teachers have identified the different learning needs of the students in their class (e.g. who is on track to achieve national standards, who needs further support and who needs to be challenged) and put in place differentiated strategies to meet these needs. As well as helping teachers to address specific cases of struggling learners, they would also provide teachers with advice on classroom-wide approaches to improve learning outcomes, such as at the start of the school year to help teachers develop effective plans for the coming year and at the end to discuss strategies that have been more or less effective. These new roles should be reflected in the competency standards for school support staff, as part of implementation of the performance-based career structure (Recommendation 3.1.1). The ministry will also need to make sure that the initial training of school support staff is aligned with these standards and with modern concepts of SEN and inclusive education, and that mandatory training requirements are set for existing pedagogues, SEN advisors and psychologists to help them understand and apply new methods.

Strengthening meaningful external support for teachers’ professional development

3.3.1 Ensure that professional development meets teachers’ needs. In the past, the BDE was responsible for maintaining a catalogue of accredited teacher professional development programmes. This role should be re-established so that teachers receive professional development that meets minimum quality criteria. The accreditation process should check that programmes are targeting teachers’ core competencies as defined in the new teaching standards and aligned with the national priorities for teaching and learning set out in the Education Strategy 2018-25.

The ministry also needs to review both the scale and the way professional development is funded. The BDE requires significantly more resources if it is to provide the established ten hours of free training in national priority areas that all teachers are required to take every three years. In addition, earmarked subsidies should be given directly to schools as discretionary funds for them to use to choose training in line with their own needs and interests.

3.3.2 Develop more digital resources to support continuous professional development. Since more than two-thirds of the country’s teachers already rely heavily on student assessment tools and lesson plans from the Internet (OECD and UNICEF, 2018[47]), the BDE could create a national online repository to build on this practice. The BDE could complement teacher-provided materials where there are gaps and ensure that materials meet minimum quality criteria. Material can also be peer reviewed. To encourage teacher collaboration, the repository might include an online forum where teachers can collaborate and solve problems that they face in their teaching practice.

3.3.3 Strengthen the role of the BDE. A broader concern for teaching in North Macedonia is the lack of a comprehensive approach to develop the profession. Recent policies and programmes have not been consistently supported ‒ like the development of teacher standards and a performance-based career path which remains unimplemented. Strengthening the BDE so that it is formally recognised as the key government body for supporting the teaching profession would help to ensure that teaching is recognised as a political priority. The reformed BDE would be responsible for key areas of teacher policy, formulating policy recommendations and advising the minister.

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Note

← 1. The Eurydice data collection on teachers’ salaries and compensations covers the 28 European Union member countries and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Norway, Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.

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