Chapter 5. Empowering teachers and school leaders

School leadership, as enacted by school leaders and teachers, is one of the most important school-level factors influencing students’ development and achievement (Chapman et al., 2016[1]; Hallinger, 2018[2]; Marzano, Waters and McNulty, 2005[3]). Together with autonomy and governance, it has been identified as a key lever of professionalism (Guerriero, 2017[4]). As stated in the conclusions of the Council of the European Union of 26 November 2009, “Effective school leadership is a major factor in shaping the overall teaching and learning environment, raising aspirations and providing support for pupils, parents and staff, and, thus, in fostering higher achievement levels.” (European Union, 2009[5]).

Leadership practices can create supportive learning environments in which teachers are able to develop their practices and engage effectively with students’ learning (Hallinger, 2011[6]; Muijs, 2011[7]). Identifying the core dimension of school leadership, as well as the main actors responsible for steering these actions, has become a crucial endeavour in educational systems across the world (Ainley and Carstens, 2018[8]; OECD, 2016[9]).

The understanding of the main components of school leadership has evolved over the years. It has encompassed a series of elements, such as establishing goals, providing pertinent professional development and taking action for development of curriculum and improvement of instruction, while not losing sight of the managerial aspects of the school (Ainley and Carstens, 2018[8]; OECD, 2016[9]; Urick and Bowers, 2014[10]). However, research has shown that, rather than a fragmented vision of particular elements of leadership, an holistic approach simply titled “leadership for learning”, incorporating the elements mentioned above, seems to be the most effective form of leadership (Hallinger, 2011[6]; Hallinger and Heck, 2010[11]; OECD, 2016[9]).

To effectively engage in leadership roles, schools must have the autonomy necessary to make decisions on those aspects that concern their day-to-day operations (OECD, 2017[12]). Indeed, a crucial component of principals’ and teachers’ professionalism refers to their capacity to make discretionary judgements (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012[13]). The reasoning behind enhancing school autonomy is that schools have professionals with the training, knowledge and experience to make the most pertinent decisions regarding staffing, assessment and curriculum (OECD, 2018[14]). Although autonomy in decision making is not enough to guarantee effective leadership, it is a necessary step.

School leaders are understandably those expected to take on a leadership role, given the commanding and strategic roles they play in schools (Ainley and Carstens, 2018[8]). Principals are being required to go beyond their traditional role as administrators and assume leadership positions where they will be able to engage, support and commit teachers to their instruction (Grissom and Loeb, 2011[15]; OECD, 2016[9]). Understanding principals as school leaders is acknowledging their capacity to convey a vision for school improvement capable of engaging teachers for the benefit of all students (Hallinger and Heck, 2010[16]).

The capacity of principals to engage teachers also implies the concrete opportunities teachers can have to enact teacher leadership (Harris and Muijs, 2004[17]). Teacher leadership refers to the opportunities and capacities for teachers to be leaders, not just within their classroom, but also beyond the classroom, by collaborating with their colleagues for the overall improvement of their school. However, a crucial prerequisite for teachers to effectively make their voices heard and have their decisions implemented is having the autonomy necessary for their work (Johnson and Donaldson, 2007[18]). Autonomy is understood as the capacity of teachers to make decisions in areas concretely related to their work (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012[13]). Acknowledging and promoting teachers’ autonomy is a fundamental step in building a school that engages all school members with the same purpose and direction (Scribner et al., 2007[19]).

This chapter analyses the leadership and autonomy of both principals and teachers. Doing so within the same chapter is a way of acknowledging their connectedness and exploring how closely they are related. To explore these issues, the chapter begins by comparing autonomy at the school level with the involvement of out-of-school authorities. It also describes decision making by principals and teachers within the school. The chapter then addresses issues of principals’ leadership, with special focus on the characteristics of system leadership and how principals perceive their relations with policy makers. It concludes with a description of teachers’ leadership, focusing particularly on their academic and curricular leadership, along with an exploration of how they perceive their relations with the media and policy makers.

School-level decision making is crucial for delivering quality and context-pertinent education. The debate on how much autonomy schools should have and in which areas has increased in recent decades, and it only seems to become more prominent (OECD, 2017[12]). An OECD review of evaluation and assessment policy states that; “There has been a general international trend towards devolution of responsibilities for budget management, staffing, educational provision, teaching content and processes, and the organisation of learning to the local level including schools” (OECD, 2013, p. 45[20]). The argument for promoting school autonomy is that school staff are better positioned to adapt their organisation to the requirements and needs of students and the local community (Hanushek, Link and Woessmann, 2013[21]). Schools have qualified professionals who are knowledgeable about the needs of their learning environments and of their students and may be able to enact pertinent decisions concerning their schools. Decision making by authorities outside the school (such as national, local or regional authorities) may be perceived as an imposition, and being out-of-touch with the needs of schools (Caldwell and Spinks, 2013[22]). Furthermore, schools may vary in the real capacity, time, expertise and resources they have to tackle additional responsibilities in an effective manner (OECD, 2019[23]).

However, this increased autonomy has usually been accompanied by the strengthening of monitoring by local or educational authorities (OECD, 2013[20]). Indeed, decision making at the school level without the necessary support and monitoring can lead to low performance and inequality of educational outcomes (OECD, 2016[24]). The responsibility of local or national authorities in staffing, budgeting, implementing assessment and establishing curricular policies is important to assuring a standard of quality education and equal allocation to all students. Moreover, having schools tackle issues that may better be addressed by local or national authorities could lead to additional workload. International reviews have shown that, in several countries, placing more decision making at lower levels (schools) has been accompanied by central levels (district, region or state) having a stronger influence on setting standards, curricula and assessment (OECD, 2018[25]). A balance should be achieved by identifying those elements where the school has better responsiveness and those elements where local, regional or national authorities need oversight to guarantee quality across the system.

The following section describes how responsibilities for making decisions on a range of topics are taken by schools and/or out-of-school actors. Before exploring the results, it is important to clarify that decision-making processes are constrained and limited by broader policy frameworks, such as national regulations and standards (OECD, 2018[14]; OECD, 2017[12]; OECD, 2016[9]; OECD, 2005[26]). For example, staffing is routinely shaped by wider public sector employment policies and by labour market institutions, such as trade unions and teacher unions (OECD, 2018, p. 23[14]). Furthermore, in some systems, the legal education framework establishes that decisions on budgets are mainly shaped by out-of-school authorities (OECD, 2016[9]). So, the results presented in this section could be interpreted as a reflection of system-level regulation on decision making, rather than just the actions and initiatives of individual teachers and school leaders within such systems.

TALIS 2018 asked school principals which actors had significant1 responsibility for a series of tasks at the school level: “principals”; “other members of the school management”; “teachers”; “school governing board”; and “local municipality/regional state or national/federal authority”. The tasks are divided into four different groups: staffing; budget; school policies; and curriculum and instructional policies. For the purposes of reporting here, an autonomous school is assumed when significant responsibility is taken solely by either the school principal, other members of the school management team, teachers or the school governing board.2 A non-autonomous school is assumed when significant responsibility for a given task is taken solely by the local municipality / regional state or national/federal authority. Finally, a mixed-autonomous school is assumed when significant responsibility is taken by both an agent of the school (i.e. principal, other members of the school management team, teachers or the school governing board) and the local municipality/regional state or national/federal authority.3

On average across the OECD,4 a large percentage of principals report that the school has significant responsibility for staffing decisions: 70% of schools are autonomous for “appointing or hiring teachers” and 62% are autonomous for “dismissing or suspending teachers from employment”, based on principals’ reports (Figure II.5.1, Table II.5.1). On average across the OECD, less than 10% of schools are characterised as being mixed-autonomous (i.e. responsibilities for these two staffing tasks shared between schools and out–of-school authorities). In other words, for around 90% of schools, responsibility for staffing is taken solely by the school or solely by out-of-school authorities.

There is also significant cross-country variation for both “appointing or hiring teachers” and for “dismissing or suspending teachers from employment” (Table II.5.1). Based on principals’ reports, more than 95% of schools are autonomous for “appointing or hiring teachers” in Alberta (Canada), Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, the Flemish Community of Belgium, Iceland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, the Slovak Republic and Sweden, while less than 25% are autonomous in Colombia, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The results in two countries are particularly low, with only 9% of principals in Turkey and 4% in Saudi Arabia stating that decisions on “appointing or hiring teachers” are made solely by the school.

