3. Preparing teachers and school leaders as expert professionals

Education systems face a variety of challenges in terms of recruiting a highly skilled and motivated teaching workforce. They must ensure that they have enough teachers to meet demand and make sure all teachers are adequately trained and qualified for their job (OECD, 2005[1]). At the time of recruitment, education systems can determine the quantity and quality of the workforce through minimum educational qualification requirements for specific roles at each educational level. And, once candidates are recruited into teacher education, it is up to education systems to determine how these candidates are prepared with the necessary knowledge, skills and mindsets to effectively carry out their roles.

Teachers and school leaders’ preparation for their roles or their pre-service training is the first step in the continuum of teacher development. It extends into in-service learning opportunities during the course of their careers. Training before starting an occupation is fundamental in any profession. For teachers, pre-service training constitutes a building block towards their instructional and professional practices in the first few years of teaching, but also defines their work stream for the rest of their careers; for example, in the subjects or grades teachers teach. The knowledge and skills that teachers learn from experience and continuous professional development activities builds on this initial training that teachers receive before they start their first teaching assignment.

This chapter describes the initial education of teachers and school leaders, including years of post-secondary education and training, as well as the content of their teacher education programmes, in defining the profile of teaching professionals in primary and upper secondary education. The results on teacher preparation opportunities should be interpreted with consideration that each education level puts forth different curricular and instructional demands for its teachers and caters to specific age groups and socio-emotional contexts of students. Further, the chapter describes the level of preparedness of teachers in the different areas related to their instructional tasks. The second part of this chapter describes what teachers do in their core tasks – including the subjects they teach in primary and upper secondary education, opportunities to learn in the classroom based on teachers’ reports of actual time spent on teaching and learning vis à vis other activities, and the different types of teaching practices they incorporate in their lessons.

Research indicates that the following features of teacher education matter for setting teachers up for a strong start: inclusion of content and pedagogical knowledge in a comprehensive manner; opportunities to develop practical skills linked to theoretical knowledge; and alignment of teacher education with school contexts. However, it is not necessarily so that they matter in the same way for all kinds of teachers – i.e. teachers teaching different grades, age groups and levels of education. These features may lie in one or more elements of initial teacher education, curriculum, certification, in-school practicum and induction (OECD, 2019[2]).

The quality measure of teachers entering the workforce can be driven by a combination of factors: the social and educational background of candidates in the profession; the structure and time spent on teaching qualifications, as well as the competencies they learn during their formal training. Teachers’ and school leaders’ educational backgrounds define the profile of the teaching workforce in a country. The educational backgrounds of teachers and school leaders entering the profession not only provide an initial understanding of the knowledge and skills they possess but also an indication of the choice of individuals with certain qualifications to enter into teaching compared to other professions.

The research evidence on the relationship between a teacher’s post-graduate education (a master’s degree or higher) and their students’ educational achievement is mixed. The value-added effects of a teacher’s master’s degree may be driven by the subject taught by the teacher or the subject majored in (Horn and Jang, 2017[3]). These issues matter from a policy point of view to inform licensing requirements for teachers entering the profession with a given educational qualification but also to identify targeted professional development. (Harris and Sass, 2011[4])find that undergraduate education may not yield added teacher productivity but there may be positive effects of graduate studies. Several studies indicate that teachers in primary education with a bachelor’s degree may not be very different from those with a master’s degree in terms of their productivity and practices (Betts, Zau and Rice, 2003[5]; Collier, 2013[6]; Croninger et al., 2007[7]; Harris and Sass, 2011[4]; Henry et al., 2014[8]; Jepsen, 2005[9]; Rivkin, Hanushek and Kain, 2005[10]). In contrast, at the upper secondary level, some evidence indicates the positive effects of a master’s degree on student achievement among science and mathematics teachers (Horn and Jang, 2017[3]). Sahlberg (2015[11]) also notes that the educational attainment of teachers may be related to raising the prestige of the teaching profession – a master’s degree requirement in Finland helped to attract highly talented and motivated candidates to apply for teaching jobs.

A key question from a policy point of view is whether pre-service training adequately prepares teachers to start strong and effectively. The content of teachers’ initial education is of particular policy interest as it defines the profiles of the workforce entering the profession, and education systems aim to attract the best candidates into teaching (Ainley and Carstens, 2018[12]). The different topics covered under initial education constitute teachers’ “opportunities to learn”, which build a teacher’s knowledge base that is related to student achievement through their instructional actions in the classroom (Ainley and Carstens, 2018[12]). Teachers’ opportunities to learn through hands-on and practical experiences such as classroom teaching or opportunities to engage in actual teaching practices, and the quality of teaching methods experienced by teachers are important considerations for teacher education to be impactful (Boyd et al., 2009[13]).

This section presents the results on teachers’ educational attainment in primary and upper secondary education based on teachers’ and principals’ reports. A description of teachers’ qualification pathways then follows, which gives an idea of the structure and time spent on their formal teacher preparation. Lastly, the section discusses the content of teachers’ preparation, which is the core indication of what teachers actually learn in terms of knowledge and skills before starting their jobs.

The Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) asked teachers about the highest level of formal education they completed using the 2011 International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED-2011). A large majority of teachers in primary education participating in TALIS completed a bachelor’s degree or equivalent level of education (ISCED level 6) (Table 3.2). Sixty-eight percent of teachers in primary education on average across the 13 participating countries and economies reported their highest educational qualification at this level, which typically has a duration of three to four years full-time study at tertiary/post-secondary level, and provides students with intermediate and/or professional knowledge, skills and competencies (UNESCO-UIS, 2012[14]).1 More than 90% of teachers completed at least a bachelor’s degree equivalent or higher in Denmark, England (United Kingdom), the Flemish Community of Belgium, Japan, Korea, Turkey and United Arab Emirates (Figure 3.1). The prevalence of a high share of teachers in these countries with an ISCED level 6 qualification or higher could point to this level as the minimum qualification to enter the profession in these countries at the primary education level (see Annex A for country background information) (OECD, 2020[15]).

The initial education of teachers in primary education is longer and more in-depth in some countries where a substantial share of teachers completed a graduate/master’s degree or equivalent (ISCED level 7);2 these are France (38%), Sweden (36%), Korea (31%), and the United Arab Emirates (20%) (Table 3.2). Through ISCED level 7 programmes, these teachers have gained advanced academic or professional knowledge, skills and competencies. As an exception, in Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (henceforth CABA [Argentina]), a large majority of teachers (60%) completed short-cycle tertiary education at best (ISCED level 5)3 compared to 13% of teachers on average across the participating countries in primary education.

Compared to lower secondary teachers in participating countries, teachers in primary education’ formal educational qualifications are significantly lower across all the participating countries and economies. Eighty-seven percent of teachers have a bachelor’s degree or higher in primary education while 93% of teachers attained this level of education in lower secondary education. Fewer teachers in primary education completed a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in CABA (Argentina) (23 percentage points difference) in Viet Nam (13 percentage points) and in Turkey (6 percentage points); fewer teachers in primary education completed a master’s degree or equivalent in Sweden (29 percentage points), France (27 percentage points), and by smaller margins in England (United Kingdom) (12 percentage points) and by less than 10 percentage points in CABA (Argentina), Denmark, England (United Kingdom), the Flemish community of Belgium, Japan, Korea and the United Arab Emirates (Table 3.2).

It is important to note that the gap between primary and secondary levels of education not only lie in educational attainment, but also, often in the share of teachers who hold teaching certifications and licensure. Given the lower attainment of teachers in primary education, systems could introduce substantial requirements for pedagogical training and content coursework in teacher certification programmes (Ingersoll, 2007[16]). The next section discusses these issues in further detail.

TALIS also asked teachers whether they completed their teacher education via a regular programme (concurrent or consecutive) or other pathway such as fast-track or specialised teacher education programme, education or training in another pedagogical profession or subject-specific education. In addition to regular teacher education programmes traditionally in place in many countries and economies, education systems have also created alternative and fast-track pathways for entry into teaching to attract a diverse profile of candidates such as those with existing expertise from other fields; the goal of these pathways is also to meet shortages in teacher supply (Musset, 2010[17]).

Regular concurrent teacher education programmes where academic subjects are studied alongside educational and professional studies (Musset, 2010[17]) are the most common form of teacher certification in primary education, as reported by 71% of teachers in primary education on average (Table 3.4 and Figure 3.2). While these programmes allow for an integrated learning experience, there is less flexibility for candidates to enter the teaching profession from other subject-streams (Musset, 2010[17]).4 The prevalence of concurrent teacher qualification in primary education indicates that these teachers decide on their occupation at an early stage in their post-secondary education. The largest shares of teachers having completed their formal training through concurrent programmes are found in the Flemish community of Belgium (98%), Viet Nam (96%), CABA (Argentina) (83%) and Korea (82%). However, a relatively low share of teachers in primary education completed their teacher education through these programmes in England (United Kingdom) and France (respectively, 40-41%) and in the United Arab Emirates (52%).

