Chapter 2. Boosting the prestige and standing of the profession

Attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers is the core policy orientation education systems need to pursue in order to build a high-quality and professionalised teaching workforce (Ainley and Carstens, 2018[1]; Akiba, 2013[2]; OECD, 2019[3]; OECD, 2018[4]; OECD, 2005[5]; Viac and Fraser, 2020[6]). In fact, high-achieving educational systems attract highly skilled trainee teachers by offering career paths that recognise and retain quality professionals (Barber and Mourshed, 2007[7]; Darling-Hammond et al., 2017[8]; OECD, 2019[9]).

The prestige of the profession can certainly help boost the attractiveness of teaching careers among trainee teachers and improve retention of effective teachers (Ingersoll and Collins, 2018[10]; Price and Weatherby, 2018[11]). Usually, careers with the highest prestige are also the ones that are able to attract and retain highly skilled candidates, as is the case in medicine or engineering. Raising and maintaining the prestige of the teaching profession have been long-term endeavours of many educators, teacher organisations, social actors and policy makers invested in the professionalisation of the teaching workforce (Hargreaves, 2009[12]; Hargreaves, 2000[13]; Hoyle, 2001[14]; OECD, 2005[5]; Schleicher, 2018[15]).

The working conditions of teachers and school leaders play a crucial role in shaping the prestige of the profession (Borman and Dowling, 2008[16]). Indeed, research has shown that satisfaction with working conditions, decision making in the school and being recognised for good work are associated with teachers feeling valued in society (Price and Weatherby, 2018[11]). Good working conditions, such as the adequate allocation of resources, along with supportive and collaborative working environments, can improve teachers’ overall well-being, job commitment and efficiency (Bakker et al., 2007[17]; Borman and Dowling, 2008[16]; Cochran-Smith, 2004[18]; Collie and Martin, 2017[19]; Hakanen, Bakker and Schaufeli, 2006[20]; Mostafa and Pál, 2018[21]). By contrast, unmanageable job demands and stressful working conditions can lead to low job satisfaction and well-being (Collie, Shapka and Perry, 2012[22]; Desrumaux et al., 2015[23]), lower levels of job commitment (Klassen et al., 2013[24]; Skaalvik and Skaalvik, 2016[25]) and burnout (Betoret, 2009[26]). They can also generate motivation to leave the profession (Skaalvik and Skaalvik, 2018[27]) and lead to attrition (Weiss, 1999[28]). Thus, it is important to acknowledge that improved prestige and working conditions can be an asset to retaining teachers and attracting strong candidates to the profession.

Using the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018 indicators, this chapter describes the complex relations between prestige, job satisfaction, occupational stress and attrition.1 The first section of the chapter examines the perceptions of teachers and school leaders on how society values their profession and how these perceptions have changed over time. The following section explores the perceptions of teachers and school leaders on their work, by reporting on satisfaction with their current working environment and their profession. Next, the chapter looks at occupational stress among teachers and school leaders, as well as the sources of stress, with a special focus on working hours and intensity of tasks. The final section deals with the risk of attrition among teachers and explores how it is linked to occupational stress, working conditions and teacher characteristics.

A core component of teacher professionalism is the level of prestige and status teaching enjoys (Ingersoll and Collins, 2018[10]). Although there are multiple definitions of “prestige” in the literature, the notion used in TALIS is close to Hoyle’s (2001[14]) concept of prestige. He refers to it as occupational esteem “… the regard in which an occupation is held by the general public by virtue of the personal qualities which members are perceived as bringing to their core task.” (p.147).

Although research evidence on the link between teachers’ perceptions of prestige and concrete outcomes is mixed, there have been some interesting findings about its impact. For example, statistical analysis based on interviews conducted with 99 teachers in Seville, Spain showed that teachers with a low perceived value of their profession tend to show higher levels of emotional exhaustion at work (Cano-Garcia, Padilla-Muñoz and Carrasco-Ortiz, 2005[29]), while a study in the United Kingdom using survey data from 849 teachers concluded that prestige may play a crucial role in retention of teachers (Fuller, Goodwyn and Francis-Brophy, 2013[30]). Finally, high-achieving education systems tend to display large proportions of teachers who feel valued in society, and there is a positive correlation between the overall prestige of the profession in society (as perceived by the overall population and by teachers in particular) and educational achievement of students (Dolton et al., 2018[31]; Schleicher, 2018[15]).

This section describes the perceptions of teachers and school leaders on how society values the teaching profession and on how these perceptions have changed over time. The analyses also cover how teachers’ perceptions relate to the views of society as a whole, the relationship with job satisfaction and attractiveness of the profession.

To get a sense of the perceived prestige of the profession, TALIS 2018 asked teachers and principals about their level of agreement ( “strongly disagree”; “disagree”; “agree” and “strongly agree”) on whether the teaching profession is valued in society. On average across the OECD countries and economies that participate in TALIS,2 only 26% of teachers “agree” or “strongly agree” that their profession is valued in society (Figure II.2.1, Table II.2.1). From 6% to 9% of teachers agree with this statement in Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (hereafter CABA [Argentina]), Croatia, France, Portugal, and only 5% of teachers or less do so in the French Community of Belgium, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia. In contrast, the systems where a majority of teachers (at least 50%) consider that the teaching profession is valued in society are Viet Nam (92%), Singapore (72%), the United Arab Emirates (72%), Korea (67%), Kazakhstan (63%), Alberta (Canada) (63%), South Africa (61%), Shanghai (China) (60%), Finland (58%) and Saudi Arabia (52%).

Whether teachers think their profession is valued in society varies significantly by gender. On average across the OECD, 29% of male teachers consider that their profession is valued in society, compared to 24% of female teachers. This holds true for 32 TALIS countries and economies (Figure II.2.1,Table II.2.1). Notable differences are observed in Mexico (a difference of 13 percentage points) and Latvia (12 percentage points). The only countries showing a reverse pattern, where the proportion of female teachers feeling valued in society is higher than the proportion of male teachers, are Saudi Arabia (a difference of 16 percentage points), the United Arab Emirates (4 percentage points) and Viet Nam (2 percentage points).

These gender differences can be interpreted in several ways. Although there is evidence suggesting that teaching, along with other occupations with a large proportion of women, has lower prestige than other professional occupations, males within these female-dominated professions may have a special status and enjoy certain privileges (García-Mainar, Montuenga and García-Martín, 2018[32]; Williams, 1992[33]). For example, evidence has shown that in female-dominated work environments such as teaching, males are more likely than their female colleagues to occupy more prestigious roles, i.e. management/leadership roles (Cognard-Black, 2004[34]).3 TALIS 2018 data indicate that there is indeed a higher proportion of males among school leaders than among teachers in nearly all countries and economies participating in TALIS, although school leaders are typically drawn from the ranks of teachers – see Table I.3.17 in TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I) (OECD, 2019[3]). In addition, male teachers could perceive their profession is more valued in society due to the subject matter they teach, in particular if these subjects are more valued in society (e.g. science, mathematics, technology).

Moreover, TALIS 2018 shows that the difference between the proportion of male and female teachers holding a positive view of the profession tends to be larger in systems that are female-dominated. In fact, the correlation at the level of countries and economies between the proportion of female teachers in the workforce and the difference of feeling valued in society between male and female teachers is positive among TALIS countries and economies (the linear correlation coefficient r is r=.41 among TALIS countries and economies).

On average across the OECD, a lower share of teachers age 50 and above (26%) believe that their profession is valued in society, compared to teachers under age 30 (29%) (Figure II.2.1, Table II.2.1). This pattern holds true for 16 TALIS countries and economies. The highest differences (10 percentage points or more) are found in Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Romania, the Russian Federation and Sweden. By contrast, in 6 TALIS countries and economies, the share of younger teachers who believe that their profession is valued in society is lower than the share of older teachers. Countries and economies displaying the highest differences (10 percentage points or more) are Malta, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

When considering the experience of teachers, a lower share of teachers with more than five years of experience (25%) believe that their profession is valued in society, compared to teachers with less than or equal to five years of experience (30%) (Figure II.2.1, Table II.2.1). This pattern holds true for 22 TALIS countries and economies. Countries and economies displaying particularly high differences (10 percentage points or more) are Bulgaria, Estonia, Romania, the Russian Federation and Sweden. It is noteworthy that, different to the data pattern observed by age group, no single country or economy shows a reverse pattern, which suggests a devaluation of the profession on the part of teachers as they gain more experience, with a progressive loss in the perceived value of the profession in nearly half of the TALIS countries and economies. A possible explanation is that the decrease in valorisation on the part of teachers is pushed by their satisfaction with their salaries. Indeed, Table II.3.58 in Chapter 3 of this volume shows that satisfaction with salary decreases with experience. Furthermore, teachers feeling valued in society and satisfaction with salaries shows a positive correlation across TALIS countries and economies (the linear correlation coefficient r is r=.46 among TALIS countries and economies).

Variation in the perceived value of the teaching profession by school characteristics (location, type and share of students with low socio-economic status, immigrant backgrounds and special needs) does not show a clear pattern across participating countries and economies, and the differences for most participants are quite small (Table II.2.4). This is good news, since it suggests that the overall perception of the teaching profession is not driven by school characteristics (Stromquist, 2018[35]).