These results corroborate the findings of international OECD reviews that school systems vary considerably in the extent of autonomy in recruiting their own staff (OECD, 2018[14]). Policy reviews have noted that that school autonomy for staff-related tasks can help avoid misallocations and can better match staff profiles to the needs of the school. However, an increase in autonomy entails recruitment and management costs that may lead to greater disparities in staff qualifications among schools. This result suggests that effective allocation of teachers may depend not only on school autonomy, but also on teacher preferences, incentive programmes and the supply and demand characteristics of the teachers’ labour market (OECD, 2019[23]).

An interesting pattern emerges from the activities in the second set of tasks, those related to school budgets. For areas related to determining teachers’ starting salaries or salary increases, the majority of principals report that their schools do not have significant responsibility. On average across the OECD, based on principals’ reports, 59% of schools are non-autonomous for decisions on teachers’ starting salaries and 58% are non-autonomous for decisions on salary progression (Figure II.5.1,Table II.5.1). These results should not come as a surprise, since setting salary levels and establishing progression of salaries are usually part of local or national authorities’ statutory responsibilities (OECD, 2019[23]).

However, schools seem to have greater input for decisions on budget allocations. On average across the OECD, based on the responses of principals, 71% of schools are autonomous (Figure II.5.1, Table II.5.1). More than 90% of schools are autonomous for decisions on budget allocations in Alberta (Canada), Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Flemish Community of Belgium, France, Georgia, Italy, Korea, the Netherlands and New Zealand. But more than 50% of schools are non-autonomous for decisions on budget allocations (i.e. out-of-school authorities have sole responsibility) in Saudi Arabia (80%), Hungary (59%), Romania (59%), Turkey (59%), and Viet Nam (55%) (Table II.5.1).

The third group of tasks, those related to school policies, covers issues concerning admission, assessment and disciplinary policies for students. In this area, schools seem to have a large presence in decision making. On average across the OECD, based on the responses of principals, at least 58% of schools are autonomous concerning policies on these issues. That is the case for “establishing student disciplinary policies and procedures” (87%), “approving students for admission to the school” (74%) and “establishing student assessment policies” (58%) (Figure II.5.1, Table II.5.1). Cross-country variation across these three tasks is still considerable. For example, based on the responses of principals, more than 95% of schools are autonomous in disciplinary policies and procedures in the Czech Republic, Italy, Korea, the Netherlands, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Viet Nam, while 50% or less are autonomous in Norway, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Results are particularly low for Saudi Arabia, with only 9% of principals reporting that their school is autonomous on these issues.

Of these three tasks, establishing student assessment policies shows a greater degree of cross-country variation regarding significant responsibilities of the different educational stakeholders and the level of autonomy of schools. On average across the OECD, based on principals’ reports, 58% of schools are autonomous (responsibilities taken solely within the school), 19% are non-autonomous (responsibilities taken solely by out-of-school authorities) and 23% present a mixed-autonomy approach (responsibilities taken between schools and out-of-school authorities) (Figure 5.1, Table II.5.1). The three countries and economies with the highest proportion of autonomous schools in establishing student assessment are Estonia (92%), the Flemish Community of Belgium (91%) and the Czech Republic (86%). The three countries and economies with the highest proportion of non-autonomous schools are Saudi Arabia (92%), Viet Nam (69%) and Turkey (65%), while the four with the highest proportion of mixed-autonomous schools are Singapore (52%), Alberta (Canada) (40%), France (40%) and Latvia (40%).

The relatively large proportion of non-autonomous schools may reveal the increasing tendency to allocate responsibility for assessments to dedicated agencies with a central role in governance of the evaluation and assessment framework. These are usually local or national agencies dedicated to evaluation and monitoring of learning, created in recognition of the need for specialised expertise and capacity to develop and implement evaluation and assessment policies (OECD, 2013, p. 37[20]). The large proportion of mixed-autonomous schools could reflect a balanced approach to assessment. Under such an approach, schools have significant responsibility for implementation, while the input of out-of-school authorities responds to increased needs for accountability measures to ensure quality outcomes in education.

The fourth set of activities, tasks related to curriculum and instruction, corresponds to issues more associated with the content and focus of learning opportunities, such as deciding on the courses offered, their content and textbooks. Although the involvement of out-of-school authorities in these decisions is important to ensuring certain content guidelines across education systems, school leaders and teachers have an understanding of their students’ needs through their daily interactions with them. Thus, the input of schools is particularly relevant for curriculum and instruction (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012[13]). On average across the OECD, a relatively large proportion of principals report that their school has significant responsibility for all three tasks in this set of activities. Based on the responses of principals, a large share of schools are autonomous for “choosing which learning materials are used” (87%); for “deciding which courses are offered” (60%) and for “determining course content” (48%) (Figure II.5.1, Table II.5.1).

Among these three tasks, determination of course content shows the greatest cross-country variation in responsibilities. On average across the OECD, based on principals’ reports on determining course content, 48% of schools are autonomous (responsibilities taken solely within the school), 31% are non-autonomous (responsibilities taken solely by out-of-school authorities) and 21% present a mixed-autonomy approach (responsibilities taken between schools and out-of-school authorities) (Figure II.5.1, Table II.5.1). In determining course content, the three countries and economies with the highest percentage of autonomous schools are the Czech Republic (95%), CABA (Argentina) (89%) and England (United Kingdom) (88%). The three countries and economies with the highest proportion of non-autonomous schools are Saudi Arabia (96%), Turkey (87%) and France (85%), while the three with the highest proportion of mixed-autonomous schools are Singapore (52%), Malta (45%) and Shanghai (China) (44%).

The cross-country variation could be explained by different national traditions on school-based responsibility for curriculum development. It is important to note that the level of autonomy of schools within the same country or economy can vary depending on whether they are publicly managed or privately managed. The allocation of responsibilities described in this section still holds when looking only at publically managed schools (Table II.5.4).5

However, despite these differences between or within countries, it is necessary to share these responsibilities with out-of-school local or national authorities to ensure consistent approaches to curriculum. A possible approach is to agree on general principles for curricular goals and objectives while allowing enough flexibility, within agreed parameters, to better meet local needs (OECD, 2013[20]). Although Austria does not have such a high proportion of autonomous schools as other countries, in 2017 they launched an interesting initiative to boost the capacities of schools to innovate and respond to local needs (Box II.5.1).

The previous sections discussed how decision-making processes were reported to be divided between school and out-of-school responsibilities. It is also important to examine the decision-making structures within each school to have a better understanding of the capacity within schools to make pertinent and efficient decisions. The following section analyses how significant responsibilities for school tasks are held by different entities within schools compared to decisions made by out-of-school authorities. It then examines the role of the school management team, with special attention to teachers’ participation.

Figure II.5.2 (Table II.5.5) displays which actors, on average across OECD countries and economies in TALIS, have main responsibility, considerable responsibility and minor responsibility in school governance for each of the tasks mentioned above.

Based on the principals’ responses reflected in Figure II.5.2 (Table II.5.5), it is noteworthy that, on average across the OECD, all the listed actors can have an important role in two tasks: “establishing student assessment policies” and “deciding which courses are offered”. The input of several stakeholders might be a reflection of the importance for the educational system of these two particular tasks. Indeed, the combination of multiple levels of governance for these two tasks could be a mechanism to avoid the dangers of both excessive fragmentation and centralisation (OECD, 2018[14]).

Also, according to a majority of principals in the OECD, principals alone have the main responsibility for 6 of the 11 tasks listed. For “establishing student disciplinary policies and procedures”, significant responsibility is held mainly by principals and other members of the school management team. This may suggest that some form of task distribution is taking place where principals are able to share responsibilities with other members of the school management team for this task. Overall, principals have a predominant presence in tasks related to staffing and school policies. According to a majority of principals in the OECD, teachers’ responsibilities are significant mainly for tasks related to curriculum and instruction, with shared responsibility on school policies. However, teachers generally have less than a minor role in 6 of the 11 tasks, including with respect to all aspects of staffing and budgets. This holds true for more than 85% of schools in the OECD, according to their principals (Figure II.5.2, Table II.5.5). Allocation of responsibilities to both principals and teachers is examined in depth in the following section on autonomy among principals and teachers – see the sections on supporting principal leadership and supporting teacher leadership.