Twenty percent of teachers, on average, in primary education reported qualifying through a regular consecutive programme, which is typically longer with courses in pedagogy separate from subject-matter courses (Table 3.4). However, a large share of teachers received formal training through consecutive programmes in England (United Kingdom) (52%) and France (40%). While consecutive programmes for teacher education spent less time on strengthening teachers’ pedagogical skills, these programmes allow teachers to build a stronger content expertise which is also important for them to set a strong foundation for students in early grades (Jensen et al., 2016[18]).

Other teacher certification programmes cater to a small number of teachers to enter the profession at the primary education level – fast-track or specialised teacher education programme (3%), education or training in another pedagogical profession (1%) and subject-specific education only (2%) (Table 3.4). Nonetheless, a small share of teachers (1%) on average across participating countries and economies in primary education have had no formal qualification. The highest share of teachers who do not have any formal teacher education qualification in primary education is found in France (4%) and the United Arab Emirates (3%).

Fast-track or specialised teacher education programmes for teachers in primary education are rather prevalent in three countries and economies – the United Arab Emirates (17%), France (8%) and England (5%) (Table 3.4). Male teachers are more likely to go through a fast-track or specialised programme than female teachers in primary education in England, the Flemish Community of Belgium and the United Arab Emirates (Table 3.5). In England and the United Arab Emirates, full-time teachers are more likely to have gone through fast-track or specialised programmes than part-time teachers. In the United Arab Emirates, fast-track programmes are 12 percentage points more prevalent in cities than in rural areas. They are also less common among teachers (8 percentage points less) working in socio-economically disadvantaged schools than others. In England (United Kingdom) and France, fast-track programmes seem to have gained prevalence for recruiting teachers in recent years as a higher share of their novice teachers (more than 10%) received their teaching qualification through these programmes compared to teachers with more than five years of experience in these countries.

A higher share of teachers in primary education received regular concurrent teacher education compared to lower secondary teachers. The highest difference is observed in CABA (Argentina) (31 percentage points difference), England (28 percentage points) and France (21 percentage points). These results could highlight the priority placed by education systems on the specific skillset and learning objectives for their teachers in primary education. The results could also be explained by individuals’ decisions to pursue concurrent education more often as a pathway into teaching in primary education.

Fast-track or specialised programmes for preparing teachers in primary education are more prevalent in primary education in France (8% of teachers in primary education versus 4% of lower secondary teachers). On the other hand, these programmes are less common in primary education in the Flemish Community of Belgium (8 percentage points difference), and by smaller margins in England (United Kingdom) and CABA (Argentina) (2-3 percentage points).

On average across the 11 participating countries and economies in upper secondary education, about half of the teachers completed a master’s degree or equivalent (ISCED level 7) (52%) (Table 3.2). While less than 25% of teachers in upper secondary completed this level of education in Alberta (Canada), Brazil, Turkey and Viet Nam, 90% or more teachers have a master’s degree in Croatia and Portugal. However, teachers’ highest educational qualification being a bachelor’s degree or equivalent (ISCED level 6) is also quite common in upper secondary education, as reported by 42% of teachers on average. It is the most common level of educational completion for teachers in upper secondary in Brazil (83%), Turkey (81%), Alberta (Canada) (79%) and Viet Nam (79%). The educational qualifications of the upper secondary teaching workforce in Sweden, Denmark and the United Arab Emirates is more distributed.

For a small share of the workforce in upper secondary education, their highest educational qualifications are below a bachelor’s degree or equivalent (4% on average across participating countries and economies). For example, 19% of teachers in upper secondary in Sweden, 10% of teachers in Denmark, and 7% of teachers in Slovenia have a short-cycle tertiary education or post-secondary non-tertiary education at best.5 This implies that these teachers have gone through shorter post-secondary education with less time spent on building professional knowledge and expertise, and integrating practical experience compared to what they would have learnt in a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral education. A plausible explanation for these results is the relatively higher share of teachers in vocational education and training (VET) in these countries, who are less likely to hold a master’s or bachelor’s degree compared to general education teachers (OECD, 2021[19]). Therefore, in-service training for teachers in upper secondary in these countries could focus on enhancing teachers’ knowledge and skills expertise given the complex subject expertise demanded from teachers at higher levels of education.

A higher share of teachers in upper secondary education completed a master’s degree or equivalent on average across the participating countries and economies (11 percentage points difference), and a slightly higher share of teachers have completed a doctoral degree (1 percentage point) (Table 3.2). These differences could correspond to the more restrictive and competitive entry requirements for teachers to teach at higher levels of education (OECD, 2020[15]). The largest differences between the educational qualification of teachers in upper secondary and lower secondary teachers can be seen in Denmark (65 percentage points), Viet Nam (19 percentage points), Slovenia (12 percentage points) and Turkey (11 percentage points), where the share of teachers with a master’s degree or equivalent is higher among teachers in upper secondary education. On the contrary, teachers in upper secondary education in Sweden completed lower levels of education – i.e. the share of teachers with a bachelor’s degree equivalent and a master’s degree equivalent is less compared to their counterparts in lower secondary education (10 percentage points).6

The most commonly pursued teacher qualification pathway in upper secondary education is a regular concurrent teacher education programme, as reported by 61% of teachers in upper secondary education on average (Table 3.4). TALIS defines concurrent teacher education programmes as those that grant candidates a single credential for studies in subject-matter content, pedagogy, and other courses in education during the first period of post-secondary education. These programmes typically take the form of bachelor’s university degrees. The high share of teachers gaining qualifications through these programmes indicates that these candidates decided to become teachers early on, i.e. at the beginning of their post-secondary studies. The highest share of teachers having completed this form of qualification are observed in Viet Nam (96%) and Brazil (74%) whereas fewer teachers at the upper secondary level completed their qualifications through concurrent programmes in Alberta (Canada) (40%). For the remaining countries and economies participating at the upper secondary level, about half of the teaching workforce (50-60%) completed their formal training through a concurrent programme – Croatia, Portugal, Slovenia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates

About one-fourth of the upper secondary teaching workforce on average completed pre-service training through a regular consecutive teacher education programme (25%) (Table 3.4), which are typically longer and involve specialised training in content and pedagogy (Musset, 2010[17]). TALIS defines consecutive teacher education programmes as those that require candidates to complete two phases of post-secondary education – university education with a focus on subject matter and a second phase focussed on pedagogy and practicum. A relatively high share of the upper secondary workforce in some countries and economies completed training through consecutive programmes – this is the case in Alberta (Canada) (56%), Portugal (38%) and Turkey (37%). This distribution of teacher qualification pathways indicates the presence of flexible entryways into teaching from diverse disciplines in these countries.

Alternate pathways for teacher qualification are also prominent in upper secondary education, which constitutes 13% of teachers on average across participating countries and economies – among this, 7% of teachers received pre-service training through a fast-track or specialised teacher education programme and 3% received a subject-specific education only (Table 3.4).

Fast-track or specialised education programmes are prominent in preparing teachers in upper secondary education in Croatia (35%), the United Arab Emirates (17%) and Slovenia (12%) (Table 3.4). These programmes are increasing in popularity as alternate or supplementary certification programmes, initially introduced to meet shortages in teacher supply in specific contexts but now also as a means to attract highly skilled candidates with diverse professional backgrounds and experiences into the teaching profession (Caena, 2014[20]; Owings et al., 2006[21]). Specialised teacher education can also take the form of supplementary education programmes or professional qualification courses, which allow students of different disciplines to extend their studies to train in pedagogical education (Boeskens, Nusche and Yurita, 2020[22]).

Teachers who work in schools offering a vocational education and training (VET) programme (hereafter, VET schools) are more likely to be trained through a fast-track programme or specialised teacher education programme compared to their counterparts in schools that do not offer a VET programme (non-VET schools) in four countries – Croatia (27 percentage points difference), the United Arab Emirates (9 percentage points), Portugal and Slovenia (Table 3.6). Fast-track or specialised teacher education programmes are also more common among novice teachers, male teachers, full-time teachers and teachers working in challenging schools (i.e. schools with more than 30% of students coming from disadvantaged homes). Fast-track teacher education programmes can be a pertinent pathway for male teachers compared to female teaching candidates to enter into the profession in some countries and economies – Croatia (12 percentage points), Portugal (3 percentage points) and Slovenia (5 percentage points). The higher prevalence of qualification through fast-track teacher education programmes among novice teachers compared to experienced teachers in some countries indicates their growing popularity in recent years for aspirants to enter into teaching – Portugal (17 percentage points), Croatia (11 percentage points) and the United Arab Emirates (5 percentage points) (Table 3.6). The entry of new male teachers into the workforce also reflects in the reduced share of female novice teachers in the workforce (see Chapter 2). Given the increasing prominence of fast-track programmes for new candidates to enter teaching, it must be noted that the quality of these fast-track programmes may vary across education systems and training service providers (McConney, Price and Woods-McConney, 2012[23]). Therefore, further enquiry into the preparedness and effectiveness of novice teachers who graduated through these programmes is needed in order to support these teachers, especially in their early years.

Even though regular concurrent teacher education programmes are the most common form of training in upper secondary education, fewer teachers pursued training through these programmes at this level compared to their peers in lower secondary education (8 percentage points on average) (Table 3.4). The difference is the largest in Slovenia and Turkey (21 percentage points difference each), and smaller but notable in Croatia (17 percentage points) and Portugal (9 percentage points). On the other hand, other teacher qualification pathways are more prevalent for teachers in upper secondary education compared to lower secondary education – regular consecutive teacher education programmes (3 percentage points) and fast-track or specialised teacher education programmes (4 percentage points).