Furthermore, in a handful of systems, the share of teachers who think that their profession is valued in society is higher in schools located in rural areas or villages (up to 3 000 people) than the share in schools located in cities (with a population of over 100 000). This holds true for Austria, Brazil, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Romania, the Russian Federation and South Africa. More favourable opinions are also seen in a few countries among teachers who work in publicly managed schools (CABA [Argentina], Chile, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Viet Nam), in schools with a relatively high concentration of students from low socio-economic backgrounds (Colombia, Georgia, Israel and Italy), schools with a relatively high concentration of immigrant students (Finland, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates) and schools with a relatively high concentration of students with special needs (Belgium).

Has the perception of teachers on the value of their profession in society changed between 2013 and 2018? Results show a mixed pattern in the 32 countries and economies with available data over the period of interest (Figure II.2.2, Table II.2.5). In 8 systems, there has been a significant decrease in the percentage of teachers who think that their profession is valued in society. The TALIS countries and systems that have decreased the most (10 percentage points difference or more) are the Flemish Community of Belgium (-20 percentage points), Chile (-19 percentage points) and New Zealand (-12 percentage points). However, 12 countries and economies have experienced an increase in the percentage of teachers who think that their profession is valued in society. The most prominent cases (a difference of more than 10 percentage points) are Alberta (Canada) (+16 percentage points), Shanghai (China) (+14 percentage points) and Estonia (+13 percentage points). Sweden displays a more modest change (+5 percentage points) but, along with Estonia, showcases very interesting policy measures to enhance the attractiveness of the profession (Box II.2.1).

As discussed previously, perceived prestige can be an important factor in its capacity to attract candidates to the profession. A proxy measure to understand the attractiveness of the teaching profession is whether teaching was considered a first choice as a career (defined as a paid job regarded as likely to form one’s life’s work).

On average across the OECD, after controlling for age, experience, type of contract and other relevant factors, teachers who report feeling valued in society are more likely to have decided on teaching as a first career choice (Table II.2.6). This holds true for 27 TALIS countries and economies. The results may suggest that, at least for this subset of countries and economies, the prestige of the profession may motivate potential candidates to consider teaching as a viable career option at the beginning of their professional life. The importance of opting for teaching as a first career choice should not be disregarded, since it could also be an indicator of retention and performance of teachers. TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I) showed that, for the majority of TALIS countries and economies, teachers who opted for teaching as a first-choice career were more likely to be satisfied with their job and to report higher levels of self-efficacy – see Table I.4.6 (OECD, 2019[3]).

However, the fact that the association between the prestige of the teaching profession and choosing teaching as a first choice is not significant for almost half of the TALIS countries and economies may indicate cross-country variations in factors relating to teaching as a first career choice. These could include institutional differences in the selection and certification processes of teacher candidates, as well as cultural differences in the ways individuals view their career paths and working life (OECD, 2019, p. 124[3]).4

The proportion of teachers who report feeling valued in society is also related to job satisfaction and reported self-efficacy. Although causal interpretations should be avoided, the regression analysis shows strong links between prestige (teachers feeling valued in society) and satisfaction (job satisfaction). Regression analyses show that, after controlling for teachers characteristics, teachers who report feeling valued in society have higher levels of satisfaction with their job (Table II.2.7). This holds true for all TALIS countries and economies except CABA (Argentina).

There is ample evidence that teachers generally tend to have a low opinion of how society perceives their work (Eurydice, 2004[40]; Fuller, Goodwyn and Francis-Brophy, 2013[30]; Pérez-Díaz and Rodríguez, 2014[41]; Smak and Walczak, 2017[42]). As such, it is interesting to compare teachers’ perspectives on their profession with those of other relevant stakeholders. Since principals are involved in, if not responsible for, managing and supporting teachers, it is also relevant to explore their views on the appreciation of the teaching profession. TALIS 2018 attempts to explore these different perspectives by also asking principals whether they agree ( “strongly disagree”; “disagree”; “agree”; or “strongly agree”) with the statement that the teaching profession is valued in society.

On average across OECD countries, 37% of principals agree or strongly agree that the teaching profession is valued in society (Table II.2.8). This is noticeably higher than the corresponding average among teachers (26%) (Table II.2.1). Indeed, in almost all countries and economies participating in TALIS, principals are more likely than teachers to believe that their profession is valued in society. A possible explanation for these results can be found in the professional trajectories of principals. On average across the OECD, most of the working years of principals have been spent as teachers – see Table I.3.13 in TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I) (OECD, 2019[3]). Given that management/leadership roles tend to be considered more prestigious than teaching positions (Dolton et al., 2018[31]), principals may be conflating the relative prestige of their leadership role to how the teaching profession is valued in society.

Regarding the perspectives of society at large, international studies have shown that, in broad terms, societal views of the teaching profession are not unfavourable and teaching is usually ranked as a mid-level career (Dolton et al., 2018[31]; Ingersoll and Collins, 2018[10]; Smak and Walczak, 2017[42]). For example, surveys in the Flemish Community of Belgium, the French Community of Belgium and Spain have shown that teaching is a respected profession and that the value accorded to the profession has been maintained over time (IWEPS, 2019[43]; Pérez-Díaz and Rodríguez, 2014[41]; Verhoeven et al., 2006[44]).

However, there might indeed be a great level of variation between education systems in the societal value of teaching, since a recent study showed that, in high-performing countries such as China and Singapore, teachers are as well respected as medical professionals (Dolton et al., 2018[31]). Moving beyond how teaching is ranked in relation to other professions, it is also important to examine whether teaching is sufficiently respected as a career option. For example, a recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study showed that teaching is not among the top career aspirations of 15-year-olds and that those who express a preference for teaching are usually not the top achievers (OECD, 2018[4]).

A measure that takes into account both the rating and the attractiveness of the teaching profession is the Global Teacher Status Index (GTSI), developed by the Varkey Foundation (Dolton et al., 2018[31]). The 2018 survey from which the index is developed (which had a previous cycle in 2013) sought to identify the level of respect for teachers among the general population in 35 countries (of which 24 participated in TALIS 2018). The index is a combination of a ranking of primary and secondary school teachers against other professions, a ranking of teachers’ relative status based on the most similar comparative professions and a rating derived from the perceived respect of pupils for teachers.5 The analysis produced an index with a scale of 0-100 on how much teachers are respected in each country.6 The GTSI Index 2018 showed that teachers are much more respected in Asian countries than in other countries. Furthermore, Japan and the United Kingdom are the countries where the index experienced the highest increase in the last five years (Dolton et al., 2018[31]).

An additional GTSI index, captures spontaneous attitudes towards teachers (GTSI_2018+Implicit). These responses refer to “… unconscious, automatically activated feelings and associations we hold in relation to certain subjects or groups.” (Dolton et al., 2018, p. 81[31]). As the report explains, capturing spontaneous responses is valuable: “Respondents may also hold positive or negative unconscious perceptions of teachers – feelings and associations of which they themselves are not fully aware. Measures which encourage spontaneous, unreflective responses may therefore offer an additional insight into the popular perception of teachers in the surveyed countries.” (Dolton et al., 2018, p. 82[31]).7

Figure II.2.3 contrasts the values of the GTSI_2018+Implicit index with the system-level proportion of teachers who believe their profession is valued in society.8 As the figure shows, there is a moderate positive correlation between the GTSI index and the proportion of teachers agreeing or strongly agreeing that their profession is valued in society (the linear correlation coefficient r is r=.64 among the countries for which data is available). In one quadrant of the figure are countries like Argentina, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy, which have low values on the GTSI scale and low percentages of teachers who believe their profession is valued in society. In contrast, systems like Canada, Finland and Singapore display high values on the GTSI index and high percentages of teachers who believe their profession is valued in society. The results of this system-level correlation seem to support the notion that teachers’ perceptions of prestige are more or less aligned to perceptions of the larger society.

Although many factors affect the prestige of the teaching profession, working conditions play a crucial role in shaping it (Guerriero, 2017[45]; Han, Borgonovi and Guerriero, 2018[46]; Price and Weatherby, 2018[11]). This section examines the responses of teachers and principals with respect to satisfaction with their current working environment and their profession.

Job satisfaction is the sense of fulfilment and gratification that teachers get from working (Ainley and Carstens, 2018[1]). Positive job satisfaction has a positive impact on teachers, school climate and students. In particular, research shows a positive relationship between teachers’ job satisfaction and teachers’ performance (Lortie, 1975[47]; Renzulli, Macpherson Parrott and Beattie, 2011[48]). Job satisfaction also plays a key role in teachers’ attitudes, efforts and confidence (self-efficacy) in their daily work with children (Caprara et al., 2003[49]; Klassen et al., 2013[24]; Tschannen-Moran and Hoy, 2001[50]). It is important to explore teachers’ job satisfaction, because it has strong implications for retention, attrition, absenteeism, burnout, commitment to education goals and teachers’ job performance (Brief and Weiss, 2002[51]; Ingersoll and Collins, 2018[10]; Kardos and Johnson, 2007[52]; Klassen et al., 2013[24]; Lee, Carswell and Allen, 2000[53]; Lortie, 1975[47]; Price and Collett, 2012[54]; Renzulli, Macpherson Parrott and Beattie, 2011[48]; Somech and Bogler, 2002[55]). Job satisfaction has been less explored among principals than among teachers (Federici and Skaalvik, 2012[56]), but with the increasingly complex role of principals and the need for them to be both administrators and instructional leaders, it is imperative to know more about how they feel about their working conditions and their jobs more generally.