As shown in Figure II.5.2 (Table II.5.5), responsibility for tasks in schools may require involvement of several actors within the school. The capacity of schools to share responsibility across different bodies and entities within the school is often described as distributed leadership. This refers to the capacity of the school to build spaces in which other stakeholders in the school community can act as leaders (Spillane, 2006[28]). When authority is distributed among school staff, it can not only improve and strengthen the relationship between staff, but it can also be a vehicle to build leadership capacities (Louis et al., 2010[29]; Redding, 2007[30]).

Principals were asked if they agree with statements regarding whether the school provides opportunities for teachers, parents or guardians, and students to participate in school decisions. On average across the OECD, 98% of principals “agree” or “strongly agree” that staff have the opportunity to actively participate in school decisions, while 83% report that parents/guardians can do so, and 81% report that students can do so (Table II.5.9). There is very little cross-country variation in the percentage of principals reporting that staff have a say in school decisions; none of the TALIS countries and economies have a value under 90%. Teachers were asked the same question. Although the OECD average is elevated (77% on average across the OECD), for some countries and economies, at least 60% of teachers believe they have the opportunity to “participate in school decisions”). That is the case in Australia, Belgium and its French Community, CABA (Argentina), Chile, England (United Kingdom), Israel, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates (Chapter 4, Table II.4.24). The discrepancy between teachers and principals on the different facets and opportunities for school leadership is not uncommon, as they may have different notions of the allocated responsibilities and tasks (Bowers et al., 2017[31]).

To further understand the opportunities for teachers and other stakeholders to effectively engage in school processes, it is useful to explore the management structures in schools. Allocation of responsibilities and distribution of leadership are more effective when they are embedded in the organisation (Harris, 2004[32]). Forming leadership teams makes it possible to increase the speed of improvement efforts (Pedersen, Yager and Yager, 2010[33]). The existence of a school management team can be interpreted as a very rough indicator of the installed capacities of the school to make and share decisions.

TALIS asked principals to report the presence of a school management team and describe its composition. The term “school management team” refers to a group within the school that has responsibility for leading and managing the school in decisions involving instruction, use of resources, curriculum, assessment and evaluation, as well as other strategic decisions related to appropriate functioning of the school.6 On average across the OECD, 87% of principals report having a school management team (Table II.5.10). There is little variation across countries and economies on this answer, but it is important to highlight a few exceptional cases where the percentage of principals reporting the existence of a school management team is considerably lower than the OECD average, as in Saudi Arabia (69% of principals report having a school management team), Austria (60%) and Alberta (Canada) (54%).

TALIS 2018 asked principals who report having a school management team which actors are represented in this group. On average across the OECD, besides the principal, the most frequent reported actors are vice/deputy principals or assistant principals (82% of principals report that these actors are represented in the management team) (Figure II.5.3, Table II.5.10). Teachers are the next group mentioned (56%), followed by department heads (52%), the school governing board (41%) and financial managers (40%). Less often mentioned are parents or guardians (29% of principals report that they are represented in the school management team) and students (25%). However, there are a few exceptions to this pattern. More than 80% of principals report that parents and guardians are represented in their school management team in Colombia, Korea, Mexico, Romania and Turkey, and more than 80% of principals report students’ involvement in Colombia and Turkey. The experiences of these countries should be examined more closely, as research has shown that parental involvement in decision making can affect students’ academic outcomes (Cooper and Christie, 2005[34]; Noguera, 2001[35]).

Having a formal structure of leadership, such as school management team, can help encourage teachers to grow in their role and also to take on leadership responsibilities (Hallinger and Murphy, 2012[36]). As previously mentioned, teachers are the third most frequently reported members of the school management team. Teachers are professionals who, due to their training, are subject experts and curriculum experts. Based on their everyday work, they have an understanding of the needs of their students; so, it is strongly encouraged that teachers play a role in decision-making structures at their schools (Ainley and Carstens, 2018[8]; OECD, 2017[12]). Although the importance of teacher participation also depends on the role and tasks of the management team, their inclusion in the management team can be considered a rough indicator of the distribution of authority. More than 90% of the principals who report having a management team also report that teachers are members of their school management team in Austria, Colombia, Korea and the United States (Figure II.5.4, Table II.5.10). However, less than 25% of principals report that teachers have a role in the school management team in Denmark, France, the French Community of Belgium, Iceland, Malta, the Netherlands and Viet Nam.

In order to have a complete picture of the involvement of teachers in decision-making structures, it is also crucial to consider the role of department heads. Indeed, department heads are usually teachers leading a group of teachers who either teach the same subject or the same group of students in different subjects. An effective mechanism of distributed leadership is sharing leadership with content area expertise (Hallinger and Murphy, 2012[36]). As such, the involvement of a department head could be seen as a more productive form of allocation of responsibilities within the school. Figure II.5.4 shows that there is an important cross-country variation in the presence of department heads on the school management team. For a few countries, the lack of teachers on the school management team is compensated for by the presence of department heads. That is the case for Hungary, Iceland, the Netherlands, Singapore and Sweden where, although less than 30% of principals who have a management team report that teachers are part of it, more than 70% report that department heads have a role in the school management team (Table II.5.10).

Nevertheless, these results should be interpreted with caution. Formal structures such as a school management team are not the only mechanisms through which teachers can be involved in decision making or develop leadership skills. Peer collaboration, team work and other informal activities can also be instances in which they can enact their decisions. For some countries and economies, these are the areas where teachers’ voices are heard. For example, even though only 6% of principals in Denmark report that teachers take in part in their school management team, the majority of principals report that they have significant responsibility for most of the school tasks (Table II.5.10) – see the section on supporting teachers’ leadership.

Principals’ leadership is pivotal to creating, establishing and developing a structure of support for teachers. Successful systems are those that are able to provide a structure for teachers’ professional learning and development from which all students of the school can benefit (Hallinger and Heck, 2010[11]). But principals’ leadership ultimately depends on their level of autonomy and the extent of their decision-making power (Muijs, 2011[37]).

This section starts by exploring the responsibility that principals have for a range of diverse tasks in the school. It then examines the different types of leadership that principals can enact to foster student learning and describes aspects related to system leadership. Leadership does not take place only within the walls of the school, so the section concludes by exploring principals’ perceptions of their relations with policy makers.

This section explores whether principals have significant responsibility for a series of tasks. On average across the OECD, the percentage of principals who report that they personally have significant responsibility on issues concerning staffing is high: 73% of principals report that they have significant responsibility for “appointing or hiring teachers”, while 65% report significant responsibility for “dismissing or suspending teachers from employment” (Figure II.5.5, Table II.5.5). More than 90% of principals report that they have significant responsibility in both of these tasks in Bulgaria, the Flemish Community of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England (United Kingdom), Estonia, Georgia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia, while half of principals or less report that they have responsibility in both of these areas in Brazil, Colombia, France, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Regarding school budgets, principals’ responsibilities seem to be relatively low, as expected given the overall low autonomy that schools have in this area – see the previous section also (Table II.5.1). On average across the OECD, 32% of principals state that they have significant responsibility for “establishing teachers’ starting salaries”, and 33% report significant responsibility for “determining teachers’ salary increases” (Figure II.5.5, Table II.5.5). Although 68% of principals state that they have significant responsibility for “deciding on budget allocations within the school”, there is important cross-country variation. At least 90% of principals report that they have significant responsibility for budget allocations within the school in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Sweden, while less than 30% state the same in CABA (Argentina), Colombia, Romania, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (Table II.5.5).

A majority of principals state that they have significant responsibility on issues regarding school policies. On average across OECD countries and economies in TALIS, 78% of principals report that they have significant responsibility for “approving students’ admission to the school”, 76% report significant responsibility for “establishing student disciplinary policies” and 60% report significant responsibility for “establishing student assessment policies” (Figure II.5.5, Table II.5.5). More than 80% of principals report having significant responsibility in these areas in Belgium and its Flemish Community, the Czech Republic, Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore. Less than 50% of principals report that they have significant responsibility for at least two of these three issues in Brazil, Korea, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Shanghai (China), South Africa, Spain, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Principals have considerable input into curriculum and instructional issues. On average across the OECD, 66% of principals report that they have significant responsibility in “deciding which courses are offered”, 48% report significant responsibility in “choosing which learning materials to use”, and 40% report significant responsibility in “determining course content” (Figure II.5.5, Table II.5.5). At least 50% of principals report having significant responsibility in all three tasks in CABA (Argentina), the Czech Republic, Israel, Italy, Latvia, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, Singapore, the Slovak Republic and the United States. On the other hand, less than 50% of principals report having significant responsibility for these three areas in Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Japan, Mexico, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Shanghai (China), South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam.