Notable differences are observed for Croatia where fast-track or specialised teacher education programmes are more prevalent in upper secondary education (28 percentage points difference) and Slovenia (10 percentage points). In Turkey, regular consecutive teacher education programmes are more prevalent for teachers in upper secondary education (20 percentage points), which also makes up for the lower prevalence of concurrent teacher education programmes at this level.

Educational backgrounds and teacher qualification pathways can provide an indication about the structure of the programmes and time spent on knowledge and skill building. But, irrespective of the pre-service teacher training pathway, it is imperative to look at the topics included in a teacher’s initial pre-service training. TALIS asked teachers whether their formal training included a range of teaching-related topics. Three topics are described as the core areas of teacher preparation – content, pedagogy and classroom practice of some or all the subjects taught by the teacher. Teachers’ reports on their inclusion into pre-service training are used to describe whether they received comprehensive training or not. Other topics that teachers were asked whether they were included in their formal education or training are: general pedagogy; teaching in a mixed ability setting; teaching in a multicultural or multilingual setting; teaching cross-curricular skills; use of ICT for teaching; student behaviour and classroom management; and monitoring students’ development and learning.

Classroom management has been identified as a key factor for teacher performance, job-related stress and an important pre-condition for student learning (Lewis et al., 1999[24]). Training in classroom management not only adds value to their skills in this area but also helps them manage their stress over the long term (Dicke et al., 2015[25]). Given that teachers in primary education particularly face classroom management-related challenges in their work, their level of preparedness is an important indicator in assessing the level of support needed for teachers in pre-service and in-service training.

The questions asked by TALIS on the content of teachers’ education allow a better understanding of their opportunities to learn spanning the diverse teacher certification programmes or other formal qualifications or degrees that teachers have obtained. It is also worth examining these factors as they can be affected through policy interventions.

It is desirable that teachers receive all-round training before entering the classrooms. However, it is essential that teachers’ initial training includes the core elements of training – i.e. content, pedagogy and classroom practices in some or all the subjects taught by them. On average in primary education, 86% of teachers reported that they received training in all the three core areas, indicating that they received a comprehensive pre-service education fundamental to starting their work (Table 3.14).The share of teachers who received comprehensive formal training ranges from 72% in Spain to 90% and above in CABA (Argentina), England (United Kingdom), the Flemish Community of Belgium and Korea, and 99% in Viet Nam.

TALIS data show that part-time teachers in some countries may particularly lack a comprehensive education. In five countries and economies, a lower share of part-time teachers cited that their formal training included all three core elements (content, pedagogy and classroom practice) compared to their full-time counterparts – the United Arab Emirates (9 percentage points), Denmark and Japan (8 percentage points) and Sweden (6 percentage points) (Table 3.15).

In addition to information on the content of teachers’ training, teachers’ reports on their sense of preparedness in these areas is an important starting point for education systems to assess whether the training teachers receive meets the demands put forth by their jobs. Teachers’ reports that they felt “well” or “very well” prepared are also the highest in the core areas of teacher training – content, pedagogy and classroom practice in some or all the subjects taught by teachers. On average across the participating countries and economies, the share of teachers who reported that they felt well or very well-prepared is 77% in content, 76% in general pedagogy, and 74% in subject-specific pedagogy and classroom practice (Table 3.13). Comparing this to the average share of teachers who reported receiving training in these areas (more than 90% in each area, Table 3.7), teachers could be supported more to feel better prepared in these areas.

Other areas of teachers’ preparation also deserve attention as a large part of teachers’ work involves interacting with students and managing them, which is especially intensive for teachers in primary education. For example, training in behaviour management is imperative at the primary level. On average across the participating countries and economies in primary education, about 79-80% of teachers who received training reported that it included student behaviour and classroom management, and monitoring students’ development and learning (Table 3.7).

About three-quarters of the trained teaching workforce reported that they received training in teaching in a mixed-ability setting in their formal teacher education (73%) and teaching cross-curricular skills (76%) (Table 3.7). Training in teaching in a multicultural or multilingual setting is relatively uncommon in teacher preparation in primary education as, on average, 44% of teachers reported that they received training in this area across the participating countries and economies. However, this topic seems of high importance in a few countries where the largest share of teachers reported that it was included in their teacher preparation – the United Arab Emirates (76%) and England (United Kingdom) (72%). On the other hand, only 14% of teachers received training in this area in France.

Training in the use of digital technology is an important dimension identified by many education systems. It has further grown in importance in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic with the sudden shift to remote teaching in many countries in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus. Even before the pandemic, the purpose of including this topic in the formal training of teachers both in terms of pre-service and in-service education was not only to encourage increased use of ICTs by teachers in the classroom but also for more guided, relevant and purposeful use (Spiteri and Chang Rundgren, 2020[26]) such that digital technology enhances the learning experiences of students and leads to improved student outcomes. Research evidence from the primary education context indicates that teachers’ use of technology is shaped by four factors – teachers’ knowledge, skills, attitudes and school culture (Hermans et al., 2008[27]). TALIS indicators on teacher training in ICT use in their teaching lie at the intersection of three of these factors, i.e. knowledge, skills and attitudes. The inclusion of training in ICTs in teachers formal training can also shape teachers’ openness towards technology integration in the classroom (Rehmat and Bailey, 2014[28]) as it is in the early years when teachers begin to develop their instructional approaches. The COVID-19 pandemic has added new urgency to examining the need and content of teachers’ training in ICT as digital technologies are not a supplementary aid for classroom-based teaching anymore, instead ICTs have become a mainstream tool for delivering instruction.

The use of ICTs for teaching was included in teachers in primary education’ formal education for about 64% of teachers on average (Table 3.7). However, less than half of the primary teaching workforce received formal training in this area in the Flemish Community of Belgium (49%), Spain (49%), Denmark (41%) and Sweden (40%). On the contrary, the largest shares of teachers who reported having received formal training in using ICT for teaching are observed in Viet Nam (94%), the United Arab Emirates (86%) and Korea (83%).

Comparing teachers in primary education’ reports of the content of their initial training against that of lower secondary teachers, a higher share of teachers from primary education reported that they received training in all of the areas except one (content of some or all of the subjects taught by the teacher) covered by TALIS (Table 3.7). On average across the participating countries and economies, the largest differences are seen in the content areas of teaching cross-curricular skills, monitoring students’ development, and training and teaching in a mixed-ability setting, where a higher share of teachers in primary education’ reported receiving training compared to lower secondary teachers’ reports.

Teachers’ profiles reveal differences in training for classroom practice between primary and teachers in upper secondary. In Spain and France, the share of teachers in primary education who received pre-service practicum training is higher than lower secondary teachers in these countries by 19 and 13 percentage points respectively (Table 3.7). The same pattern is also discerned in CABA (Argentina), the Flemish Community of Belgium, Korea and Sweden (differences of 2-6 percentage points). However, practicum training is less common for teachers in primary education compared to lower secondary teachers in Denmark (89% vs 92%).

On average, a comprehensive pre-service training appears more prevalent in primary education compared to lower secondary education (5 percentage points), with positive significant differences in eight countries and economies. The largest gaps can be observed in Spain (25 percentage points) and France (12 percentage points). Other countries with significant gaps are CABA (Argentina), England (United Kingdom), the Flemish Community of Belgium, Korea, Turkey and Viet Nam. Denmark is the only exception to this pattern, where fewer teachers in primary education reported that their pre-service training covered all three areas (3 percentage points) (Table 3.14).

This report allows special emphasis to be placed on issues that are specific to primary education. One of the novel items in the TALIS questions on primary education asked whether teachers in primary education received training in facilitating students’ transition from early childhood education (ECE) to primary education and whether they received training in facilitating play. Additionally, it also asked teachers whether they felt prepared in these two areas after their formal education.

The transition of children from pre-primary education to primary schooling is considered a major milestone. A positive experience for children during this milestone can determine their future success in terms of social, emotional and educational outcomes (O’Kane, 2016[29]). Teachers in primary education play a reception role for students entering from pre-primary education. The challenges that children can face during transitions include disruption in their learning processes from play-based to more formal pedagogical experiences, disruption in social circles etc. Education systems/policies that prioritise the transitions from pre-primary to primary education aim to ensure alignment between the two education levels through continuity in learning approaches, for example, interactive, play-based learning in both pre-primary and primary levels (O’Kane, 2016[29]). Training for teachers in facilitating transitions can include guidance on collaboration between teachers and parents, forming meaningful relationships with students, etc. (Skouteris, Watson and Lum, 2012[30]).

In particular, facilitating play as a “positive intervention” is important for students in early grades to develop their social, emotional and intellectual skills in ways beyond the scope of formal classroom instruction (Smilansky, 1971[31]; Tarman and İlknur, 2011[32]). Teachers can play a role in children’s play by helping them choose well-planned and varied learning activities to enhance learning potential and cognitive skill building through play. Often, play-based learning is a focus in pre-primary schooling but it remains critical in the early grades of primary school, where children usually between six to eight years old are still in the important phase of human and cognitive development. Therefore, play-based learning needs to continue while academic learning is introduced in primary education (UNICEF, 2018[33]). Training teachers to facilitate learning through play can include pedagogical guidance and creating consciousness on learning materials for facilitating play (Nilsen, 2021[34]).