Job satisfaction can be analytically divided into two areas: satisfaction with the current work environment and satisfaction with the profession. Research evidence has shown the relevance of distinguishing one from the other, as teachers tend to express satisfaction with elements directly related to teaching, but dissatisfaction with elements related to working conditions (Butt and Lance, 2005[57]; Crossman and Harris, 2006[58]; Dinham and Scott, 1998[59]). Teachers could be satisfied with the teaching profession because it fulfils their personal goals but, at the same time, dissatisfied with their current job and working conditions (Mostafa and Pál, 2018[21]; Viac and Fraser, 2020[6]).

TALIS 2018 measures job satisfaction among teachers and principals by asking their level of agreement ( “strongly disagree”; “disagree”; “agree”; or “strongly agree”) with a set of specific statements covering both positive and negative connotations of their current work environment and their profession.

TALIS 2018 asked teachers about their satisfaction with the profession through four indicators. On average across the OECD, a large majority of teachers revealed their satisfaction with their profession, through their agreement with the following positive or negative statements: “the advantages of being a teacher clearly outweigh the disadvantages” (76% “agree” or “strongly agree”); “if I could decide again, I would still choose to work as a teacher” (76% “agree” or “strongly agree”); “I wonder whether it would have been better to choose another profession” (66% “strongly disagree” or “disagree”); and “I regret that I decided to become a teacher” (91% “strongly disagree” or “disagree”) (Figure II.2.4, Table II.2.10). The proportion of teachers expressing satisfaction with the profession exceeds 70% for each of these four indicators in Austria, CABA (Argentina), Colombia, the Flemish Community of Belgium, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and Viet Nam.

A closer examination of each indicator reveals interesting cross-country variation. For example, on average across the OECD, only 9% of teachers report regretting that they decided to become a teacher, but the percentages are double or more for Saudi Arabia (26%), Portugal (22%), Korea (19%), Malta (18%) and South Africa (18%) (Table II.2.10). Likewise, in six countries, more than half of teachers (50% or more) report wondering whether it would have been better to choose another profession: Lithuania (59%), Malta (58%), Saudi Arabia (52%), England (United Kingdom) (52%), Iceland (51%) and South Africa (51%). It is important to note that, with the exception of Iceland, Korea and Lithuania, all of the listed countries display percentages lower than the OECD average in support of the positive statements about the profession: “the advantages of being a teacher clearly outweigh the disadvantages” and “if I could decide again, I would still choose to work as a teacher”, which may reflect an overall pattern of dissatisfaction with the profession for these countries.

A breakdown by teachers’ characteristics shows that, in most countries and economies, younger (under 30 years) and novice teachers (less than or equal to 5 years of experience) are more likely than their older (50 years and above) and experienced counterparts (more than 5 years of experience) to wonder whether it would have been better to choose another profession (Table II.2.13). In the case of age differences, the difference exceeds 15 percentage points in Alberta (Canada), Israel, Kazakhstan, Malta, Singapore, Slovenia, the United States and Viet Nam. Singapore shows an exceptionally wide difference of 35 percentage points (59% of teachers aged 30 years or less report wondering about choosing another profession compared to only 25% of teachers aged 50 years or above). If a response of “wonder whether it would have been better to choose another profession” can be interpreted as a proxy measure for teachers’ desire to remain in the profession, part of the cross-national variation could arise from differences in the vibrancy and diversity of the broader labour markets and hence differences in the availability of attractive, alternative career options open to both younger and older teachers in different countries and economies. Nonetheless, several age-related factors could explain this pattern. From a human capital perspective, younger teachers have accumulated less knowledge and fewer skills that are specific to the occupation. This could make them less risk-adverse and more willing than their more senior colleagues to take professional risks and consider different career options. Teachers’ desires to choose another profession diminish throughout their career as they build a greater amount of knowledge (Borman and Dowling, 2008[16]; Crossman and Harris, 2006[58]). Also, younger teachers may be more likely to face practice shock following their entry into the profession, logically prompting them to question their career choice. Indeed, findings discussed in TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I) showed that younger and novice teachers are more likely to work in more challenging environments (e.g. schools with a high concentration of students from socio-economically disadvantaged homes) than their more experienced and older colleagues (OECD, 2019[3]). Finally, considerations related to pension plans are more likely to constrain career moves for older teachers than for their younger peers, providing some additional context for these age differences in those considering switching schools or changing profession altogether (Goldhaber et al., 2015[60]). However, a low proportion of older teachers considering a career change could also be indicative of the fact that they have had a truly satisfying career as teachers thus far, especially in systems with deliberate efforts to make the teaching profession an attractive, lifelong career. Box II.2.3 presents policy examples related to enhancing teacher satisfaction; the Slovak Republic caters for teachers’ satisfaction by providing flexible and multiple career options to keep teachers motivated within the profession, while Korea provides opportunities for training and professional development.

When considering school type, on average across the OECD, a higher share of teachers working in publicly managed schools than in privately managed schools wonder whether it would have been better to choose another profession (Table II.2.14). The most pronounced differences (over 10 percentages points) are observed in Singapore (24 percentage points), South Africa (19 percentage points), Hungary (14 percentage points), Malta (13 percentage points) and the United Arab Emirates (11 percentage points). These results could be attributed to differences in working conditions between privately managed schools and publicly managed schools that could affect the professional satisfaction of teachers. According to Crossman and Harris (2006, p. 40[58]), these differences could be attributed to factors in privately managed schools such as “… larger financial and non-financial resources being available, less state-driven bureaucracy, and greater freedom within the curriculum…”.

However, some systems show a reverse pattern, with significantly higher shares of teachers in privately managed schools than in publicly managed schools wondering if it would have been better to choose another profession. Public sector activity usually operates under staffing regulations concerning certification and experience, from which private schools may be exempt. Publicly and privately managed schools may differ in the age, experience, commitment and aspirations of teachers. For example, the difference in the pattern between publicly and privately managed schools could be explained by the concentration of novice teachers, which was shown to be associated with whether teachers would like to choose another profession. This could explain the relatively large public-private difference observed for Singapore, where a larger proportion of novice teachers work in publicly managed schools than in privately managed schools – see TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I) (OECD, 2019[3]), Table I.4.32. Similarly, the variation of teacher age profiles between publicly and privately managed schools could also explain why some systems show a reverse pattern, with significantly higher shares of teachers in privately managed schools than in publicly managed schools wondering if it would have been better to choose another profession. This is the case in Chile (a difference of 11 percentage points), CABA (Argentina) (9 percentage points), Georgia (8 percentage points) and Colombia (6 percentage points). In Colombia, for example, a larger proportion of novice teachers work in privately managed schools – see TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I) (OECD 2019[3]), Table I.4.32.

On average across the OECD, 93% of teachers report being satisfied with their performance in their school (Table II.2.16). This high level of satisfaction can also be observed in their opinions of their current work environment, since teachers’ overall satisfaction levels are remarkably high, for each of the four job satisfaction indicators: “all in all, I am satisfied with my job” (90% “agree” or “strongly agree”); “I enjoy working at this school” (90% “agree” or “strongly agree”); “I would recommend this school as a good place to work” (83% “agree” or “strongly agree”); and “I would like to change to another school if that were possible” (80% “strongly disagree” or “disagree”) (Figure II.2.5, Table II.2.16). For Austria, CABA (Argentina), Colombia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Iceland, Norway and Viet Nam, 90% of teachers or more express satisfaction with at least three of these four indicators.

Although the OECD average is high for each of these satisfaction indicators, there is a considerable degree of cross-country variation in the indicator of whether teachers would like to change to another school if possible (Table II.2.16). Compared to the OECD average (20%) a high percentage of teachers report that they would like to change to another school if that were possible in Saudi Arabia (47%), South Africa (45%), Singapore (39%), the United Arab Emirates (38%), Turkey (37%), Korea (35%) and Japan (31%). However, all these countries also have a relatively high percentage of teachers stating that, all in all, they are satisfied with their job (equal to 80% or more). Thus, the indicator of whether teachers would like to change to another school should be examined with caution, since it may not necessarily be an indicator of dissatisfaction with the work environment but rather an expression of teachers’ aspirations to career progression. For example, in Singapore, after three years of teaching, teachers are assessed annually to see which of three career paths would best suit them, master teacher, curriculum or research specialist, or school leader. Each stage involves a range of experience and training to prepare candidates for school leadership and innovation (OECD, 2011[63]). Thus, Singapore’s relatively high proportion on this indicator could reflect the success of how it has designed career development pathways for its teachers.