A way to summarise these results is observing the average number of tasks principals report having significant responsibility for (Table II.5.11). On average across the OECD, principals report having significant responsibility in 6 out of the 11 listed tasks. Results range from 9.8 activities on average in the Czech Republic to only 1.1 in Saudi Arabia. To better describe the overall responsibility of principals across all these tasks, a new measure was computed estimating the proportion of schools where principals have significant responsibility for the majority of tasks (at least 6 of the 11 tasks) (Figure II.5.6). On average across the OECD, 63% of principals report having significant responsibility for a majority of the school tasks. At least 90% of principals report having significant responsibility for the majority of school tasks in the Czech Republic, England (United Kingdom), Estonia, Denmark, New Zealand and the Slovak Republic. At the other end of the spectrum, only 6% of principals in Turkey and 3% in Saudi Arabia report that they have significant responsibility for the majority of school tasks.

It is worth noting the difference between publicly managed schools and privately managed schools in the overall responsibilities of principals. On average across the OECD, 57% of principals in publicly managed schools report having significant responsibility for the majority of tasks in their school, compared to 80% of principals in privately managed schools (Figure II.5.6, Table II.5.11). This difference is particularly pronounced (over 60 percentage points) in Brazil, France, Malta, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. At the same time, the countries and economies that have a high proportion of schools where the principals have significant responsibility for the majority of tasks (the Czech Republic, England [United Kingdom], Estonia, Denmark, New Zealand and the Slovak Republic) do not display significant differences between publicly managed schools and privately managed schools. This may reflect system-wide regulation or standards governing the tasks of principals. The tasks and responsibilities assigned to principals may have an impact on teacher support and student achievement (OECD, 2016[9]). Thus, large differences between the actions of principals in different types of school may also translate into different levels of support for teachers and student outcomes.

In the five years since TALIS 2013, there have been few significant changes in the responsibilities of principals, except in a handful of countries and economies (Table II.5.8). A country-by-country analysis provides some interesting insights. In Iceland and the Slovak Republic, there has been a significant decrease in the proportion of principals reporting that they have significant responsibility in “establishing teachers’ salaries”, “determining teachers’ salary increases” and “deciding on budget allocations within the school”. In the case of the Slovak Republic, the majority of school principals benefit from a good structure for administrative and management support. Within the school organisation, a staff member assumes the role of taking care of planning the school budget for staff salaries and an accountant assumes responsibility for operational costs, planning the school budget for goods and services. Potentially, this can free time for principals to devote to tasks related to curriculum development or supporting instruction (Santiago et al., 2016[38]). The changes over time observed for the Slovak Republic could reflect an extension of this type of school organisation across schools.

Autonomy is an important component in ensuring that the actions of principals are pertinent to the needs of their students and schools. But autonomy alone is not enough. Policy reviews and research literature have shown that autonomy has more impact when there are strong leadership structures in place (Jensen, Weidmann and Farmer, 2013[39]). Research conducted using Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 data has shown that the relation between principals’ autonomy and students’ performance is relatively strong, but it is even stronger for systems with high levels of leadership (OECD, 2016[24]).

This section explores how frequently principals engage in specific actions, as well as their perceptions on the levels of support provided by them and to them. TALIS 2018 asked school leaders how frequently ( “never or rarely”; “sometimes”; “often”; or “very often”) they engaged in a series of activities that can be allocated to different types of leadership. The term “leadership for learning” refers to all the different areas and tasks of school leaders aimed at improving the work of their teachers, along with student achievement (Hallinger and Heck, 2010[11]). This section examines three aspects of principals’ leadership aimed at student learning: instructional leadership (in its indirect and direct forms); administrative leadership; and system leadership. Special attention is given to system leadership, because it is the first time TALIS has collected indicators on it. The section concludes by exploring principals’ perceptions of their relations with policy makers.

The first area explored corresponds to tasks associated with instructional leadership. These types of actions refer to principals’ efforts focusing on the instructional quality enacted by teachers. To improve the quality of instruction, principals may focus on tasks such as managing the curriculum, attending to teachers’ professional development needs or creating a culture of collaboration (Hallinger, 2015[40]; Hallinger, 2011[6]; Hallinger and Heck, 2010[11]). The emphasis on and relative importance of each of the tasks associated with instructional leadership have shifted over the years, as more empirical studies emerged testing their impact on educational outcomes (OECD, 2016[9]). A more direct or hands-on approach to instructional leadership was considered time-consuming for principals and potentially disruptive to teachers’ autonomy (Horng and Loeb, 2010[41]), so, an indirect form of instructional leadership was promoted instead.7 This focused more on creating a school climate of co-operation and support, where teachers are able to relate to the schools’ goals and adopt them in terms of their performance at work (Hallinger, 2015[40]; Hallinger and Heck, 2010[16]). Results from the previous cycle, TALIS 2013, showed that principals who report more of these forms of instructional leadership tend to spend more time on curriculum and teaching-related tasks and are more likely to observe classroom teaching as part of formal appraisal of teachers’ work. In some countries, these principals more often report using the results of student performance and evaluations to develop the school’s educational goals and programmes (OECD, 2014[42]). Furthermore, principals who report high levels of instructional leadership work in schools where teachers share the same objectives, and collaborate and reflect on their practices (OECD, 2016[9]).

On average across the OECD, a considerable proportion of principals are invested in direct forms of instructional leadership: 59% of principals report that they “collaborated with teachers to solve classroom discipline problems”; 55% report that they “worked on a professional development plan for the school”; 50% report that they “provided feedback to teachers based on [their] observations”; and 41% report that they “observed instruction in the classroom” (Figure II.5.7, Table II.5.12). More than 70% of principals report engaging “often” or “very often” in at least three of these four activities in Bulgaria, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Shanghai (China), Slovenia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Viet Nam.

However, in Denmark, Estonia, and Sweden, 50% of principals or less report engaging “often” or “very often” in these four tasks, and 50% of principals or less so report for three of these tasks in Belgium (and the French Community), CABA, France, Iceland, Japan, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Spain (Table II.5.12).

On average across the OECD, a relatively high proportion of principals report that they engage in the three activities corresponding to indirect forms of instructional leadership: “actions to ensure that teachers feel responsible for their students’ learning outcomes” (68%); “actions to ensure that teachers take responsibility for improving their teaching skills” (63%); and “actions to support co-operation among teachers to develop new teaching practices” (59%) (Figure II.5.7, Table II.5.12). The TALIS countries and economies showing exceptionally high percentages of principals who report that they took actions to ensure that teachers feel responsible for students’ learning outcomes are Viet Nam (97%), Kazakhstan (94%), Shanghai (China) (93%), Bulgaria (92%), the United Arab Emirates (92%), South Africa (91%), Georgia (90%) and Latvia (90%). However, 50% of principals or less report engaging in any of these three activities “often” or “very often” in Japan, and 50% or less do so for two of these activities in the French Community of Belgium, Estonia and Finland. Box II.5.4 describes interesting initiatives on instructional leadership in Norway and Viet Nam.

In the majority of TALIS countries, there are no significant differences across school type, location or composition for the instructional leadership indicator “actions to support co-operation among teachers to develop new teaching practices” (Table II.5.15). But there are a few exceptions. A significantly higher proportion (18 to 31 percentage points) of principals in privately managed schools report engaging in this action than in public schools in Hungary, Mexico and Turkey, while the opposite pattern is observed in France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Arab Emirates. South Africa is the only country that displays a significantly higher proportion (32 percentage points differences) of principals in rural schools than in city schools who report that they took “actions to support co-operation among teachers to develop new teaching practices”, while the Slovak Republic shows the reverse pattern (23 percentage points differences).

School composition also plays a role in the level of engagement in “actions to support co-operation among teachers to develop new teaching practices” for a few countries and economies. In Italy, New Zealand, Shanghai (China) and the United Arab Emirates, the share of principals who report that they engaged in this activity was significantly larger in schools with a high concentration of students from socio-economically disadvantaged homes than in schools with a lower proportion of such students (Table II.5.15). In CABA (Argentina), Kazakhstan and Portugal, the share of principals was significantly larger in schools with a high concentration of immigrant students. In Croatia, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, the share of principals was significantly larger in schools with a high concentration of students with special needs (Table II.5.15).