Results from TALIS indicate that teachers could be better prepared and supported to facilitate students’ transitions into primary education. While 46% of teachers on average across the participating countries and economies reported that their formal education included training in facilitating transitions from ECE to primary education, a smaller number of teachers (38%) reported feeling well or very well-prepared in this area (Table 3.10). It is worth noting the large gaps in the share of teachers who reported having received training in this area in some countries but a considerably low share of teachers reporting that they feel prepared. This is the case for Japan (50% of teachers receiving training in this area vs 19% of teachers feeling prepared), the Flemish Community of Belgium (46% vs 22%) and England (United Kingdom) (40% vs 21%).

Likewise, while training in facilitating play was cited by 67% of teachers in primary education on average across the participating countries and economies, a smaller share – 56% of teachers on average – reported feeling well or very well-prepared in this area (Table 3.10). Once again, large gaps can be observed (more than 10 percentage points) in the overall share of teachers who received training in this area and those who feel well or very well-prepared – this is the case for England (United Kingdom), the Flemish Community of Belgium France, Japan, Korea and Spain.

TALIS data show differences between the share of male and female teachers’ reports on whether they received training in facilitating transitions (3 percentage points, on average) (Table 3.11). In four countries and economies, fewer male teachers than female teachers reported this, including England and Sweden (8 percentage points), Japan (6 percentage points) and Viet Nam (4 percentage points).

Training in facilitating transitions is also higher among novice teachers than experienced teachers in three countries and economies (the Flemish Community of Belgium (13 percentage points difference), England (United Kingdom) (11 percentage points) and Denmark (4-5 percentage points each). As novice teachers have completed their teacher education programmes more recently compared to experienced teachers, this observation suggests that training in this area may be a more recent inclusion in teacher education programmes. However, in Korea, the opposite pattern is observed with more experienced teachers have received training in this area compared to novice teachers (9 percentage points).

Teachers’ preparation in facilitating play also differs by gender in some countries and economies but whether it favours male or female teachers depends on the country. A higher share of female teachers reported that their formal training included facilitating play in England (United Kingdom) (10 percentage points difference), Japan and the United Arab Emirates (5 percentage points) (Table 3.12). In contrast, a larger share of male teachers reported they had this kind of training in the Flemish Community of Belgium (13 percentage points), Turkey (5 percentage points) and Spain (4 percentage points) (Table 3.12). A higher share of novice teachers reported receiving training in this area in England (United Kingdom) and the Flemish Community of Belgium (7-8 percentage points). In three countries, more teachers in rural schools reported that their initial teacher training included facilitating play than teachers in city schools – Sweden (14 percentage points), Turkey (10 percentage points) and the United Arab Emirates (4 percentage points).

The likelihood of teachers in primary education’ training in facilitating transitions and play varies according to the qualification pathway they pursued. Teachers are more likely be trained in facilitating transitions when they received training through a regular concurrent teacher education programme compared to those who did not receive any formal training or qualification and those who qualified through a regular consecutive teacher qualification or other types of qualifications. This is true for France and Turkey as well as on average for countries and economies participating at this level, controlling for teachers’ age, gender and working status (Table 3.36). On the other hand, teachers who were qualified through programmes other than regular consecutive and concurrent programmes are more likely report being trained in facilitating transitions. These results point to the need to create more opportunities for teachers to receive training in facilitating both transitions and play across all teacher education programmes and particularly through in-service training for those who have never received training in these areas and need it the most.

The content of teachers’ initial education is of particular policy interest as it defines the profiles of the workforce entering the profession and education systems aim to attract the best candidates into teaching (Ainley and Carstens, 2018[12]). The different topics covered under initial education constitute teachers’ “opportunities to learn”, which build a teachers’ knowledge base that is related to student achievement through their instructional actions in the classroom (Ainley and Carstens, 2018[12]). Teachers’ opportunities to learn through hands-on and practical experiences such as classroom teaching or opportunities to engage in actual teaching practices, and the quality of teaching methods experienced by the teachers are important considerations for teacher education to be impactful (Boyd et al., 2009[13]). Classroom management has been identified as a key factor for teacher performance, job-related stress and an important pre-condition for student learning (Lewis et al., 1999[24]). Training in classroom management can not only add value to their skills in this area but also help teachers manage their stress in the long run (Dicke et al., 2015[25]).

The questions asked by TALIS on the content of teachers’ education allow a better understanding of their opportunities to learn, spanning diverse teacher certification programmes and other formal qualifications or degrees that teachers have attained.

The key question from a policy point of view is also whether pre-service training adequately prepares teachers to start as strong and effective educators. In addition to information on the content of teachers’ training, teachers’ reports on their sense of preparedness in these areas is an important starting point for education systems to assess whether the training teachers receive meets the demands of their work.

Looking at the content of teacher education from a comprehensiveness point of view, on average across the participating countries and economies in upper secondary education, 75% of teachers reported that their formal education or training included all three core areas – content, pedagogy and classroom practice in some or all the subjects taught by them (Figure 3.5 and Table 3.14). This share ranges from 60% in Slovenia to 85% in Alberta (Canada) and the United Arab Emirates, and 98% in Viet Nam.

Some teachers’ formal training may be more rounded than others’ in upper secondary education. TALIS data reveal that a lower share of teachers in upper secondary reported that they received training in all the three core areas (content, pedagogy and classroom practice in some or all the subjects taught by them) among those teaching in schools with a VET programme (7 percentage points difference, on average); those with less than five years of experience (6 percentage points); those working part-time (3 percentage points) and male teachers (2 percentage points) (Table 3.16).

The formal training of teachers teaching in VET schools was less comprehensive compared to that of teachers teaching in schools where no VET programmes are taught in five countries and economies – Denmark (30 percentage points difference), Croatia (20 percentage points), Slovenia (13 percentage points), Sweden (12 percentage points). In contrast, teachers’ pre-service training was more comprehensive for those teaching in VET schools in the United Arab Emirates (4 percentage points difference) (Table 3.16).

In the same vein, a lower share of teachers who teach STEM subjects compared to those who teach other subjects reported that their training included the three core areas – content, pedagogy and classroom practice in some or all the subjects taught in Croatia (8 percentage points), Slovenia (7 percentage points) and Turkey (6 percentage points). The opposite pattern is observed for STEM teachers in Sweden (12 percentage points) (Table 3.16).

In four countries and economies, a higher share of teachers with more than five years of experience reported that their training included the three core elements of teacher preparation compared to novice teachers: Sweden (30 percentage points difference), Denmark (17 percentage points), Brazil (8 percentage points) and the United Arab Emirates (7 percentage points).

Lastly, gender-based differences in the comprehensiveness of initial teacher preparation can be observed in some countries and economies where fewer male teachers than female teachers reported that their formal training included the three core elements (content, pedagogy and classroom practice) – this is the case in Croatia, Denmark, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden (4-8 percentage points difference). However, the opposite pattern is observed for male and female teachers in the United Arab Emirates (4 percentage points difference).

Other areas in teachers’ initial education are also growing in popularity and rightly so, considering the new learning contexts that teachers find themselves teaching in (OECD, 2019[35]). However, a snapshot from TALIS data reveals that teachers’ preparation in these areas is not universal, especially as these areas were not a part of pre-service programmes for teachers who joined the profession a long time ago. On average across countries and economies from upper secondary education, almost three-fourths of the teaching workforce received pre-service training in student behaviour and classroom management (75%); monitoring students’ development and learning (74%); and teaching cross-curricular skills (71%). A smaller share of teachers received pre-service training in teaching in a mixed-ability setting (63%), and using ICT for teaching (61%), and less than half of the teaching workforce received pre-service training in teaching in a multicultural or multilingual setting (38%) (Table 3.7).

Once again, teachers’ responses about their level of preparedness in different areas related to teaching is an important indicator to assess the gaps in initial teacher education and priority areas for in-service training. On average across the participating countries and economies, the areas where the highest share of teachers reported feeling well or very well-prepared are content of some or all subjects taught (88% compared to 91% of teachers who received training in this area), general and subject-specific pedagogy and classroom practice (78-79%, compared to 87-91% of teachers receiving training in this area) (Tables 3.7 and 3.13). A high share of teachers also expressed feeling well-prepared to deal with student behaviour or classroom management (70%) and monitoring students’ development and learning (69%). About 58% of teachers reported feeling well-prepared in using ICT for teaching after completing their teacher education programme while the lowest share of teachers expressed feeling well or very well-prepared to teach in a multicultural or multilingual setting (36%). In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it could be expected that teachers may find themselves even less prepared to teach in diverse classrooms in a virtual setting.