On average across the OECD, a higher share of teachers under 30 compared to their colleagues above 50 report that they would like to change to another school. This trend is observed in 31 countries and economies participating in TALIS (Table II.2.19). Countries with particularly wide differences between teachers under 30 and teachers above 50 are Turkey (24 percentage points), Mexico, (21 percentage points), Saudi Arabia (20 percentage points), the United Arab Emirates (16 percentage points) and France (15 percentage points). Iceland is the only country displaying a different pattern, with more teachers aged 50 years or above than teachers under 30 expressing a desire to change to another school (15 percentage points). Levels of experience display the same overall pattern showed by age. In 14 of the countries and economies participating in TALIS, novice teachers report wishing to change schools more often than their more experienced peers do. This might be related to the fact that novice teachers have limited choices regarding which school they work in and that they often work in more challenging schools (Mostafa and Pál, 2018[21]; OECD, 2019[3]). It may also reflect national legislation on school assignment and career development. For example, in France, older teachers are more likely to obtain a transfer, while novice teachers are not able to choose their first school assignment (OECD, 2005[5]).

On average across the OECD, a higher share of teachers who report working in schools with a relatively high concentration of students from socio-economically disadvantaged homes report wishing to change schools compared to the share of colleagues in schools with lower concentrations of such students (Table II.2.20). The countries and economies displaying the widest differences are Alberta (Canada) (19 percentage points), Saudi Arabia (17 percentage points), Bulgaria, (16 percentage points) and France (15 percentage points). These results align with the research finding that teachers in disadvantaged schools are more predisposed to changing to schools that serve families with higher socio-economic status (Hanushek, Kain and Rivkin, 2004[64]). For some countries and economies, results show similar patterns for teachers in schools with a high concentration of students with special needs (Austria, Bulgaria, France, Hungary and the Slovak Republic) or immigrant students (Alberta [Canada], Austria, Belgium and its French Community, England [United Kingdom], France, Norway and the United Arab Emirates). In addition, as was the case for novice teachers, these findings could reflect national legislation on school assignment and career progress development, as teachers may not be posted to challenging schools by choice.

To further understand what is behind the responses, a logistic regression analysis is run between, on the one hand, the reported willingness to change to another school and their satisfaction with the profession and, on the other hand, other demographic characteristics (Table II.2.22). On average across the OECD, teachers who wish to leave their school are less satisfied with the profession, did not choose teaching as a first choice career, are slightly younger and less experienced in their current school, and are more likely to work full-time and to report teaching in a target class with a slightly higher concentration of disadvantaged students, low academic achievers and students with behavioural problems. The profiles of teachers who wish to leave their school change substantially from country to country, since these indicators are not all statistically significant for all countries and economies participating in TALIS. Nevertheless, the one consistent result across all participating countries and economies is that teachers with higher levels of satisfaction with the profession are less likely to report wishing to leave their school.

With respect to changes over time, only a handful of countries and economies show significant changes between 2013 and 2018 for job satisfaction indicators related to the current working environment. The indicator with the largest number of countries and economies displaying a significant change is “all in all, I’m satisfied with my job” (18 countries and systems) (Table II.2.21). However, the difference over five years is relatively small (5 percentage points or less), and no clear pattern is observed, since 10 of these countries have experienced a decrease in job satisfaction, while 8 have experienced some increase.

As for satisfaction with the profession, significant changes are observed between 2013 and 2018 for each of the indicators. In 15 countries and economies with available data, there has been a significant decrease in the percentage of teachers agreeing ( “agree” or “strongly agree”) that the “the advantages of being a teacher clearly outweigh the disadvantages” (Table II.2.15), while the opposite trend is observed for 9 countries and economies. Likewise, a decrease is observed in 13 systems with respect to the indicator “if I could decide again, I would still choose to work as a teacher”, while the opposite trend is observed for 7 systems. Furthermore, the percentage of teachers reporting that they regret having become a teacher has significantly increased in 8 systems but decreased in the same number of systems. There has also been an increase in 13 systems in the percentage of teachers wondering whether it would have been better to choose another profession, while a decrease is observed in 7 systems.

Although changes over time regarding satisfaction with the profession display a mixed pattern, more insights can be provided by undertaking a country-by-country approach. For example, Estonia and Sweden display a significant increase for both of the positive statements ( “the advantages of being a teacher clearly outweigh the disadvantages” and “if I could decide again, I would still choose to work as a teacher”) (Figure II.2.5, Table II.2.15), along with a significant decrease for the negative statements ( “I regret that I decided to become a teacher” and “I wonder whether it would have been better to choose another profession”). Over the same period, Denmark, England (United Kingdom), Finland, Israel, New Zealand and Portugal showed a significant decrease for both positive statements and an increase for both negative statements (Figure II.2.6, Table II.2.15).

Although the percentage of teachers satisfied with the profession remains quite high over the years for some countries (e.g. Denmark), the fact that there is significant systematic change in the responses to both positive connotations and negative connotations suggests that particular reforms or policy initiatives may be affecting this level of satisfaction (Box II.2.3).

Job satisfaction with the current work environment and with the profession both shows a positive association with teachers’ reported levels of self-efficacy. After controlling for teacher characteristics, in almost all TALIS countries and economies, teachers with higher levels of job satisfaction with the current work environment also report higher levels of self-efficacy (Table II.2.24). The same pattern is observed for all TALIS countries and economies regarding the relationship between satisfaction with the profession and self-efficacy (Table II.2.25). These results suggest the importance of teachers’ sense of purpose for their work, their profession and individual performance. However, results should be interpreted with caution, as the explanatory power of the model is limited (the coefficients of determination R2 are low).

How can systems boost satisfaction with the profession? TALIS 2013 showed that positive relationships exist between job satisfaction and teachers’ opportunities to participate in decision making at school, their perception that appraisal and feedback lead to changes in their teaching practice, and participation in collaborative professional development or engagement in collaborative practices five times a year or more (OECD, 2014[65]).

However, in order to have a better understanding of where efforts should be directed to improve levels of job satisfaction, it is useful to know how much of the variation in job satisfaction is across schools and how much is within schools. Is the variation in job satisfaction related to the school where the teachers work (e.g. school type, culture of the schools, administrative procedures of the school, etc.) or to differences between teachers (e.g. teacher experience or teachers teaching different student groups)?

The share of variance in teachers’ responses that is accounted for by school differences in the items on satisfaction with the current work environment and items on satisfaction with the profession is estimated (Table II.2.26). Overall, for both satisfaction with the current work environment and satisfaction with the profession, only a small percentage of the total variance comes from differences between schools. Variance attributable to the school level is particularly low for satisfaction with the profession, since only 4% is accounted for by school-level differences. In other words, teachers’ satisfaction with the profession does not vary substantially from school to school. These results signal that efforts to change the level of teachers’ satisfaction with the profession are more likely to have an impact if they are directed to all schools rather than targeting specific schools, since all schools seem to do about equally in this regard.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to observe that satisfaction with the current work environment is more dependent on school factors, given that 13% of the variance is accounted for by school differences (Table II.2.26). These results should not come as a surprise. Items on satisfaction with the current work environment measure elements related to the school (hence relatively higher variance at the school level), while items on satisfaction with the profession measures elements related to the individual professional trajectory and aspirations of teachers (hence relatively lower variance at the school level).

There is also an important cross-country difference in the share of variance of satisfaction with the current work environment accounted for at the school level (Table II.2.26). Close to one-fifth (17% or more) of the variance in teachers’ satisfaction with their current work environment is accounted for by school factors in Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, France, Korea, New Zealand, South Africa and Turkey. But less than 7% of the variance is accounted for by schools in Kazakhstan, Shanghai (China) and Slovenia. To enhance satisfaction with the current work environment, systems with higher levels of variance between schools might find it more effective to intervene in a certain set of schools, rather than having a one-size-fits-all policy. More research is warranted to identify those schools where teachers’ satisfaction with the current working environment is particularly low.

These results highlight the importance of disentangling job satisfaction indicators corresponding to the profession from those corresponding to the current work environment, as the level of intervention (i.e. at teacher level or school level) may differ considerably.

On average across the OECD, principals’ satisfaction with their current work environment is remarkably high. Around 95% of principals “agree” or “strongly agree” with all of the positive statements: “I enjoy working at this school” (96%); “all in all, I am satisfied with my job” (95%)”; “I would recommend this school as a good place to work” (95%); and “I am satisfied with my performance in this school” (94%) (Figure II.2.7, Table II.2.27). In 36 TALIS countries and economies, at least 90% of principals state that they agree or strongly agree with all these four indicators. Cross-country variations in each of these indicators are narrow, with almost all countries and economies having values between 80% and 100%.9 In the majority of countries and economies with available data, there are no significant changes for principals in the indicators of satisfaction with the current work environment between 2013 and 2018 (Table II.2.31).

Regarding satisfaction with the profession, on average across the OECD, at least 80% of principals express satisfaction for each of the four indicators of satisfaction with the profession: “if I could decide again, I would still choose this job/position” (87%); “the advantages of this profession clearly outweigh the disadvantages” (81%); “I wonder whether it would have been better to choose another profession” (20%); and “I regret that I decided to become a principal” (7%) (Figure II.2.7, Table II.2.32). The countries and systems with at least 80% of principals expressing satisfaction for each of these four indicators (by agreeing with positive statements and disagreeing with negative statements) are Austria, CABA (Argentina), Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, the United States and Viet Nam.