How can levels of instructional leadership be improved? Previous TALIS research showed that training in instructional leadership and time spent in curriculum and teaching seem to be important preconditions for the full development of principals as instructional leaders (OECD, 2016[9]). However, in the first volume of TALIS 2018, principals report that only a small fraction of their time can be devoted to curriculum and teaching and only around half of principals report having had training in instructional leadership before taking up their job – see Tables I.2.18 and I.4.28 in TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I) (OECD, 2019[45]). As discussed at the beginning of this section, having significant responsibility for school responsibilities could also allow principals to engage more effectively in instructional leadership. Indeed, more scope for principals to take decisions in their school could enhance their organisational commitment and their opportunities to guide their staff (Briggs and Wohlstetter, 2003[46]; Dou, Devos and Valcke, 2017[47]). TALIS 2013 found that school autonomy in certain areas and instructional leadership play a mild role in developing professional learning communities in primary and lower secondary education (OECD, 2016[9]), Another relevant aspect to consider is distributed leadership. Allocating and delegating responsibilities to members of the staff, parents and students points to a strong school community that could serve as a foundation for principals to engage in instructional leadership.

To examine these assumptions, a regression is run on TALIS 2018 to observe the relationship between the indirect forms of instructional leadership (i.e. actions to ensure that teachers feel responsible for their students’ learning outcomes, that teachers take responsibility for improving their teaching skills and actions that support co-operation among teachers to develop new teaching practices) and a number of variables: 1) the average number of school activities for which principals report having significant responsibility (i.e. as a proxy for autonomy and decision making); 2) time available (i.e. the proportion of time spent on instructional leadership and meetings, the proportion of time spent on curriculum and teaching-related tasks, and the perception of lack of time for instructional leadership); 3) the participation among stakeholders index (i.e. whether the school provides staff, parents/guardians and students with opportunities to actively participate in school decisions, the school has a culture of shared responsibility for school issues and there is a collaborative school culture which is characterised by mutual support) 4) having received training in instructional leadership and 5) other variables concerning teacher demographics and school characteristics (Table II.5.17).

On average across the OECD, the results seems to suggest that those principals that spend higher proportions of time on leadership meetings and curriculum- and teaching-related tasks also show higher levels of instructional leadership. Also, the higher number of activities for which they report having significant responsibility is also associated with higher levels of instructional leadership. Other relevant findings are that principals reporting higher levels of instructional leadership are more likely to have received training in instructional leadership, to be female, and more likely to work in schools in city areas (Table II.5.17).

Nevertheless, the most relevant finding is the association between the index of participation among stakeholders and the index of instructional leadership. Results show that those principals who are able to involve staff, parents and students in school decisions and have a school culture of collaboration and shared responsibility are more likely to report that they take action to support co-operation among teachers, that teachers take responsibility for improving their teaching, and that they feel responsible for students’ learning (Figure II.5.8, Table II.5.17). This holds true for 24 TALIS countries and economies. No causal interpretation is possible, but the results reveal the interconnectedness between a collegial school culture and a leadership committed to improving teacher instruction and commitment. Indeed, the results echo the findings of TALIS 2013, which identified a certain profile of principal, the “integrated leader”, who was able to have a strong focus on both instructional and distributed leadership (OECD, 2016[9]).

As for other forms of leadership for learning, two actions of principals relate to administrative tasks. On average across the OECD, 65% of principals report that they “often” or “very often” “reviewed school administrative procedures and reports, while 42% report that they “often” or “very often” “resolved problems with the lesson timetable in this school” (Figure II.5.7, Table II.5.12). In Bulgaria, Colombia, Italy, Hungary, Mexico, and Romania, at least 90% of principals report that they “often” or “very often” “reviewed school administrative procedures and reports”. As research evidence has shown, time spent on general administrative tasks can also have a positive association with student outcomes (Grissom and Loeb, 2011[15]).

System leadership addresses initiatives aimed at strengthening links between schools and their communities, especially with principals from other schools. In many systems, principals are increasingly encouraged to exercise leadership not only within their school, but also beyond their school. This is due to the growing understanding of the importance of the way schools relate to their communities, contexts and other social services (Cummings et al., 2007[48]) and of the need for schools to be interconnected and collaborate, in order to maximise positive outcomes across communities and enhance social justice (Hadfield and Chapman, 2009[49]). There is increasing, though contested, evidence of the relationship between collaboration and school improvement (Chapman and Muijs, 2014[50]; Croft, 2015[51]) and also of the challenges this involves for school leaders, not least in moving from hierarchical relationships to equal peer leadership relationships (Muijs et al., 2014[52]).

Overall, across the OECD, actions pertaining to system leadership are the least often reported by principals: 55% of principals report that they “often” or “very often” “provided parents or guardians with information on the school and student performance” and 37% of principals report that they “often” or “very often” “collaborated with principals from other schools on challenging work tasks” (Figure II.5.7 Table II.5.12). Countries and economies with exceptionally low values in the proportion of principals who reported collaborating with principals from other schools on challenging work tasks are Viet Nam (25%), Spain (24%), Malta (21%), Singapore (21%), Japan (20%), the Czech Republic (18%) and CABA (Argentina) (9%). Collaborating with principals from other schools is the activity least frequently mentioned by principals, out of the 11 school leadership activities discussed in this chapter, in 19 TALIS countries and economies. However, more than half of principals report engaging “often” or “very often” in collaboration with other principals in Finland, Hungary, Korea, the Netherlands, Romania, the Russian Federation, Slovenia, South Africa and Turkey.

Overall, across all these types of leadership, principals’ engagement in these actions has not changed systematically in the last five years (Table II.5.16). An interesting pattern in a handful of countries and economies is the change in principals’ collaboration with teachers to solve classroom discipline problems. For 9 of the 31 countries and economies with data available for both TALIS 2013 and TALIS 2018, there has been a significant decrease in the percentage of principals reporting that they engage “often” or “very often” in collaboration with teachers to solve classroom discipline problems. The highest decrease is observed for Norway (20 percentage points) and Singapore (19 percentage points). These changes in the engagement of principals in solving classroom discipline problems could suggest that there are fewer disciplinary problems and that the intervention of principals is no longer warranted or needed. Indeed, the classroom disciplinary climate has improved in Singapore since 2013 and in Norway since 2008 – see Table I.3.55 in TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I) (OECD, 2019[45]).

Looking at the specific indicators of indirect instructional leadership ( “actions to ensure that teachers feel responsible for their students’ learning outcomes”; “actions to ensure that teachers take responsibility for improving their teaching skills”; and “actions to support co-operation among teachers to develop new teaching practices”) reveals interesting findings for some countries (Figure II.5.9, Table II.5.16). Alberta (Canada), Chile, Iceland, Korea, Singapore and the Slovak Republic have experienced a decrease in at least one of the three indicators for instructional leadership. In the case of Korea and Singapore, there has been a marked decrease in these three actions. The decline in the proportion of principals engaging in these actions could reflect time allocated to different tasks. For example, Korea has experienced an increase in actions related to resolving problems with the school’s lesson timetable. In contrast, the Flemish Community of Belgium, Georgia and Norway have experienced a significant increase in at least one of the indicators of instructional leadership.

As mentioned in the previous section, a relatively low percentage of principals report engaging in system leadership activities “often” or “very often”. The importance of system leadership cannot be underplayed, as the relationship between the school and parents and the larger school community is vital to providing contextualised and pertinent quality education (Schleicher, 2018[53]). TALIS 2018 collected a series of additional indicators that help to shed light on these types of activities.

On average across the OECD, principals report spending one-tenth of their working time on interactions with parents and guardians (Table II.5.18). School leaders’ time spent on interactions with families and guardians is comparatively higher in Latin American countries: CABA (Argentina) (15%), Brazil (14%) and Mexico (13%), as well as in Turkey, Italy and Spain (all 14%). The proportion of time spent on these interactions is slightly higher (by up to 6 percentage points) in urban schools than in rural schools in Alberta (Canada), Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, the Russian Federation, the Slovak Republic and Sweden. In addition, on average across the OECD, principals report spending only 6% of their time on interactions with their local and regional community, business and industry (Table II.5.19). However, in Croatia, Italy, Japan and Romania, school leaders spend more than 8% of their total time, on average, on these interactions.