Teachers’ reports on their sense of preparedness in using ICT for teaching are an indication of the challenges they could have faced teaching in virtual environments in the 2020/21 school year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While less than half of the teaching workforce felt well or very well-prepared in this area upon completion of their initial teacher training in Croatia (38%), Portugal (44%), Alberta (Canada) (43%) and Sweden (43%), a higher share of teachers expressed feeling well or very well-prepared in using ICT for teaching in the United Arab Emirates (86%), Viet Nam (77%), Turkey (68%), Brazil and Slovenia (66%) (Table 3.13). These findings should be interpreted in light of the demographics of the workforce in participating countries. In some countries, teachers’ feelings of preparedness reflects reports of older teachers who trained a long time ago, while in others, it reflects the views of a younger workforce who finished their initial training recently.

TALIS results also indicate that there may have been certain shifts in the content of teacher preparation programmes in recent years in some countries and economies. The introduction and increased focus on some topics such as teaching in multicultural or multilingual settings and use of ICTs for teaching corresponds to a decreased focus on core and traditional topics such as content, pedagogy and classroom practice. This is inferred by observing significant differences in the elements of formal training as reported by the share of novice teachers (who recently completed a teacher education programme) and experienced teachers (who completed their formal education more than five years ago). More novice than experienced teachers received pre-service training in ICT skills for teaching, teaching in a mixed ability setting, teaching in a multicultural and multilingual environment and teaching cross-curricular skills (3-12 percentage points difference, on average) (Table 3.9). Whereas fewer novice teachers received training in content, pedagogy, classroom practice and student behaviour and classroom management (2-5 percentage points). A higher share of novice teachers reported that their pre-service training included ICT skills for teaching compared to experienced teachers (12 percentage points, on average). These differences are observed in almost all the participating countries and economies, with the largest difference in Portugal (24 percentage points), Alberta (Canada; 22 percentage points), Croatia (22 percentage points) and Slovenia (21 percentage points).

On average, teachers who received initial training all the core areas (content, pedagogy and classroom practice) is less prominent in upper secondary education compared to lower secondary education (8 percentage points) (Table 3.14). The largest gaps can be observed in Slovenia (23 percentage points difference), Croatia and Denmark (18 percentage points), and Sweden (10 percentage points). Other countries where this gap exists (less than 10 percentage points) include Portugal, Turkey and Viet Nam. The only exception is Alberta (Canada) where a higher share of teachers in upper secondary education reported that their initial training included all these core areas (5 percentage points difference).

Teachers’ sense of preparedness in specific areas related to teaching is generally lower in upper secondary education – general and subject-specific pedagogy (2-3 percentage points difference), and classroom practice in some or all subjects taught by the teacher (2 percentage points) (Table 3.13). Notable gaps are observed in Croatia (4-8 percentage points in these areas), Denmark (9 percentage points in general pedagogy), Slovenia (4-6 percentage points in general and subject-specific pedagogy) and Viet Nam (2-5 percentage points in pedagogy and classroom practice). On the other hand, more teachers in upper secondary express preparedness in ICT for teaching and student behaviour and classroom management than their lower secondary counterparts (2 percentage points differences on average).

Principals play an important role in setting up schools for success. The role principals play can be shaped by effectively training them with the necessary guidance and skills to perform their leadership roles. While it is important for education systems to be particularly selective in recruiting principals rather than open enrolment, principals can be effective from the very beginning with strong pre-service programmes which involve peer networks, focusing on leadership of instruction (Darling-Hammond et al., 2007[37]). TALIS asks principals about the areas in which they received formal training before taking up leadership responsibilities. The results help examine whether school principals built skills in teaching, instructional leadership and administration.

Most principals in education systems across the world are former teachers. Therefore, it is not surprising that 96% of principals on average in primary education had formal teacher training or completed a teacher education programme (Table 3.17). Furthermore, about 90% of principals on average across the participating countries and economies cited that their preparation included a school administration or principal training programme or course. Finally, 86% of principals on average reported that their preparation included instructional leadership training or course.

While the inclusion of teacher training or teacher education programme is consistent for principals across all countries (ranging from 87% in France to 100% in England (United Kingdom), the Flemish Community of Belgium and Viet Nam), there is some variation in the share of principals who received formal training in school administration and instructional leadership across participating countries and economies (Table 3.17).

Principals who received school administration or principal training ranges from 80% or less in Turkey (68%), England (United Kingdom) (79%) and Denmark (80%) to more than 99% in Japan, Korea and Viet Nam. On the other hand, principals who received training in instructional leadership range from less than 80% in Spain (69%), England (United Kingdom) (72%), Turkey (74%), Sweden (76%) and the Flemish Community of Belgium (79%) to 98% or higher in Japan, Korea and Viet Nam (Table 3.17).

There are a few differences in principals’ preparation for their roles in primary and lower secondary education. In five countries and economies, training in at least one of the areas of principals’ preparation differs between the two education levels. Training in school administration and instructional leadership is more common for principals in primary education in CABA (Argentina) (differences of 8 and 15 percentage points respectively). Training in school administration is more common for principals in primary schools in the Flemish Community of Belgium (11 percentage points) whereas it is less common for principals in primary schools in France (10 percentage points). In England (United Kingdom) and Korea, more principals in primary education received teacher training or a formal teacher education (8 and 5 percentage points respectively) (Table 3.17).

Ninety-one percent of principals on average across the 11 participating countries and economies in upper secondary education have had formal teacher training. While this is a common feature in principal training across participating countries and economies in upper secondary education, a relatively low share of principals have received this training in Croatia (77%) and Portugal (78%) (Table 3.17).

Eighty-four percent of principals received instructional leadership training and 80% of principals received school administration and principal training on average across the countries and economies in upper secondary education. Training in school administration and principal programme or course ranges from less than 80% of principals in Croatia (42%), Denmark (58%), Turkey (77%) and Portugal (78%) to more than 90% in the United Arab Emirates (94%), Slovenia (95%) and Viet Nam (97%). Training in instructional leadership ranges from less than 80% of principals in Croatia (55%), Sweden (74%) and Portugal (77%) to more than 90% of principals in Slovenia (93%), Alberta (Canada) (94%), Viet Nam (96%) and the United Arab Emirates (97%).

There are a few differences in principals’ preparation for their roles in upper secondary and lower secondary education. Notably, in Denmark, principals’ training in teacher education, and school administration is less common for principals in upper secondary education (differences of 7 and 15 percentage points, respectively); and in Portugal, training in school administration is less common in upper secondary education (9 percentage points). Minute differences are observed in Viet Nam as less principals in upper secondary education received training in instructional leadership compared to lower secondary principals (Table 3.17).

Teachers in primary education often teach more subjects than one. Whereas, teachers at higher levels of education are often subject-specific experts, based on their qualifications, skills and experience of teaching a particular subject or domain. The advantages of teaching multiple subjects are that it allows teachers to have more time to engage with students and build strong relationships that can be beneficial to their social and emotional well-being (Elliott, 1985[38]). Teaching multiple subjects can also give teachers the opportunity to use innovative practices and encourage interdisciplinary learning and collaboration between students. However, a growing body of research emphasises the need for teachers in primary education to develop subject-specific experience and expertise (Jensen et al., 2016[18]). Teachers’ effectiveness may also vary across the different subjects they teach (Cohen, Ruzek and Sandilos, 2018[39]).

Identifying the profiles of teachers by different subject areas is relevant for a number of reasons – first, the content that teachers teach in the classroom is mainly determined by the subject areas they are assigned to teach. Second, teachers’ pre-service and in-service training may differ in education systems depending on the subjects taught. Understanding teachers’ professional knowledge by their instructional roles can help education systems determine that students have equitable opportunities to learn and excel in all areas. Subject-matter knowledge and expertise is an important consideration in the development of teachers as professionals (Jensen et al., 2016[18]; Shulman, 1986[40]).

This section defines the teaching profiles of education professionals based on the different subjects they teach and the training they received in these areas.

Teachers in primary education teach multiple subjects. It is interesting to look at the distribution of subjects taught by teachers in primary education. Among the five main subjects (reading, writing and literature, mathematics, science, social science and technology), 36% of teachers teach more than three subjects; 30% of teachers teacher 2-3 subjects; and 13% reported teaching only one subject on average across the participating countries and economies in primary education (Table 3.21). The share of teachers who teach only one subject among the five core subjects is rather high in Denmark (39%), the United Arab Emirates (26%), CABA (Argentina) (17%) and Sweden (13%). In contrast, multiple subject teaching in primary education is most prevalent in England (United Kingdom), France and Korea, where more than half of the workforce reported teaching more than three out of five subjects.

On average across the participating countries and economies, 65% of teachers taught reading, writing and literature during the year the survey was administered. The share of reading teachers in primary education ranges between 46% in the United Arab Emirates to 86% in England (United Kingdom), the Flemish Community of Belgium and France (Table 3.18).

Sixty-two percent of teachers teach mathematics; 47% teach science; 45% teach social studies; and 31% of teachers teach technology on average across the participating countries and economies in primary education. The share of teachers teaching mathematics ranges from 35% in the United Arab Emirates to just above 85% in England (United Kingdom), the Flemish Community of Belgium and France. The share of teachers teaching science in primary education ranges between 31% in Denmark to more than 75% in England (United Kingdom) and France.