Some systems are worth highlighting as their satisfaction patterns are in stark contrast with the OECD average. In Bulgaria and the French Community of Belgium, only 40% of principals state that the advantages of the profession outweigh the disadvantages (compared to 81% of principals on average across the OECD) (Table II.2.32). Likewise, more than 20% of principals report regretting their decision to become principals in Alberta (Canada), Bulgaria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (compared to the OECD average of 7%). In addition, more than 30% of principals report that they wonder whether it would have been better to choose another profession in Bulgaria, Lithuania, Malta, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey (compared to the OECD average of 20%). The percentages of principals who agree with this statement are particularly high in Lithuania (77%) and Saudi Arabia (50%).

Work-related stress can be viewed as an imbalance between work demands and environmental or personal resources at work. Workers can experience stress when the work demands placed on them do not match their support at work, knowledge, skills or ability to cope at work (Kyriacou, 2001[67]). These responses manifest in disturbances to emotional, social, and/or physical health. The indicators used in TALIS are restricted to stress reactions from the workplace and occupation and do not include general anxiety or life-event stress (Viac and Fraser, 2020[6]). Several international studies have acknowledged the existence of a link between working conditions and occupational stress (Collie, Shapka and Perry, 2012[22]; Desrumaux et al., 2015[23]; Klassen et al., 2013[24]; Skaalvik and Skaalvik, 2016[25]). Stressful environments and situations can affect the practices of teachers and principals, their motivation for their work and even student achievement (Viac and Fraser, 2020[6]). Indeed, research has associated high levels of stress with lower self-efficacy for teaching, lower job satisfaction, lower commitment (Collie, Shapka and Perry, 2012[22]), burnout (Schaufeli, Leiter and Maslach, 2009[68]) and teachers’ leaving the profession (Kyriacou, 2001[67]).

The next section describes the levels of stress reported by teachers and what they report as their main sources of stress. It then explores the relationships between stress levels and certain characteristics of working conditions, with specific emphasis on working hours and administrative workload, which teachers most often report as sources of stress.

TALIS 2018 asked teachers, for the first time, to what extent they experience stress in their work ( “not at all”; “to some extent”; “quite a bit”; “a lot”). On average across the OECD, 18% of teachers report experiencing stress a lot in their work (Figure II.2.8, Table II.2.36). However, there is a great deal of variation across the countries and economies participating in TALIS. More than 30% of teachers report experiencing stress a lot in England (United Kingdom), Hungary and Portugal. By contrast, less than 5% of teachers report experiencing stress a lot in their work in Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Viet Nam.

When considering the proportion of teachers who report not experiencing stress at all, it is important to observe that, on average across the OECD, only 9% of teachers report not experiencing stress at all (Figure II.2.8, Table II.2.36). However, this is the case for 20% of teachers or more in CABA (Argentina), France, Georgia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Romania and the Russian Federation. Results are quite exceptional in Georgia, where 71% of teachers report not experiencing stress at all in their work, and also in Kazakhstan, where 52% of teachers report no work stress. The great cross-country variation in the level of teachers’ stress may reflect the cross-country variation of stress of the general population and other subjective measures of well-being, as measured by the Gallup World Poll (Ng et al., 2009[69]). The reported level of stress of the general population may depend on economic development, but it is also associated with the needs, goals and culture of specific countries and economies. Diener and Tay (2015[70]) found that countries with high levels of stress not only have high income levels, but are also shown to have high longevity and satisfaction with life.

Looking at how results differ according to teachers’ characteristics, female teachers report experiencing stress a lot more frequently than their male peers (20% of female teachers compared to 15% of male teachers). In 32 TALIS countries and economies, a significantly larger proportion of female teachers than male teachers report experiencing stress a lot in their work (Table II.2.39). Differences are particularly large (10 percentage points or more) in Malta (14 percentage points), Portugal (13 percentage points) and Alberta (Canada) (10 percentage points). International research has also found that female teachers are more likely than their male colleagues to report high levels of stress (Antoniou, Polychroni and Vlachakis, 2006[71]; Klassen, 2010[72]). However these results should be interpreted carefully, as there might be a series of mediating factors explaining these differences, such as workload, position in the job hierarchy and social support (Antoniou, Polychroni and Vlachakis, 2006, p. 688[71]).

Also, on average across the OECD, teachers under 30 report experiencing stress a lot more often than their colleagues age 50 or above (20% of teachers under 30 compared to 15% teachers of 50 or above) (Table II.2.39). This holds true for 19 TALIS countries and economies. Among the countries and economies displaying the greatest differences (15 percentage points or more) are the United States (18 percentage points), New Zealand (18 percentage points), Korea (16 percentage points) and Singapore (15 percentage points). These differences could be explained by experience patterns, since younger teachers are more likely to be starting their teaching career and, thus, may still be developing strategies to balance their job demands (Antoniou, Polychroni and Vlachakis, 2006[71]). By contrast, teachers age 50 or above in Bulgaria are more likely to experience stress a lot than teachers under 30 (23% of teachers age 50 or above compared to 13% of teachers under 30).

In addition, teachers working in schools in city areas, publicly managed schools and schools with a high concentration of disadvantaged students (i.e. students from socio-economically disadvantaged homes, students with special needs and students with a migrant background) are more likely to report experiencing stress a lot than their colleagues in schools in villages or rural areas, privately managed schools and schools with lower concentrations of students from socio-economically disadvantaged homes (Table II.2.40). Differences in stress reported by teachers working in schools in different geographic locations are particularly wide in five countries and economies: Alberta (Canada) (16 percentage points), New Zealand (14 percentage points), South Africa, (13 percentage points), Colombia (13 percentage points) and Chile (11 percentage points). It is important to keep in mind that there might be other factors carrying these correlations. For example, younger and novice teachers are more likely to work in schools with higher concentrations of students (OECD, 2019[3]) and, as displayed in the previous paragraph, a greater proportion of these teachers report experiencing stress “a lot” than their older and more experienced colleagues.

TALIS also asked teachers about the extent to which their job negatively affects their mental and physical health ( “not at all”; “to some extent”; “quite a bit”; “a lot”). On average across the OECD, 7% of teachers report that their job negatively impacts their mental health a lot, while 6% report that it negatively impacts their physical health a lot (Table II.2.36). More than 10% of teachers answer “a lot” for each of both indicators in England (United Kingdom), the French Community of Belgium, Korea, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

Another indicator of the impact of teachers’ stress is whether the work leaves room for the individual’s own personal time. It is argued that an important element of work-life balance is having the ability to unwind after work hours or being able to switch off from work responsibilities (Cropley and Millward Purvis, 2003[73]). On average across the OECD, only 6% of teachers consider that their work never leaves room for their personal life (Table II.2.36). However, there is a great degree of variation across TALIS countries and economies on this indicator. Only 1% of teachers in Denmark and Norway state that their work does not leave room (i.e. “not at all”) for personal time, but more than 15% of teachers in Iceland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, South Africa and Viet Nam so report. This share is particularly high in Iceland (27%) and Viet Nam (39%).

How does teachers’ stress relate to their work? In order to answer this question, the four items of stress (the extent teachers experience stress in their work; if work leaves room for personal time; the impact on their mental health; and the impact on their physical health) were grouped into a scale of teachers’ well-being and stress. Regression results display a significant negative association between teachers’ well-being and stress and teachers’ job satisfaction and self-efficacy (Tables II.2.41 and II.2.42). Teachers with higher levels of stress tend to report lower job satisfaction. This relationship holds true for all TALIS countries and economies. It is noteworthy that job satisfaction accounts for a considerable variation of the stress in all TALIS countries and economies (given the relative medium-to-high levels of R2 of all models) (Table II.2.42). These results echo the findings of international studies that display the interconnectedness between job satisfaction and stress (Betoret, 2009[26]; Collie, Shapka and Perry, 2012[22]; Desrumaux et al., 2015[23]). For example, research analyses based on surveys applied to 298 French elementary, middle, and high school teachers found that satisfaction with competence, autonomy and relatedness at work ameliorated the relationship between job constraints and well-being and distress (Desrumaux et al., 2015[23]).

In addition, teachers with higher levels of stress also tend to report lower levels of self-efficacy. This relationship holds true for all TALIS countries and economies with available data except Alberta (Canada), Estonia, Korea, Malta and New Zealand. Given the impossibility of determining the direction of this relation, a couple of interpretations are possible. On the one hand, the results could imply that high levels of stress undermine teachers’ confidence in performing effectively in the classroom. On the other hand, lower levels of self-efficacy could be causing teachers’ stress, as they lack the confidence to manage their tasks. Nevertheless, caution is recommended in interpreting these results, since the explanatory power of this model is limited (the coefficients of determination R2 are low) (Table II.2.42).