Overall, in the last five years, the average time principals have spent on relations with other stakeholders has not changed significantly in TALIS countries and economies. Of the 31 countries and economies with available data, only Alberta (Canada), Chile, Finland, Japan, Korea, Shanghai (China) and Singapore showed a significant decrease in the average time principals spent interacting with parents and guardians (Table II.5.20). In 12 TALIS countries and economies, the time principals’ spent in interactions with the local and regional community, business and industry has decreased, although the magnitude of these changes is relatively small.8

TALIS also asks school leaders about their views on the level of their school’s engagement with the community. Specifically, TALIS asks school leaders about their extent of agreement or disagreement with the statement “parents or guardians are involved in school activities”. On average across the OECD, almost half (48%) of school leaders report that this applies “quite a bit” or “a lot” to their school (Table II.5.21). However, there are large differences between countries. This view is most prevalent in Latvia (89%), Italy (84%) and Denmark (72%) and least prevalent in Mexico, Sweden and the Slovak Republic (all less than 25%).

Regarding specific interactions with parents or guardians, the results are somewhat more nuanced. On average across the OECD, 62% of principals consider that parents or guardians support student achievement “quite bit” or “a lot”, while only 48% of principals consider that parents or guardians are involved in school activities “quite a bit” or “a lot” (Table II.5.21). The results could show that, overall, principals consider that parents or guardians are concerned about the achievement of pupils but have less actual involvement in school activities.

More than 50% of principals support both statements in Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Portugal, the Russian Federation, Shanghai (China), the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Viet Nam (Table II.5.21). Less than 30% of principals report that parents or guardians are involved with school activities in CABA (Argentina), the Czech Republic, Finland, Iceland, Mexico, the Slovak Republic and Sweden. Furthermore, in several countries and economies, the share of principals who report that parents and guardians are concerned with student achievement is much higher than the share who report that parents are involved in school activities (a difference of at least 30 percentage points). This is the case in Belgium and its French Community, England (United Kingdom), Finland, Malta, Singapore and Slovenia. These results reflect, somewhat, the results of the recent TALIS study on early childhood education. It shows that “exchanging information with parents regarding daily activities and children’s development” is common, but that smaller percentages of staff report “encouraging parents to play and carry out learning activities at home with their children” (OECD, 2019[54]). In other words, these results may speak of the challenges schools face in translating the engagement and interest of parents into concrete activities.

Leadership needs to be understood beyond the boundaries of the school, as opportunities are provided to principals to engage in and influence policy development. TALIS asked principals about their overall satisfaction with support received for their tasks from other stakeholders and how they perceived their own involvement with policy making. On average across the OECD, 66% of principals “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement “I need more support from authorities” (Table II.5.25), implying that only about one-third are satisfied with the support they receive. More than 90% of principals state that they need more support from authorities in Colombia, Italy, Japan, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Shanghai (China) and Viet Nam, while less than 50% agree with this statement in Denmark, England (United Kingdom), Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Singapore. Values are particularly low in Denmark and England (United Kingdom), with only 29% of principals considering that they need additional support from authorities, indicating higher degrees of satisfaction.

On average across the OECD, 33% of principals consider that they cannot influence decisions that are important for their work, implying that about two-thirds feel that they can influence decisions (Table II.5.25). There is important variation across countries. More than 50% of principals feel that they cannot influence decisions in Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Iceland, Portugal and Shanghai (China), while this is the case for less than 15% of principals in Israel, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway and Singapore. It is interesting to note that the proportion of principals who feel that they need more support from the authorities (66%) equals the proportion of those who disagree with the statement that they cannot influence policy (66%). In other words, although principals may not be getting the expected support from authorities in their work, they still consider they have room to influence the development of policy. A similar appreciation is shared by teachers – see the section on teacher leadership at the end of this chapter.

There is a growing realisation of the value of harnessing the leadership potential of teachers (Ainley and Carstens, 2018[8]). Conceptualised as” teacher leadership”, this presupposes flatter organisational structures, in which teachers themselves take on leadership, both in and beyond the classroom, working collaboratively with colleagues on school improvement and pedagogy and having a clear voice in the development of the school vision and goals (Gonzales and Lambert, 2001[55]; Harris and Muijs, 2004[17]; Portin et al., 2013[56]). This section first examines teachers’ level of responsibility in several school tasks, as reported by principals. It then explores teachers’ feelings on control of curriculum issues for their target class and principals’ perceptions of both academic leadership and curriculum leadership. The section concludes by exploring teachers’ perceptions of their relations with the media and policy makers, as these are also relevant indicators for teacher leadership outside the school.

Principals report on the levels of responsibility teachers have for 11 different tasks. On average across the OECD, the percentage of principals who report that teachers have significant responsibility on issues concerning staffing or budget is quite low. Within these groups of tasks, the two that stand out most are “appointing or hiring teachers” (7% of principals report that teachers have significant responsibility on this issue) and “deciding on budget allocations within the school” (also 7%) (Figure II.5.10, Table II.5.5). Despite these overall low percentages, there are a few exceptions. For example, 46% of principals in Denmark and 44% in the Netherlands report that teachers have significant responsibility in “appointing or hiring teachers”. In Korea and New Zealand, 20% of principals report that teachers have significant responsibility in “deciding on budget allocations within the school” (Table II.5.5).

Turning to issues regarding school policies, teachers’ responsibilities are low, but greater than for staffing and budgets. On average across OECD countries and economies in TALIS, a minority of principals report significant responsibility for teachers in establishing student assessment policies (42%), for establishing student disciplinary policies (40%) and on approving students for admission to the school (only 7%) (Figure II.5.10, Table II.5.5). Regarding involvement in student admissions, there is a vast difference between principals and teachers. While the majority of principals (78% on average across the OECD) reported having responsibility for student admissions, only 7% of principals state that teachers have significant responsibility on this issue. A few countries and economies display high values for teachers’ responsibility for disciplinary policies, such as Iceland (83%) and Slovenia (80%), while principals in Estonia (81%) and Latvia (70%) report that teachers have significant responsibility in establishing student assessment policies. However, a few TALIS countries and economies show remarkably low values in these two areas. Less than 20% of principals in Saudi Arabia, Shanghai (China), Turkey and Viet Nam report that teachers have significant responsibility in establishing disciplinary policies and student assessment policies. The proportion of principals reporting that teachers have significant responsibility on approving students’ admission to schools is low (below 5% in most countries and economies), but there are some outliers, such as Austria, where 38% of principals report that teachers have significant responsibility in this area.

The area where teachers seem to have the greatest responsibility is curriculum and instruction (Figure II.5.10, Table II.5.5). On average across the OECD, a majority of principals report significant responsibility for teachers in choosing learning materials (75%) and determining course content (52%). Fewer principals so report for teachers’ responsibility in deciding which courses are offered (39%). Choosing learning materials is most often cited as a task for which teachers have considerable responsibility (and, hence, autonomy). At least 95% of principals report that teachers have input on this issue in the Flemish Community of Belgium and Iceland. However, less than 30% of principals report that teachers have input in this area in Japan, Saudi Arabia, Shanghai (China), the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam. For determining course content, high values are observed in the Netherlands (91%), Italy (88%), Denmark (84%) and Estonia (83%), with very low shares of principals (less than 10%) reporting that teachers have significant input in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Viet Nam. Deciding which courses are offered also shows interesting variation across countries, with high values in Italy (95%) and Estonia (75%), but low values in Brazil (9%), Turkey (9%), Saudi Arabia (1%) and Viet Nam (1%).

To have a comprehensive understanding of teachers’ responsibility for school tasks, a simple categorisation index is created that includes the tasks where teachers had greater input. The tasks selected are: 1) “establishing student disciplinary policies and procedures”; 2) “establishing student assessment policies”; 3) “approving students for admission to the school”; 4) “choosing which learning materials are used”; 5) “determining course content, including curricula”; and 6) “deciding which courses are offered”. If principals report that teachers have significant responsibility in four out of the six tasks, teachers in those schools are considered to have significant responsibility in the majority of tasks related to school policies, curriculum and instruction.