Even though subject-specific expertise may not be demanding in primary education, teacher training in the content areas they teach at lower levels of education can be important for students to have a strong foundation in the subject, and is a characteristic of high-performing education systems (Jensen et al., 2016[18]). Among teachers who teach reading and/or mathematics, about 87% of teachers have received formal training in these subjects. Among teachers who teach social studies and/or science, about 80-81% received formal training in these subjects. However, training in technology stands out as an exception as only 61% of teachers who teach this subject received formal training in it (Table 3.20).

In some countries and economies, there is a wide gap between the share of teachers who teach a subject and those who received formal training in it. The largest gaps can be observed in Denmark, France, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, where more than one-fourth of teachers teaching a subject did not receive formal training in it in four out of five subjects under investigation – mathematics, science, social science and technology. On the other hand, subject-specific training is more prevalent in England (United Kingdom) and Korea with the highest share of teachers who received formal training in the subjects they teach ranging from 80-97% (Table 3.20).

This report also permits us to assess the share of STEM teachers in primary education. Learning in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is an important area to consider for teaching professionals in primary education. Well-trained teachers can ensure that students develop early interest and appropriate experience in this area. Teaching multiple subjects in primary education could be one of the barriers to the development of teachers as subject-specific experts at this level (Jensen et al., 2016[18]). Teachers develop their expertise with experience in teaching a subject consistently; therefore, it is important to identify if any teachers in primary education exclusively teach STEM subjects.

For the purpose of TALIS, a STEM teacher is identified as one who exclusively reported marked teaching one or more of the subjects math, science and technology. The share of teachers in primary education who exclusively teach STEM subjects is fairly low. On average across participating countries and economies, 4% can be identified as STEM teachers (Table 3.22). The results for the different participating countries range from less than 1% of teachers in the Flemish Community of Belgium and France to 7% in CABA (Argentina) and 10% in the United Arab Emirates. Once again, these results highlight the prominence of multiple-subject teaching in primary education. Given small numbers, one implication is that, further examining the demographics of STEM teachers in primary education by breaking down the results by teacher and school characteristics is not feasible.

TALIS results show that teachers’ self-efficacy, one of the key outcomes of interest measured in TALIS, varies depending on the number of subjects taught by a teacher. Self-efficacy refers to teachers’ reports on how confident they feel in different areas related to their teaching such as classroom management, instruction and student engagement (see Chapter 5). It is an important indicator of teacher quality. Regression analyses show that teachers who teach three or more subjects out of the five main subjects (reading, writing and literature, mathematics, science and social science) reported higher levels of self-efficacy in some countries and economies participating from primary education compared to teachers who teach only one or two subjects, controlling for teachers’ age, gender, working status and class size (Table 3.38). Countries where this relationship is observed are CABA (Argentina), the Flemish Community of Belgium, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. An exception to this pattern is the United Arab Emirates where teachers who teach two subjects compared to those who teach only one of the core subjects express lower levels of self-efficacy.

Teachers in upper secondary are less likely to teach multiple subjects. Among the five main subjects (reading, writing and literature, mathematics, science, social science and technology), almost half of the teaching workforce (48%) reported teaching only one subject; 17% of teachers teach two to three subjects; and 3% teach more than three out of five subjects on average across the participating countries and economies in upper secondary education (Table 3.21). The share of teachers who teach multiple subjects is the highest in Alberta (Canada) (7% of teachers teach more than three subjects and 42% teach two to three subjects) and Viet Nam (6% of teachers teach more than three subjects and 16% teach two to three subjects).

On average across the participating countries and economies, 23% of teachers teach reading, writing and literature; 21% of teachers teach science; another 21% of teachers teach social studies; 18% of teachers teach mathematics; and 16% of teachers teach technology (Table 3.18).

Teachers in upper secondary education are also quite likely to receive formal training in the subjects that they teach. However, there is still a small share of teachers in upper secondary education who were not formally trained in the subjects they teach. Among the teachers who teach reading, writing and literature, mathematics, science and social science, about 78-83% received formal training in each of these subjects they taught on average across the participating countries and economies (Table 3.20). However, only 68% of teachers teaching technology reported that this subject was included in their formal training.

This report also permits us to identify the share of STEM teachers in upper secondary education. For the purpose of TALIS, a STEM teacher is identified as one who exclusively reported marked teaching one or more of the subjects math, science and technology. On average across the participating countries and economies, 22% of teachers are STEM teachers. The share of STEM teachers in upper secondary education ranges from 15% in Sweden to more than 25% Brazil, Portugal and the United Arab Emirates (Table 3.23).

The composition of STEM teachers in upper secondary education differs by gender. A higher share of male teachers (31%) teach STEM compared to the share of female teachers (25%). These differences are observed in several countries and economies – Denmark (14 percentage points), Brazil (10 percentage points), Slovenia (8 percentage points), Sweden (7 percentage points) and Viet Nam (6 percentage points). However, in Alberta (Canada), Croatia, Portugal, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, no significant difference is observed in the share of STEM teachers by gender (Table 3.23).

Another noteworthy finding with respect to STEM teachers is that there are fewer STEM teachers in schools with a VET programme compared to non-VET schools (3 percentage points difference, on average), and in four countries and economies – Denmark (13 percentage points), and Croatia and Turkey (5-6 percentage points). However, the share of STEM teachers is higher in VET schools in Viet Nam compared to non-VET schools (a difference of 8 percentage points).

A higher share of STEM teachers work full-time compared to working part-time (4 percentage points difference on average). This is true for four countries and economies – Portugal (11 percentage points), and Croatia, Denmark and Turkey (5-7 percentage points).

TALIS results show that the likelihood of a teacher exclusively teaching STEM subjects varies according to the qualification pathway they pursued to become a teacher. On average across the participating countries and economies in upper secondary education, teachers who pursued a regular consecutive teacher education programme are more likely to only teach mathematics, science and/or technology compared to teachers without any formal qualification or teachers who were trained through a regular concurrent teacher education programme (Table 3.35).

Vocational education and training (VET) is a unique form of education that focuses on practical skills and hands-on experience (OECD, 2021[19]), and is generally a part of upper secondary education. Teachers who teach VET programmes are expected to have both pedagogical and occupational knowledge and experience. These teachers are expected to cater to the particular learning needs of students who are being prepared to enter the labour market with job-related and interpersonal skills.

TALIS enables the analyses of vocational and technical education environments in two ways – teachers who teach in VET schools (i.e. schools that offer a VET programme) and teachers who reported teaching practical and vocational skills in the year they took the survey as VET teachers.

The first approach indicates the distribution of the teaching workforce across schools that offer a VET programme and those that do not, and highlights the prevalence of vocational and technical education opportunities in countries’ education systems. Based on the first approach, 51% of teachers in upper secondary education teach in VET schools, i.e. schools where a VET programme is taught. Countries where the highest share of the teaching workforce teaches in VET schools include Portugal (86%), Croatia (80%), Sweden (66%), Slovenia (64%), Alberta (Canada) (58%) and Turkey (53%), whereas a lower share of the workforce teaches in VET schools in Brazil (28%), the United Arab Emirates (28%), Denmark (25%) and Vietnam (10%) (Table 3.25).

Based on the second approach, on average across the participating countries and economies, 16% of the workforce are VET teachers, i.e. teachers across all schools that reported teaching practical and vocational skills during the year the survey was administered. The share of VET teachers ranges from 8% in Brazil to 20% in Alberta (Canada) and Sweden. Findings indicate an unequal distribution of VET teachers by gender. On average across the participating countries and economies, 19% of male teachers taught practical and vocational skills during the year they took the survey compared to 15% of female teachers who were VET teachers (4 percentage points difference) (Figure 3.7 and Table 3.24). The largest gender gaps can be seen in Sweden (11 percentage points), Slovenia (9 percentage points), Croatia, Denmark and Portugal (7 percentage points). However, a higher share of females are VET teachers in Alberta (Canada) (4 percentage points) and the United Arab Emirates (2 percentage points). The smaller presence of female VET teachers in upper secondary education can be concerning for two reasons: women may lack employability in teaching VET subjects and students in VET programmes may not have enough female role models.

VET teachers are, on average, less experienced as teachers compared to non-VET teachers. On average across the participating countries and economies, the share of VET teachers who have less than five years of teaching experience is larger than the share of experienced VET teachers by 5 percentage points, with the biggest differences in Portugal (14 percentage points), Slovenia and Sweden (11 percentage points each).

One of the goals of effective teaching is to maximise instructional time for teachers in the classroom, thereby maximising time for student learning (Slavin, 1994[41]). Teachers’ distribution of classroom time between instruction and management-related tasks can be an important indicator of teacher quality. It can also help identify the challenges faced by primary and teachers in upper secondary in their instruction and define their working environment.

TALIS asked teachers about the share of time they spend in an average lesson on three tasks – actual teaching and learning, keeping order in the classroom (maintaining discipline) and administrative tasks (e.g. recording attendance, handing out school information or forms). The distribution of teachers’ time across these tasks in a typical lesson signals how efficient teachers are; that is, that they spend less time on administrative tasks and keeping order in the classroom, and more time for student learning.

Managing and maximising instructional time can require new adjustments for teachers teaching in virtual working environments during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as in a post-COVID educational context. This is because time spent on actual teaching and learning in virtual learning set-ups can be shaped by factors such as time spent on managing digital technology and logistics, and different forms of student engagement and classroom management.