Beyond the magnitude and impacts of stress, it is also useful to explore the factors that contribute to teachers’ stress in their work. Over the past 15 years, a number of studies have explored sources of stress, in particular the association between working conditions and teachers’ levels of stress (Bakker et al., 2007[17]; Betoret, 2009[26]; Chan, 2002[74]; Collie, Shapka and Perry, 2012[22]; Hakanen, Bakker and Schaufeli, 2006[20]; Klassen et al., 2013[24]; Montgomery and Rupp, 2005[75]). A relevant conclusion of this research is that the prevalence of stress differs depending on its sources. For example, stress linked to classroom activities and student interactions seems more predominant than stress related to the support coming from the school and the government (Antoniou, Polychroni and Vlachakis, 2006[71]; Klassen, 2010[72]). TALIS 2018 has sought to further explore the issues behind stress by asking both teachers and principals to what extent a series of work-related tasks constituted a source of stress ( “not at all”; “to some extent”; “quite a bit”; “a lot”). The sources of stress for teachers were classified into three different groups following the TALIS 2018 conceptual framework (Ainley and Carstens, 2018[1]): workload stress; student behaviour stress; and stress related to responsiveness to stakeholders.

The research literature has identified workload as a source of stress, as it shows a strong association with teachers’ life balance and burn out (Bakker et al., 2007[17]; OECD, 2013[76]). On average across the OECD, the workload-related sources of stress reported by teachers ( “quite a bit” or “a lot”) are the following: “having too much administrative work to do” (49%); “having too much marking” (41%); “having too much lesson preparation” (33%); “having too many lessons to teach” (28%); and “having extra duties due to absent teachers” (25%) (Figure II.2.9, Table II.2.43). Among the TALIS countries and economies displaying the highest shares (50% or more teachers across the five items, on average) are Denmark, Portugal, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. Among the countries and economies displaying the lowest shares (below 20%, on average) are CABA (Argentina), Finland, Georgia and Mexico.

With respect to administrative work, much variation by teachers’ years of experience can be observed. In 28 of the 48 TALIS countries and economies, significantly fewer novice teachers than their more experienced peers report administrative work as a source of stress (Table II.2.46). The largest differences are found in Portugal (24 percentage points), France, (18 percentage points) and the Slovak Republic (17 percentage points).

Another set of sources of stress relates to managing classrooms and student behaviour. Disruptive pupil behaviours are considered a major cause of psychological strain for teachers (Hakanen, Bakker and Schaufeli, 2006[20]). Results from TALIS 2013 showed that job satisfaction and self-efficacy diminished as the proportion of students with behavioural problems increased (OECD, 2014[65]). Three TALIS indicators consider these elements: “being held responsible for students’ achievement” (reported “quite a bit” or “a lot” as a source of stress by 44% of teachers across the OECD); “maintaining classroom discipline” (38%); and “being intimidated or verbally abused by students” (14%) (Figure II.2.9, Table II.2.43). TALIS countries and economies displaying the highest shares (50% or more across three items, on average) are Bulgaria, France, the French Community of Belgium, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. The countries and economies displaying the lowest shares (below 20%, on average) are CABA (Argentina), Georgia, Mexico and Norway. These findings echo research results that have also shown that the type of stress experienced by teachers differs by their experience, with novice teachers experiencing stress closely related to classroom management, while more experienced teachers tend to report higher levels of stress related to their workload (Antoniou, Ploumpi and Ntalla, 2013[77]; Antoniou, Polychroni and Vlachakis, 2006[71]).

Finally, a last set of indicators refers to teachers’ ability to respond to the requirements and needs of evolving educational systems and stakeholders. The additional tasks generated by these responsibilities can create extra work pressure on teachers and can negatively affect teachers’ sense of professional well-being (Valli and Buese, 2007[78]). On average across the OECD, 41% of teachers consider that “keeping up with changing requirements from local, municipal/regional, state or national/federal authorities” is a predominant source of stress; 34% of teachers do so with respect to “addressing parent or guardian concerns”. In addition, shifts in societal demands regarding the inclusion of special needs students in regular schools have brought about additional demands for teachers, such as “modifying lessons for students with special needs”, which 31% of teachers report as a source of stress (Figure II.2.9, Table II.2.43). TALIS countries and economies displaying the highest shares (50% or more across the three items, on average) are France and Portugal. The countries and economies displaying the lowest shares (below 20% of teachers, on average) are CABA (Argentina) and Georgia.

With respect to school leaders, on average across the OECD, “having too much administrative work to do” is the source of stress with the highest percentage of principals reporting experiencing it “quite a bit” or “a lot” (69%) (Table II.2.47). More than 90% of principals experience this issue “quite a bit” or “a lot” in the Czech Republic, the French Community of Belgium and Portugal. Another set of sources of stress derives from the engagement of principals with the requirements and needs of evolving educational systems and stakeholders. For “keeping up with changing requirements from local, municipal/regional, state or national/federal authorities”, the OECD average is 55%, with the highest values displayed by Portugal (91%) and Latvia (82%). “Being held responsible for students’ achievement” is another common source of school leaders’ stress (OECD average 46%). The highest values are seen in Portugal (94%), Latvia (85%) and Lithuania (81%). “Addressing parent or guardian concerns” (OECD average 47%) displays the highest values in Portugal (88%) and Italy (74%).

An interesting pattern in relation to principals’ sources of stress is that, on average across the OECD, 71% of principals of publicly managed schools report administrative work as a source of stress “quite a bit” or “a lot”, compared to only 61% of principals of privately managed schools (Table II.2.50). A significant positive difference is observed in nine countries, and the gap is particularly pronounced in CABA (Argentina) (a difference of 50 percentage points), the United States (44 percentage points) and New Zealand (41 percentage points). A possible explanation for this difference might be due to the variation in administrative procedures between publicly and privately managed schools, specifically in the degree of bureaucratisation (Dronkers and Robert, 2008[79]). Publicly managed schools are often perceived as more bureaucratic than privately managed schools, which might be associated with principals’ levels of stress.

Research has consistently shown that time pressures and workload are among the main factors affecting teachers’ stress and well-being (Bakker et al., 2007[17]; Collie, Shapka and Perry, 2012[22]; Hakanen, Bakker and Schaufeli, 2006[20]; Klassen and Chiu, 2010[80]). However, it has been argued that it is important to use more granular indicators of workload, such as the number of hours that teachers spend on certain activities, specifically on teaching and non-teaching tasks (Skaalvik and Skaalvik, 2018[27]). Indeed, teachers spend significant time on non-teaching tasks, such as administrative issues, which could be automated or dealt with by non-professionals. This time spent on administrative tasks may lead to early attrition (Benham Tye and O’Brien, 2002[81]).

In order to gain further insight into sources of stress, it is useful to explore stress levels in relation to the amount of time teachers spend on given tasks.10 TALIS asked teachers to count the number of 60-minute hours they spent on specific tasks during their most recently completed calendar week. On average across the OECD, teachers report working a total of 38.8 hours per week, with a little bit more than half of the time (20.8 hours) devoted to teaching – Table I.2.27 in TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I) (OECD, 2019[3]).11

Overall across the OECD, the most time-consuming non-teaching tasks are: “individual planning or preparation of lessons either at school or out of school” (6.5 hours); “marking/correcting of student work” (4.2 hours)”; “general administrative work” (2.7 hours); and “team work and dialogue with colleagues within this school” (2.7 hours) – Table I.2.27, in TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I) (OECD, 2019[3]). The time spent on marking and administrative work aligns with teachers’ reported sources of stress, such as “having too much administrative work” and “having too much marking”. Among the countries and economies participating in TALIS, the time spent on marking exceeds seven hours in Shanghai (China) and Singapore, and six hours in Colombia, England (United Kingdom), Portugal and South Africa. Regarding administrative work, the burden is highest in Japan and Korea, where teachers spend at least five hours per week on administrative work, as well as in Australia and New Zealand, where teachers spend on average four hours per week on this type of work.

Figure II.2.10 shows the relationship between task intensity and teachers’ stress. The horizontal axis corresponds to the number of hours a teacher spends performing specific tasks (task intensity) and the vertical axis corresponds to the estimated share of teachers (OECD-31 average) reporting that they experience stress a lot. Each line in the chart shows the estimated share of teachers reporting that they experience stress a lot by level of task intensity, for a given task. The chart confirms the results of the correlation analysis. Based on this estimation, on average across the OECD, 17% of the teachers who spend 21 hours teaching report they experience stress a lot (Table II.2.53). This percentage does not differ greatly for each additional hour of teaching, suggesting that teachers’ stress is just slightly related to teaching intensity.

Figure II.2.10 shows that the estimated proportion of teachers reporting that they experience stress a lot in their work increases more sharply for planning, marking and particularly for administrative tasks (Tables II.2.54, II.2.55 and II.2.56). For example, on average across the OECD, an estimated 18% of the teachers who spend three hours on administrative tasks report experiencing stress a lot in their work. However, if teachers spend five hours (i.e. 2 hours more) on administrative tasks, this increases to an estimate of 22% of teachers. This activity shows the highest increase rate per additional hour across the four activities in the figure.

These results seem to suggest that teachers who spend many hours doing administrative tasks are more likely to report high levels of stress than those who spend many hours teaching in the classroom. This result echoes similar findings displayed in the TALIS national report of England (United Kingdom), which showed that working hours, particularly for non-teaching tasks, had a strong association with the proportion of primary and lower secondary teachers reporting their tasks as unmanageable (Jerrim and Sims, 2019[82]). Box 2.7 shows the example of a policy initiative in England to reduce stress-induced workload and how the Slovak Republic followed this example.