On average across the OECD, based on principals’ responses, 42% of schools can be classified as schools where teachers have significant responsibility for school policies, curriculum and instruction. This is the case for at least 70% of schools in Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Iceland and Italy, while less than 10% of schools can be classified under this category in Mexico, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Shanghai (China), Turkey and Viet Nam (Figure II.5.11, Table II.5.31). Another way to look at these results is to look at the total average count of tasks per country. On average across the OECD, principals report that teachers have significant responsibility in 2.5 of a total of 6 possible tasks, ranging from 4.2 in Estonia to 0.1 in Saudi Arabia. Box II.5.6 presents two interesting cases of harnessing the leadership capabilities of teachers in the United States.

On average across the OECD, based on principals’ responses, a higher proportion of privately managed schools than publicly managed schools have teachers with significant responsibility for the majority of tasks related to school policies, curriculum and instruction. This is the case for Denmark, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Malta, the Slovak Republic and the United Arab Emirates (Table II.5.31).

An analysis of the role of teachers in decision making over the last five years shows that there are few significant changes for the majorities of countries and economies participating in TALIS (Table II.5.30). However, it is interesting to highlight the case of Georgia, where there has been a significant increase in the share of principals reporting that teachers have significant responsibility in areas concerning “appointing or hiring teachers”, “establishing student disciplinary policies and procedures”, “establishing student assessment policies”, “choosing which learning materials” are used and “determining course content, including curricula”.

In TALIS 2018, teachers were asked, for the first time, how strongly they agree ( “strongly disagree”; “disagree”; “agree”; or “strongly agree”) on their control over a series of areas regarding planning and teaching for a particular class that they teach (henceforth referred to as “target class”).9 Overall, teachers’ sense of control is remarkably high across all participating countries. On average across the OECD, 96% of teachers “agree” or “strongly agree” that they have control over “selecting teaching methods”, 94% state the same about “assessing student’s learning”, 92% about “disciplining students”, 91% about “determining the amount of homework to be assigned” and 84% about “determining course content” (Figure II.5.12, Table II.5.32). In 13 TALIS countries and economies, more than 90% of teachers “agree” or “strongly agree” that they have control in each of the areas mentioned. Cross-country variation in each of these areas is quite limited. “Determining course content” is the area displaying the widest range of values, with more than 95% of teachers reporting that they have control in this area in Iceland, Korea, Norway and Sweden and only 47% of teachers so reporting in Portugal.

It is also worth noting that there is a very low system-level correlation between the sense of control reported by teachers and by principals on whether teachers have significant responsibility for instruction and curricular tasks (Tables II.5.5 and II.5.33). For example, the linear correlation coefficient is very weak between teachers’ sense of control for determining course content and principals stating that teachers have significant responsibility for this same task (the linear correlation coefficient r is r=.18). The lack of association and the overall high percentages of teachers reporting that they have control over their planning might be because of the different perceptions teachers and principals have on these specific questions. Teachers may be reporting on the choices that they have in a regular class, while principals may have a more holistic view of the other stakeholders involved in deciding course content. The action level also differs between questions; while the principal is asked about teachers’ level of responsibility in the school, teachers are asked about the sense of control they feel in their target class.

The degree in which teachers are autonomous in making decisions in their work has been identified as a cornerstone of teachers’ professionalism, along with development of knowledge and the capacities for collaboration at work (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012[13]). Regarding the relationship with collaboration, the degree of autonomy and control teachers feel over instruction could be considered as a precondition to collaboration with their peers. However, teachers’ level of autonomy and control may also be interpreted as a sign of isolationism that could go against efforts for collaboration (Kelchtermans, 2006[60]). To test this relation, the scale of professional collaboration was regressed on the scale of the level of control teachers feel over their target class (measured by teachers’ feelings of control over determining course content, selecting teaching methods, assessing students’ learning, disciplining students and determining the amount of homework to be assigned).10

On average across the OECD, teachers with higher feelings of control over their target class tend to report that they engage more often in professional collaboration activities with their peers, after controlling for teacher and class characteristics. This relationship holds true for 29 countries and economies (Figure II.5.13, Table II.5.38). The results could suggest that teachers feel control over their instruction and, as such, they do not feel threatened by sharing responsibilities with peers. However, these results need to be interpreted with caution, as the explanatory power of the model is limited (the coefficients of determination R2 are low).

In the literature for school improvement, teachers’ sense of autonomy and participation in decision making has also been linked to the effective implementation of innovation programmes (Geijsel et al., 2001[61]). Studies have identified the “bottom up” influence in decision making as a characteristic of high-innovative schools as opposed to low-innovative schools (Geijsel, Sleegers and Van den Berg, 1999[62]). To explore this relationship the scale of team innovativeness is regressed to the scale of target class autonomy.11 Regression analyses show that, on average across the OECD, teachers who feel a higher sense of control over their target class are more likely to report that they work in an innovative environment, after controlling for teacher and class characteristics (Figure II.5.13, Table II.5.37). This holds true for 40 TALIS countries and economies. The results show that, when teachers feel more control of the decisions regarding their classes, they also tend to report that they work in innovative environments. As with the previous regression, the results need to be interpreted with caution (the coefficients of determination R2 are low). Nevertheless, the results of Tables II.5.38 and II.5.37, seem to hint at a certain degree of interdependency between autonomy, collaboration and innovation.

Furthermore, there seems to be an important link between teachers’ sense of autonomy and work satisfaction. In particular, the desire to retain autonomy in the classroom has been identified as highly influential in the decision of teachers to remain in teaching (Brunetti, 2001[63]). Even more, the sense of lack of control in the classroom can lead to teachers feeling tension, frustration, anxiety and stress (Davis and Wilson, 2000[64]). In addition, teachers’ sense of autonomy has been linked to teachers’ self-efficacy, as both are considered essential attributes for teachers’ adaptive faculties and engagement with work (Skaalvik and Skaalvik, 2014[65]).

Regression analyses show that, on average across the OECD, teachers who feel that they have greater levels of control over their target class: 1) feel more confident in their teaching (all TALIS countries and economies show a positive association between control of the target class and self-efficacy); 2) are more satisfied with their work (all TALIS countries and economies, except Malta, show a positive association between control of the target class and job satisfaction); and 3) report lower levels of stress (31 TALIS countries and economies show a negative association between control of the target class and levels of stress) (Tables II.5.39, II.5.40 and II.5.41). Results should be interpreted with caution, as the explanatory power of the model is limited (the coefficients of determination R2 are low).12 Regression results for the relationship between target class autonomy and self-efficacy and job satisfaction are displayed in Figure II.5.14.

Leadership can be explored in teachers’ ability to lead instruction. Academic environments or pressure are usually conceptualised as an attribute of the school climate. However, in this section they are explored as principals’ perceptions on how able teachers are to lead their classroom (Ainley and Carstens, 2018 [8]). For the first time in TALIS 2018, principals were asked if a series of actions took place frequently in their schools. These actions labelled “academic leadership” are understood as actions focusing on the overall quality of the academic atmosphere of the school (Ainley and Carstens, 2018[8]) Principals’ reports on these actions are remarkably high. On average across the OECD, 92% of principals report that teachers understand the school’s curricular goals “quite a bit” or “a lot”, 90% report that teachers succeed in implementing the school’s curriculum and 82% report that teachers hold high expectations for student achievement (Table II.5.42). In 13 TALIS countries and economies, for each of the three aspects of teachers’ academic leadership, more than 90% of principals report that they take place “quite a bit” or “a lot” in their schools. However, there are a few TALIS countries and economies where teachers’ academic leadership is comparatively lower. For example, although the values are still high, Mexico and the Netherlands are at the bottom of the distribution of principals reporting that academic leadership of teachers takes place “quite a bit” or “a lot” in their schools.

There is interesting variation across countries and economies in teachers’ expectations for student achievement. More than 95% of principals report that teachers hold high expectations for student achievement in Denmark, France, the French Community of Belgium, Latvia and Viet Nam, but only around 50% of the principals report this in Bulgaria and the Netherlands (Figure II.5.15, Table II.5.45). Furthermore, this aspect of teachers’ academic leadership shows great variation across school characteristics. On average across the OECD, principals in schools with a high proportion of students from socio-economically disadvantaged homes (more than 30%) report less frequently than their colleagues in schools with lower concentrations of such students that teachers hold high expectations for student achievement. This holds true for 14 TALIS countries and economies. The differences are particularly pronounced in Spain (a gap of 47 percentage points), the United States (43 percentage points) and Romania (40 percentage points). Also on average across the OECD, principals in schools with high concentrations (more than 10%) of students with special needs and of immigrant students report less frequently than their colleagues with lower concentrations of these student populations that their teachers hold high expectations for student achievement. The articulation between expectation, student performance and students’ characteristics is intricate and complex. Nevertheless, there is a certain consensus that expectations could play the role of a self-fulfilling prophecy in which students will not perform beyond what teachers expect of them (Rubie-Davies, Hattie and Hamilton, 2006[66]). As such, more efforts should be put into the expectations that both teachers and principals have of their students in disadvantaged schools.