Teachers reported spending about three-fourths of an average lesson on actual teaching and learning (76%) on average across the participating countries and economies in primary education (Table 3.26). About one-fourth of teachers’ time is spent on non-instructional work – keeping order in the classroom (16%) and administrative tasks (8%). The share of time spent on actual teaching and learning based on teachers’ reports remains largely consistent across all the participating countries and economies in primary education – ranging between 71-80%. The only country that stands out as an exception is Viet Nam where teachers reported spending 85% of their time in an average lesson on actual teaching and learning.

Teachers’ time spent on keeping order in the classroom reflects how teachers grapple with disciplinary issues during their instructional time. The range of time spent on keeping order in the classroom ranges between 9% in Viet Nam and 12% in England (United Kingdom) to 18-20% in CABA (Argentina), France, Spain and Turkey. While disciplinary issues shape teachers’ time spent on keeping order in the classroom, the variation in this time also reflects different teachers’ ability to bring their classroom to order and create a conducive learning environment. While time spent on keeping order in the classroom to some extent may be beneficial for teachers to engage their students before starting to teach, spending too much time on this can also be detrimental to student learning time and teachers’ stress (see Chapter 6). The range of time spent on administrative tasks in a typical lesson across countries and economies in primary education is between 6-9%.

Identifying the distribution of time spent on actual teaching and learning across teacher and school characteristics can help support teachers in specific contexts to maximise student learning time. TALIS data reveal that experienced teachers reported more time spent on instruction (77%) in a typical lesson compared to novice teachers (72%) on average across participating countries and economies (a difference equivalent to 3 minutes per 60-minute lesson) (Table 3.27). Other conditions where maximising instructional time appears to be a hindrance include teaching by part-time teachers (five countries and economies); teaching in schools with a high share of students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds (seven countries and economies); and teaching in urban schools (in five countries and economies). These results mirror the findings from Volume I of the TALIS 2018 results. They reflect the overarching need to support teachers in these contexts to gain more teaching time in lessons with efficient classroom management and lighter administrative loads (OECD, 2019[35]).

Novice teachers spending less time on instruction compared to experienced teachers is observed across all the participants from primary education except for Viet Nam (where no significant difference is observed). The largest differences are in France, Japan and Denmark (7-8 percentage points) (Table 3.27). Novice teachers, especially in primary education, can face specific challenges related to managing disciplinary issues in the classroom. This could reflect in less time spent on instruction among novice teachers. These issues are particularly observed in CABA (Argentina), France, Spain and Turkey where novice teachers reported spending less than 70% of their time on teaching and learning in a typical lesson. The concerns raised by these results can be understood better if this loss of instructional time per lesson is magnified, i.e. loss of instruction across instructional hours during an entire school year. However, previous TALIS results also find that novice teachers often teach in more challenging classrooms (i.e. those that comprise a higher share of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, students with special needs and students from migrant and refugee backgrounds). Therefore, part of the differences in time spent on teaching and learning between novice and experienced teachers is attributable to the characteristics of the students they teach (OECD, 2019[35]).

Teachers reported spending less time on actual teaching and learning in challenging working environments, i.e. schools with more than 30% of students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds (3 percentage points difference, on average) (Table 3.27 and Figure 3.8). This difference holds true for seven countries and economies participating from primary education, and notably, stands out in Spain and the United Arab Emirates with differences of 7-8 percentage points between teachers teaching in the two contexts. Once again, these differences are concerning when viewed through the lens of cumulative loss of student learning time in a year, especially in schools with a high concentration of students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, in Spain, out of 792 compulsory instruction hours per year in primary education, teachers’ reports on time spent on actual teaching and learning in a typical lesson translates into 60 fewer teaching hours in disadvantaged schools compared to other schools.7

Looking at teachers working full-time compared to those working part-time in primary education, full-time teachers spend more time on actual teaching and learning in a typical lesson in five countries and economies with the largest differences observed in Korea and the United Arab Emirates (7 percentage points each). However, Japan is an exception as part-time teachers reported spending a higher share of time in a typical lesson on actual teaching (84%) compared to their full-time colleagues (79%).

In four countries and economies, male teachers reported spending a greater share of time in a typical lesson on actual teaching and learning compared to female teachers, ranging from 2-5 percentage points. These differences are observed in France, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Spain. However, in Viet Nam, female teachers reported spending a greater share of time on teaching and learning compared to their male colleagues.

Time spent on actual teaching and learning in a typical lesson also varies by location of the schools where teachers teach. In three countries and economies (England (United Kingdom), Spain and Sweden, teachers spend less time on actual teaching and learning in a typical lesson in schools in cities compared to their counterparts in rural schools (differences of 3-5 percentage points). On the contrary, in the United Arab Emirates, teachers in schools in cities reported spending more time on teaching and learning in a typical lesson compared to teachers in rural schools (3 percentage points).

Teachers in primary education spend less time on actual teaching and learning in a typical lesson and more time on keeping order in the classroom (1-2 percentage points on average) (Table 3.26). Country-specific patterns reveal that the time spent on actual teaching and learning, i.e. instructional time is significantly less in six countries and economies, with the largest differences in CABA (Argentina) and Denmark (6 percentage points), and smaller differences in Korea, Spain, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates.

Time spent on keeping order in the classroom is higher in primary education, based on teachers reports in eight countries and economies, with the largest differences in Denmark (7 percentage points) and smaller differences (less than 5 percentage points) in CABA (Argentina), France, Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam (Table 3.26). An exception to this pattern is observed in the Flemish Community of Belgium (1 percentage point difference). The challenge for teachers in primary education who spend more time on disciplinary issues in their lessons and consequently less time on actual teaching and learning could arise from the fact that younger children often have shorter attention spans compared to students in lower secondary education who belong to a higher age group (Case, 1987[42]). However, these findings should be interpreted with care as teachers in primary education also spend a greater number of working hours teaching compared to lower secondary teachers (see Chapter 6), which could balance out less time spent on actual teaching and learning in a typical lesson.

On average across the participating countries and economies in primary education, time spent on actual teaching and learning is significantly lower in reading, writing and literature classes compared to time spent on teaching and learning in other subjects (mathematics, science, social studies and technology) as reported by teachers, and controlling for teachers’ age, gender, working status and class size (Table 3.39). This is observed in CABA (Argentina), Korea, Spain and the United Arab Emirates. On the contrary, in Japan and Spain, teachers’ time spent on teaching and learning in mathematics classes is significantly higher than that of their peers in other subjects. With respect to social studies, time spent on actual teaching and learning in these lessons is significantly higher compared to other subjects in Denmark but significantly lower in the United Arab Emirates. The inequalities in learning time by subject could be driven by several factors such as syllabus or content of the subjects, training of teachers in specific subjects, pedagogical demands of subject taught, etc. These results warrant further enquiry into conditions that prevent maximising learning time in different subjects.

The distribution of classroom time in upper secondary education not only signals quality of teaching and learning but also defines the working context of teachers in upper secondary education.

On average across the participating countries and economies, teachers reported having spent 80% of their time in a typical lesson on actual teaching and learning; 11% of their time on keeping order in the classroom; and 8% on administrative tasks (Table 3.26).8

Maximising instructional time in upper secondary education seems to be a challenge in Brazil with the least time spent on teaching and learning (70%) compared to other countries, and in Turkey where less than three-fourths of a typical lesson is spent on instruction (74%). In both these countries, keeping order in the classroom seems to be particularly time-consuming for teachers as more than 15% of their classroom time is spent on it. Teachers in Brazil also reported spending the most time on administrative tasks (11% of a typical lesson) in the classroom compared to other countries, which also reduces instructional time. As noted in the previous section, more time spent on maintaining order in the classroom can not only impede teaching time but also be a cause of stress for teachers in upper secondary education, as in the case of Brazil with half of teaching workforce citing this as a source of stress (see Chapter 6).

TALIS data on upper secondary education indicates that teachers in specific contexts face barriers in maximising instructional time in their classrooms. This is particularly true for novice teachers and teachers teaching in schools where a VET programme is taught. Smaller differences are also observed for part-time teachers compared to full-time teachers, non-STEM teachers and teachers teaching in schools with a high share of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

As observed for primary and lower secondary education, novice teachers in upper secondary education also reported spending less time on actual teaching and learning in a typical lesson compared to experienced teachers (76% vs 81%) (Table 3.28). The largest differences can be seen in Portugal and Slovenia (7-8 percentage points), and smaller differences are observed across all participants except Brazil and Viet Nam (where no significant difference is observed).

Teachers in VET schools reported spending less time on actual teaching and learning in a typical lesson compared to their counterparts in schools where no VET programme in taught (2 percentage points on average). This is true for seven countries and economies – Denmark (6 percentage points), Portugal and Slovenia (5 percentage points), Sweden and Turkey (4 percentage points) and Croatia (2 percentage points). However, the opposite pattern is observed for teachers in VET schools in Brazil (6 percentage points) and the United Arab Emirates (3 percentage points).

Interestingly, STEM teachers also reported spending a greater share of time in a typical lesson on actual teaching and learning compared to non-STEM teachers (a difference equivalent to almost 2 additional minutes per 60-minute lesson). This significant difference is observed across all participating countries and economies in upper secondary education except in Slovenia.