How can educational systems affect the well-being and stress levels of teachers? An important first step to answering this question is understanding whether stress is a phenomenon mainly explained by school differences or by teacher differences. Depending on the answer, systems will know whether it would be more effective to elaborate policies targeting schools or targeting teachers. To this end, the share of variance accounted for by school differences in teachers’ responses to well-being and stress measures (i.e. the extent to which teachers experience stress in their work; if work leaves room for personal time; the impact on their mental health; and the impact on their physical health) and in teachers’ responses to workload stress measures (i.e. teacher stress due to lessons to prepare and to teach, to marking, to administrative work and to extra duties due to absent teachers) is estimated (Table II.2.57).

TALIS 2018 results showed that, on average across the OECD, only 6% of the variance in teachers’ well-being and stress is accounted for by school differences (Table II.2.57). In other words, most of the variance in teachers’ well-being and stress is accounted for by differences among teachers within schools. Nevertheless, there is important cross-country variation, with 10% of the variance or more accounted for by schools in Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam, and less than 3% of the variance lies in the differences between schools in the Flemish Community of Belgium and the Netherlands. Relatively higher levels of variance accounted for by schools signal that there may be school factors associated with the levels of well-being of teachers.

On average across the OECD, only 7% of the variance in teachers’ workload stress is accounted for by school differences (Table II.2.57). It is worth noting that these results may appear somewhat counter-intuitive, since it might have been expected that teachers’ stress due to workload would have a strong link with school elements, such as school composition or location. However, the results indicate that teachers’ responses to these items lies in the differences between teachers. Once again, it is possible to observe important cross-country variation, with 10% or more of the variance accounted for by schools in Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Viet Nam, while less than 3% of the variance lies in the differences between schools for schools in Australia, the Flemish Community of Belgium, the French Community of Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Slovenia. Results are particularly high for Denmark (23%). In the case of those systems with a relatively high proportion of the variance accounted by school differences, it would be advisable to have a better understanding of what the school elements are that explain these differences in order to develop policies targeting those schools where stress levels may seem particularly elevated.

The amount of variance within schools can have several explanations that could be linked to teachers’ allocation to different classrooms and student groups or their assigned workload. Another possible explanation for the considerable share of variance in teachers’ responses is that they could be linked to teachers’ individual traits, such as resilience and coping mechanisms ( and O’Brien, 2012Curry [85]; Gu and Day, 2007[86]; Kyriacou, 2001[67]). Resilience is understood as teachers’ capacity to react assertively and efficiently when facing adversity in their workplace (Gu and Day, 2007[86]). A qualitative study conducted in eight schools in South Adelaide, Australia, displayed how a series of elements, such as a sense of agency, pride in achievements and notions of self-competence, worked as protective factors to cope with stressful situations. At the same time, the study highlighted the importance of school factors, such as a caring leadership team, to effectively build these levels of resilience in their staff (Howard and Johnson, 2004[87]). Indeed, although resilience may be an individual trait, environmental characteristics can foster this attribute in teachers to help them cope with their challenges (Gu and Day, 2007[86]).

Attrition among teachers has become a severe problem that threatens the stability of several educational systems across the world (Viac and Fraser, 2020[6]). Attrition, unlike turnover (which refers to teachers permanently leaving their school) refers to teachers leaving the profession altogether (Borman and Dowling, 2008[16]; Bradley, Green and Leeves, 2007[88]).

Attrition can have a detrimental impact on student learning (Borman and Dowling, 2008[16]; Ronfeldt, Loeb and Wyckoff, 2013[89]). Indeed, attrition can affect student achievement by having a negative impact on the school climate and on the implementation of the curriculum (Guin, 2004[90]). Furthermore, attrition can lead to severe problems of staff shortages, especially when they affect disadvantaged schools (Boe and Cook, 2006[91]; Ingersoll, 2001[92]). Such actions also imply significant financial costs for educational systems, as they need to replace qualified teachers in the affected schools (Barnes, Crowe and Schaefer, 2007[93]). This also entails significant opportunity costs, as the resources devoted to training new staff could have been spent on other related policy areas, such as teacher training. Finally, attrition also entails efficiency costs for schools, as they need to spend time and resources integrating new teachers into the school organisation and culture (Darling-Hammond and Sykes, 2003[94]). TALIS 2018 includes questions that may function as proxies for measuring attrition and are able to capture this form of absence and provide a descriptive picture of the situation.12

One proxy measure for the risk of attrition is the intention of teachers to remain in teaching. Both teachers and principals were asked how many more years they would like to keep working. Although this indicator is influenced by the age of respondents, due to retirement-related attrition, it can still provide useful information on teachers’ career plans or aspirations. In interpreting these results, it is important to keep in mind that TALIS does not provide information on the reasons why teachers or school leaders may want to stop working in their respective roles. It is possible that, although teachers and school leaders report planning to stop work relatively soon, they may want to continue in the profession in another capacity, such as on the school management team or a role outside the school, such as in the local or national administration or as a researcher. Nevertheless, whatever plans teachers and school leaders may have, the indicator provides an idea of when they expect to stop being in their classroom or being in charge of the school. This provides useful information for education systems on replacement efforts likely to be required. On average across the OECD, teachers report that they would like to continue working as teachers for an additional 15 years (Table II.2.61). Since the average age of teachers across the OECD is 44 (OECD, 2019[3]), an additional 15 years takes teachers close to retirement age for the majority of countries and economies participating in TALIS. The range of results spreads from just 9 additional years in Lithuania to 19 years in the Flemish Community of Belgium. On average across the OECD, principals intend to work eight more years (Table II.2.62). Given the fact that, across the OECD, the average age of principals is 52 (OECD, 2019[3]), it could also be speculated that principals are thinking about retirement age when declaring the number of years they would like to remain as a principal. The range of results spreads from just 3 additional years in Korea and Japan to 11 additional years in Denmark, Finland and United States.

In order to identify those countries and economies experiencing more pressing concerns for the renewal of the teaching workforce, the following analyses takes into consideration the percentages of teachers who want to leave teaching within the next the next five years. On average across the OECD, 25% of teachers state they want to leave teaching within the next five years (Figure II.2.11, Table II.2.63). The countries and economies with particularly high percentages (equal to or above 40) are Lithuania (45%), Bulgaria (45%) and Estonia (40%). The average age of the teacher population workforce could explain these high percentages. Indeed, all these three countries have a teacher population older than the OECD average – see Table I.3.1 in TALIS 2018 Results (Volume I) (OECD, 2019[3]). There is also a moderate positive country-level correlation between teachers wanting to leave teaching and the proportion of teachers age 50 and above (the linear correlation coefficient r is r=.44 among TALIS countries and economies). As such, these results could be understood as part of the regular life cycle of the teacher workforce in each country.

More pertinent findings could be gained by conducting an analysis of the years teachers and principals wish to remain as teachers or school leaders by their age. To highlight the potential risks of attrition and reduce the risk of bias by teachers leaving due to retirement, the following analysis restricted the sample to teachers aged 50 years or less. On average across the OECD, 14% of teachers aged 50 years or less want to leave teaching within next five years (Figure II.2.11, Table II.2.63). More than 25% of teachers want to leave teaching within the next five years in Estonia, Iceland, Lithuania, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, while 5% or less of teachers express this wish in Austria, Portugal and Viet Nam.

A high proportion of young teachers wishing to leave their work within the next five years can be problematic as it may present countries and economies with unexpected teacher shortages. The proportion of teachers under age 35 wanting to leave teaching within the next five years is particularly problematic in Estonia (41%) and Singapore (40%) as it may present severe challenges for the renewal of the teaching profession, given that the average age of teachers is 50 (OECD, 2019[3]) (Figure II.2.11, Table II.2.63). A higher percentage of young teachers wishing to leave teaching in the next five years may be an indicator of professional aspirations, career path and mobility opportunities embedded in each educational system. Whether these issues translate into an actual teacher shortage will depend on the capacity of each system to replace these teachers in their schools.

A higher share of teachers age 50 or less in city schools than the share of colleagues in rural or village schools want to leave teaching within the next five years (Table II.2.66). This holds true for the OECD average and for 12 TALIS countries and economies. Countries and economies with particularly large differences are the United States (a difference of 17 percentage points), New Zealand (a difference of 12 percentage points) and in South Africa and Sweden (both with a difference of 10 percentage points). However, for Lithuania, teachers in schools in rural areas or villages report more often than their colleagues in city schools that they wish to leave teaching within the next five years: a difference of 10 percentage points.

What are the main factors associated with teachers wanting to leave their work? In exploring this question, this chapter links several of the items presented above. The analysis starts by exploring the association between stress and the intention to leaving teaching within the next five years. Indeed, research evidence has highlighted that stress levels might play an important role in teachers’ decisions to leave teaching (Kyriacou, 2001[67]). Figure II.2.12 (Table II.2.67) shows that teachers who report experiencing stress a lot in their work are more likely to report that they wish to leave teaching within the next five years. This holds true on average across the OECD and for almost all countries and economies participating in TALIS with available data, after controlling for teachers’ age, gender, experience at the current school and type of contract, as well as characteristics of the target class. Exceptions to this pattern are Alberta (Canada), Austria, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Viet Nam.