Variations in teachers’ expectations are also observable by the type of school (Figure II.5.15, Table II.5.45). On average across the OECD, principals in privately managed schools report more frequently than their colleagues in publicly managed schools that their teachers hold high expectations for student achievement. This holds true for 16 TALIS countries and economies. The three countries with the sharpest differences are: Japan, with a gap of 32 percentage points (100% of principals in privately managed schools report that teachers hold high expectation for student achievement compared to 68% of principals in publicly managed schools); Finland, with a gap of 30 percentage points (100% versus 70%); and Turkey, with a gap of 29 percentage points (100% versus 71%). Across the OECD, the average differences based on school locations are not significant regarding teachers’ expectations for their students, but there are still interesting results in some countries and economies. For six TALIS countries and economies, principals in rural schools report less frequently than their colleagues in city schools that teachers hold high expectations for student achievement. The sharpest differences are observable in: Finland, with a gap of 38 percentage points (43% of principals in rural schools report that their teachers hold high expectations for student achievement compared to 81% in city schools); Bulgaria, with a gap of 34 percentage points (42% versus 76%); the Slovak Republic, with a gap of 30 percentage points (58% versus 88%); and Portugal, with a gap of 30 percentage points (60% versus 90%).

How can teachers’ actions towards achieving academic excellence can be improved? Past research has shown that school leaders’ instructional leadership can be instrumental in teachers’ efforts to achieve academic success (OECD, 2016[9]). To examine this association, regression analyses are conducted between the instructional leadership scale (the frequency with which principals get teachers to collaborate, make teachers feel responsible for students’ learning and have teachers work towards improving their skills) and the scale of the school academic pressure as reported by principals (measured by whether teachers understand the school’s curricular goals, whether they succeed in implementing the school’s curriculum, whether they hold high expectations for student achievement and whether students have a desire to do well in school). Regression analyses show that, on average across the OECD, there is a significant positive association between instructional leadership and academic pressure, after controlling for principal and school characteristics (Table II.5.46). This relationship holds true for 17 TALIS countries and economies. An important aspect to take into account when interpreting these results is that both of these indicators are reported by principals. A possible explanation might be that, as principals engage more often in instructional leadership, they have a better appreciation of teachers’ efforts to strive for academic excellence.

TALIS 2018 attempts to dig more deeply into teacher leadership by exploring teachers’ perceptions of their relationship with the media and policy makers. Indeed, leadership can be showcased not only within the walls of the school, but also in the capacity of teachers to have input into more general discussions about education taking place in society.

The mass media have a crucial role in shaping society’s perceptions of teachers and their work (Stromquist, 2018[67]). Some studies have even suggested that the media have a direct influence on perceptions of the prestige of the teaching workforce across society (Pérez-Díaz and Rodríguez, 2014[68]; Smak and Walczak, 2017[69]). On average across the OECD, only 19% of teachers report that the media in their country/region value their profession (Table II.5.47). In Kazakhstan, Shanghai (China), Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam, more than 50% of teachers feel that the teaching profession is valued by the media. Results are lower than 10% in Austria, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, France, the French Community of Belgium, Hungary, Iceland, Japan, Portugal and Slovenia.

Making teaching careers attractive and prestigious also entails empowering teachers and offering them the possibility to be actors of change through advocacy and advising on educational reform (Schleicher, 2011[70]). This makes the perceived relations between teachers and policy makers another crucial area to explore. On average across OECD countries, only 14% of teachers consider that policy makers in their country/region value their view. Less than 5% of teachers agree with this statement in Croatia, Portugal, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia (Table II.5.47).

On average across the OECD, 24% of teachers believe that they can influence education policy. However, there is important cross-country variation, with only 8% of teachers believing they can influence policy making in France, compared to 88% of teachers in Viet Nam. More than half of teachers share this belief in Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam. In a few countries and economies participating in TALIS, the percentage of teachers asserting that they can influence educational policy is much larger than the percentage of teachers reporting that policy makers value their views (Figure II.5.16, Table II.5.47). The most remarkable cases are: Brazil, with a gap of 52 percentage points (59% of teachers feel they can influence policy, but only 7% state that their views are valued by policy makers); Mexico, with a gap of 38 percentage points (49% versus 11%); Chile, with a gap of 34 percentage points (45% versus 11%), Colombia, with a gap of 33 percentage points (50% versus 17%); Portugal, with a gap of 32 percentage points (36% versus 4%); and Israel, with a gap of 30 percentage points (47% versus 17%). A possible interpretation of these results is that, for these countries, although teachers feel that their views are not valued by policy makers, they may still have alternative mechanisms or pathways (e.g. union representation, industrial action) through which they are able to shape the policy development (Stromquist, 2018[67]).

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Notes

← 1. The use of the word “significant” does not refer to the statistical properties of the results, but to the wording used in the questionnaire to phrase the question to principals.

← 2. A school governing board is directly responsible for the governance of a school. The board may be totally external to the school or may have staff and student representation. The school’s governing board is usually (but not always) the governing board of that school only (i.e. it is not a district board). The composition and responsibilities of a school governing board vary greatly by country (OECD, 2016[24]). However, OECD analysis has consistently considered school governing boards as agents that contribute to school autonomy. The analysis presented in TALIS 2018 follows the same pattern.

← 3. The term “school autonomy”, as used in this chapter, is limited to notions of school decision making. Analysis of school autonomy usually also takes into account elements of parental choice, accountability and composition of school markets (Hanushek, Link and Woessmann, 2013[21]; OECD, 2016[24]; Whitty, 1997[71]). However, the TALIS questionnaire does not elicit sufficient data on these additional aspects to provide comprehensive analysis on the topic of accountability.

← 4. The OECD average corresponds to the arithmetic mean of the estimates of the OECD countries and economies that participate in TALIS, with adjudicated data.

← 5. A direct comparison between the proportion of autonomous schools that are publically managed and privately managed is not feasible since there are too few observations for private schools to provide reliable estimates and/or to ensure the confidentiality of respondents in 41 out of the 48 countries and economies.

← 6. The school management team typically consists of the principal, vice-principal (s) and heads of department or subjects. It typically does not include receptionists, typists, clerks or others who support the administrative activities of the school, but it could include school financial or business managers.

← 7. In several studies, indirect forms of instructional leadership have been called “transformational leadership”. For this publication, it was decided to preserve the term “instructional leadership” to remain consistent with the terms used in previous cycles of TALIS. For a more in-depth discussion of these concepts, see Urick and Bowers (2014[10]).

← 8. Interpretations regarding Table II.5.20 should be made carefully as the list of items have changed in 2018 compared to 2013. As such, differences could be attributed to the measurement instruments rather than actual changes in the response patterns of principals.

← 9. This target class was defined as the first ISCED level 2 class that the teacher (typically) taught in the school where she or he works after 11 a.m. on the previous Tuesday. The question was answered only by those teachers who report that their lesson was not specifically targeted at students with special needs.

← 10. The scale of target class autonomy is measured by teachers’ feelings of control over determining course content, selecting teaching methods, assessing students’ learning, disciplining students and determining the amount of homework to be assigned. The scale of professional collaboration is measured by how often teachers teach jointly as a team in the same class; whether they observe other teachers’ classes and provide feedback; whether they engage in joint activities across different classes and age groups, e.g. projects; and whether they take part in collaborative professional learning.

← 11. The scale of team innovativeness is measured by teachers’ sense of whether most teachers in their school strive to develop new ideas for teaching and learning; whether most teachers in this school are open to change; whether most teachers in this school search for new ways to solve problems; and whether most teachers in this school provide practical support to each other for the application of new ideas.

← 12. As measured by the scales of self-efficacy (measured by teachers’ self-efficacy with classroom management, student engagement and efficacy in instruction), satisfaction (measured by satisfaction with the profession and the current work environment) and well-being (the extent to which teachers experience stress in their work; if work leaves room for personal time; the impact on their mental health; and the impact on their physical health), respectively.

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