In a few countries, part-time teachers in upper secondary education also reported spending less time on actual teaching and learning in a typical lesson compared to full-time teachers in Portugal, the United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam and Croatia (differences ranging from 2-5 percentage points).

In upper secondary education, time spent in a typical lesson on actual teaching and learning is higher than in lower secondary education. This is true for seven countries and economies, with the highest differences in Denmark and Portugal (5 percentage points) (Table 3.26). More time spent on instruction directly corresponds with less time spent on keeping order in the classroom in upper secondary education. This is true for nine countries and economies with the highest differences in Denmark and Portugal (4-5 percentage points). Box 3.2 presents a gap decomposition analysis in order to understand what could be some of the factors explaining the differences across levels.

On average across the participating countries and economies in upper secondary education, teachers from mathematics classes reported a significantly greater amount of time spent on actual teaching and learning in a typical lesson compared to their counterparts teaching other subjects (reading, writing and literature, science, social studies, technology, and practical and vocational skills). This is true for Portugal, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (Table 3.40). However, the opposite is true for Viet Nam – teachers in mathematics classes reported a significantly lower share of time spent on actual teaching and learning compared to teachers in other classes. With respect to practical and vocational skills, teachers in these classes reported significantly less time spent on actual teaching and learning in a typical lesson compared to teachers in other classes. This is true for Denmark, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden while the opposite is true for Brazil. These results could be shaped by several factors such as the content and pedagogy of subjects taught or training and educational backgrounds of the different subject teachers. Further analysis is warranted to understand the conditions under which instructional time is maximised such that teachers of all subject domains can be suitably supported to increase student learning time.

Teaching practices or classroom instruction is the core task of teachers. It encapsulates what teachers do in the classroom directed at student learning. While student learning is influenced by a range of background factors such as family resources, expectations, motivation and behaviour, what teachers do in the classrooms has the strongest direct school-based influence on student achievement and long-term outcomes (Hattie, 2009[45]; OECD, 2005[1]).

The TALIS survey asks teachers to report on the frequency and use of effective teaching practices in their classroom as part of its goal to generate knowledge on teaching quality. These are multidimensional practices that have been found in research literature to be positively associated with student learning outcomes and are grouped into four strategies: classroom management, clarity of instruction, cognitive activation and enhanced activities (OECD, 2019[35]) (Table 3.1).

Classroom management practices include actions that teachers undertake to establish an orderly environment in the classroom and effective use of time during lessons (van Tartwijk and Hammerness, 2011[46]). Practices pertaining to clarity of instruction include actions that help set clear and comprehensive learning goals, usually at the beginning and but also throughout the lesson. These help students engage in new learning (Kyriakides, Campbell and Gagatsis, 2000[47]; Scherer and Gustafsson, 2015[48]; Seidel, Rimmele and Prenzel, 2005[49]). Cognitive activation practices consist of instructional activities that allow students to evaluate, integrate and apply knowledge within the context of problem solving (Lipowsky, 2009[50]).

The use of classroom management practices is widespread in primary education. On average, across the participating countries and economies, 82% of teachers tell students to follow classroom rules; 79% tell students to listen to what the teacher says; 76% of teachers calm students who are disruptive; and 71% of teachers tell students to quieten down quickly when the lesson begins (Table 3.29).

The use of cognitive activation practices as reported by teachers in primary education is relatively less widespread. The most widespread practice among cognitive activation practices in primary education is having students work in small groups to come up with a joint solution to a problem or task. This is reported by 64% of teachers on average in primary education (Table 3.31). Less common cognitive activation practices in primary education include giving students projects that require at least a week to complete (26%); presenting tasks to students for which there is no obvious solution (37%); and letting students use ICT for projects or class work (40%).

Compared to lower secondary education, more teachers in primary education reported using classroom management practices frequently or always. This is reflected in a higher share of teachers in primary education reporting this across all four classroom management practices: tell students to follow classroom rules and calm students who are disruptive (7 percentage points difference on average); tell students to listen to what the teacher says (6 percentage points); and tell students to quieten down quickly when the lesson begins (3 percentage points) (Table 3.29). The use of classroom management practices by teachers in primary education as well as the greater share of time spent in a typical lesson keeping order in the classroom points to classroom management as a pivotal tool for quality instruction in primary education for both behaviour management and student engagement.

The most common teaching practices in upper secondary education as reported by teachers are those pertaining to clarity of instruction. On average across the participating countries and economies, 89% of teachers reported that they explain to students what they expect them to learn and how old and new topics are related frequently or always; 79-82% of teachers refer to a problem from everyday life or work to demonstrate why new knowledge is useful, set goals at the beginning of instruction, and present a summary of recently learnt content; and finally, 71% of teachers reported letting students practise similar tasks until they know that every student has understood the subject matter (Table 3.30).

The use of classroom management practices among teachers in upper secondary education is between 57-65% on average across the participating countries and economies (Figure 3.10). However, in some countries and economies, less than half of the teachers reported using these practices frequently or always – Sweden (38-47%), Denmark (36-44%) and Croatia (24-47%) (Table 3.29). These are among the countries where teachers reported the greatest amount of time spent on actual teaching and learning in a typical lesson.

The most prevalent cognitive activation practices in upper secondary education are giving students tasks that require them to think critically and letting students use ICT for projects or class work as reported by 65% and 60% of teachers, respectively, on average across the participating countries and economies (Table 3.31). A less common cognitive activation practice in upper secondary education is giving students projects that require at least a week to complete (30%). The cognitive activation practices reported by the highest share of teachers indicate that teachers consider these activities to be important for the learning and development of their students.

There are two particular cognitive activation practices whose use differs according to whether teachers teach in VET schools or not: having students work in small groups to come up with a joint solution to a problem or task; and asking students to decide on their own procedures for solving complex tasks. On average across the participating countries and economies in upper secondary education, the use of these cognitive activation practices differs between teachers in VET schools compared to teachers in schools without a VET programme (differences of 4 and 7 percentage points, respectively). The most prominent differences are observed in Denmark where more teachers in VET schools use the practice of asking students to decide on their own procedures for solving complex tasks compared to their counterparts in non-VET schools (22 percentage points) whereas fewer teachers in VET schools have students work in small groups to come up with a joint solution or task (a difference of 15 percentage points). Other countries and economies where a higher share of teachers in VET schools use these practices include Portugal and Turkey (Table 3.33).

Teachers in upper secondary education place more importance on using ICTs for projects or classwork and giving tasks that demand critical thinking from students (Table 3.31). A greater share of teachers in upper secondary education compared to teachers in lower secondary education reported frequently or always letting students use ICT for projects or classwork in Portugal (13 percentage points), Viet Nam (11 percentage points), Brazil (9 percentage points), Slovenia (7 percentage points), Sweden and Croatia (5 percentage points) and the United Arab Emirates (4 percentage points). Giving tasks that require students to think critically is reported by bigger share of teachers in upper secondary education than their lower secondary counterparts in Sweden and Portugal (10-11 percentage points) and Viet Nam (5 percentage points).

In some countries and economies, the use of cognitive activation practices as reported by teachers is less common in upper secondary education than in lower secondary education. This is true for Alberta (Canada) and Denmark, where fewer teachers reported frequently or always using 2-3 cognitive activation practices in upper secondary education (differences ranging from 6 to 11 percentage points).

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Notes

← 1. ISCED level 6 programmes, including the bachelor’s programme, licence or first university cycle, are often designed to provide participants with intermediate academic and/or professional knowledge, skills and competencies, leading to a first degree or equivalent qualification. They may include practical components and/or involve periods of work experience as well as theoretically-based studies. They are traditionally offered by universities and equivalent tertiary educational institutions (OECD, 2015[53]).

← 2. Programmes at ISCED level 7 or master’s or equivalent level, are often designed to provide participants with advanced academic and/or professional knowledge, skills and competencies, leading to a second degree or equivalent qualification (OECD, 2015[52]).

← 3. Programmes classified at ISCED level 5 may be referred to in many ways; for example: higher technical education, community college education, technician or advanced/higher vocational training, associate degree, bac+2. For international comparability purposes, the term “short-cycle tertiary education” is used to label ISCED level 5 (OECD, 2015[54]).

← 4. The TALIS questionnaire defines concurrent teacher education programmes for respondents as those that grant candidates a single credential for studies in subject-matter content, pedagogy and other courses in education during the first period of post-secondary education. Consecutive programmes are two-stage post-secondary education – university education with a focus on subject matter and second phase focused on pedagogy and practicum.

← 5. The duration of a short-cycle tertiary education is usually about two years. Yet, in some countries, like Slovenia, this study programme can last three years and is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree.

← 6. These results could be explained by the high share of VET teachers in upper secondary education in Sweden who have fewer educational attainments and requirements compared to general education teachers (OECD, 2021[19]).

← 7. Data are based on Indicator D1.1 on average hours per year of compulsory instruction time in 2018 from Education at a Glance 2020 (OECD, 2020[15]).

← 8. The amount of time spent in an average lesson may not add up to 100% for each TALIS cycle because some answers that did not add up to 100% were accepted.

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