However, schools may have the capacity to limit the negative association that stress has with attrition. As was described in the section on the drivers of stress levels, coping mechanisms allow teachers to soften the detrimental effects of stress (Curry and O’Brien, 2012[85]; Gu and Day, 2007[86]; Kyriacou, 2001[67]). For example, research has found that motivation, work engagement and self-efficacy are able to mediate the relationship between stress and the desire to leave the profession (Collie, Shapka and Perry, 2012[22]; Gu and Day, 2007[86]; Klassen et al., 2013[24]; Skaalvik and Skaalvik, 2018[27]). Furthermore, research evidence has shown that working conditions and school support play a pivotal role in the retention of teachers (Bakker et al., 2007[17]; Borman and Dowling, 2008[16]; Hakanen, Bakker and Schaufeli, 2006[20]). In particular, the level of autonomy and peer collaboration seems to play an important role in improving the well-being of teachers (Chan, 2002[74]; Collie and Martin, 2017[19]; Desrumaux et al., 2015[23]; Bakker and Schaufeli, 2006 Hakanen, [20]). To account for these mediating effects, a series of indicators were introduced to the original regression model between the indicators for stress and for the intention to leave teaching within the next five years. To account for individual motivation and self-efficacy, the model introduced the question of whether the teaching profession is valued in society (as a proxy for motivation) and the scale for self-efficacy. To account for school support, such as autonomy and peer-collaboration, the model introduced a scale measuring teachers’ professional collaboration and another one measuring teachers’ satisfaction with autonomy. Participation in formal induction activities and effective professional development was also included as a component of work support for teachers. Finally, the model introduced the job satisfaction scale to have an overall measure of teachers’ perceptions of their work environment (Tables II.2.68 and II.2.69).13

Figure II.2.13 shows that, after accounting for job satisfaction, school support, motivation and self-efficacy, the relationship between stress and the intention to leave teaching within the next five years stops being significant for 18 TALIS countries and economies. A detailed look at the association between these indicators and the intention by teachers to leave teaching within the next five years reveals that this loss in significance between stress and the intention to leave work may be due to the introduction of the job satisfaction scale in the model (Tables II.2.68 and II.2.69). Indeed, for 42 TALIS countries and economies, the higher the level of job satisfaction, the less likely teachers are to express an intent to leave their work in the next five years.

The fact that the rest of variables used in the model do not show significant results for most of the TALIS countries and economies could be explained by how closely they are related to the concept of job satisfaction itself. This chapter revealed the positive association between perceptions of the value of the profession and self-efficacy and job satisfaction (Tables II.2.7, II.2.24 and II.2.25), while satisfaction with target class autonomy and peer collaboration are identified in Chapters 4 and 5 of this volume (Tables II.4.13, and II.5.41). In other words, for these 18 countries, job satisfaction, regardless of the level of stress, is the main factor associated with teachers reporting whether they would like to leave teaching. Overall, the result hints at the pivotal role that job satisfaction may play in retaining teachers in the profession.

Having said that, for an equal amount of 18 TALIS countries and economies, the relationship between stress and the intention to leave teaching within the next five years remains significant after accounting for job satisfaction, school support, motivation and self-efficacy (Figure II.2.13, Tables II.2.68 and II.2.69). In other words, for these 18 countries and economies, the extent to which stress is experienced still plays a pivotal role in teachers reporting their wish to leaving teaching in the next five years. The fact that this association is still persistent for these countries and economies, even after taking into account support measures, hints that teachers’ stress levels should be taken seriously in those countries.

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Notes

← 1. This chapter focuses on the subjective indicators of working conditions as they pertain to the perceptions, feelings and aspirations of teachers and school leaders. Chapter 3 focuses on the objective indicators of working conditions, meaning the objective elements of teachers’ occupational well-being (job security, time flexibility, evaluation processes) that can be observed by an external party (Viac and Fraser, 2020[6]).

← 2. The OECD average corresponds to the arithmetic mean of the estimates of the OECD countries and economies that participate in TALIS, with adjudicated data.

← 3. Results from Chapter 3 of this volume show that female teachers are more likely to work part-time than male teachers. It would be worth exploring whether contractual arrangements play a role behind the difference in the perception of how much teaching is valued in society, which could also explain the gender differences behind these results.

← 4. The results could also be explained by a misalignment of the time reference of each indicator. Teachers are being asked about how they feel their profession is being valued in society at the time of the survey and their response may be different to the one they might have given when they chose teaching as a career.

← 5. Authors asked people to rank 14 occupations in order of how they are respected. These occupations were: primary school teacher; secondary school teacher; head teacher; doctor; nurse; librarian; local government manager; social worker; website designer; police officer; engineer; lawyer; accountant; and management consultant. These occupations were deliberately chosen as graduate (or graduate-type) jobs. They were also chosen carefully with respect to how similar or dissimilar the work might be to teaching. By giving respondents many alternatives, the authors were able to extract a precise ranking of occupations. The authors asked respondents to rank each occupation in a drag-and-drop ladder on the computer screen and also asked them to name the single occupation that they felt was most similar to a teacher in terms of social status (Dolton et al., 2018, p. 136[31]).

← 6. The authors used principal component analysis (PCA) to create an index of teacher status as a summary of the information contained in a set of variables related to teacher status: rank of primary school teachers; rank of secondary school teachers; ranking of teachers according to their relative status; proportion of the survey sample by country who state that they “strongly agree” or “tend to agree” with the statement “pupils respect teachers”. The index of teacher status comes from the first component extracted in the PCA. It explains the largest amount of total variance in the observed variables, so it is significantly correlated with some of the observed variables. For more technical information on the construction of the GTSI, please consult Appendix B of the Global Teacher Status Index report (Dolton et al., 2018, p. 136[31]).

← 7. In order to measure respondents’ spontaneous, unreflected perceptions of teachers, the report added a word-association task to the survey (prior to the main body of the questionnaire, so as to not have responses conditioned by prior answers). Respondents were presented with a sequence of word pairs. For each pair of words, respondents were asked to select the word that best described the teaching profession in their country. They were told to choose as quickly as possible, within a time limit of ten seconds per word pair (Dolton et al., 2018, p. 82[31]). To determine whether spontaneous measures of teacher status provide additional insight into popular perceptions of teachers, the authors added responses to the following three word-pairs to the PCA model: “High-flyer/Mediocre”; “Respected/Not respected”; “High status/Low status” (Dolton et al., 2018, p. 139[31])

← 8. For the purposes of Figure II.2.3, four GTSI countries (Argentina, Canada, China and the United Kingdom) were counted as TALIS participants, since subnational entities from each of these countries participated in the TALIS study: CABA (Argentina), Alberta (Canada), Shanghai (China) and England (United Kingdom).

← 9. The only exception to this pattern is Japan: 63% of principals agree with “I am satisfied with my performance in this school”. These results mirror the findings for teachers, where 49% agree with that statement (Table II.2.16). The statement closely resembles a self-efficacy indicator (i.e. an indicator measuring the level of confidence of teachers over their practices). A possible explanation for the results of Japan could be found in cross-cultural self-efficacy studies. Japan, among with other Asian countries has usually been identified as a country that reports a low percentage of agreement for self-efficacy indicators.

← 10. The analysis is conducted with the full sample of teachers in order to preserve the statistical power of these analyses. The estimations of hours by type of activity do not differ much by limiting the analysis to only full-time teachers, as the results from Table II.2.52 show.

← 11. The sum of hours spent on different tasks may not be equal to the total number of working hours, because teachers were asked about these elements separately. Therefore, the share of total working time teachers spend on each of the reported activities should be interpreted with great care. It is also important to note that the data represent the averages from all the teachers surveyed, including part-time teachers. Yet, on average across the OECD, the share of total work hours spent on teaching is very similar for full-time teachers (53%) and part-time teachers (54%) (OECD TALIS 2018 database).

← 12. Proxies of absenteeism and turnover are covered in TALIS 2018 by asking principals about the number of teachers (full-time or part-time) who were absent the most recent Tuesday that school was in session and the number of teachers who permanently left their school during the 12 months prior to the survey. Principals were asked to report the head count using the following response ranges: 0; 1-5; 6-10; 11-15; and 16 or more. Principals’ responses about the number of absences and the number of teachers who left the schools were recoded as the low value of the response ranges: 0; 1; 6; 11 and 16. Based on this answer, a proxy of the school’s teacher absence and turnover ratio was estimated for the proportion of teachers absent from their school compared to the overall teaching staff. However, reporting a ratio based on a categorical measure (head counts of absent teachers and teachers who have left) and continuous measure (overall teaching staff) leads to problematic results, as measures are heavily dependent on the school size. Therefore, results for absenteeism and turnover are not reported in the main text, but the results can be found in Table II.2.60.

← 13. The scale for self-efficacy measures teacher self-efficacy in classroom management, instruction and student engagement. The professional collaboration scales measures the extent to which teachers teach jointly as a team in the same class, provide feedback to other teachers about their practice, engage in joint activities across different classes and age groups, and participate in collaborative professional learning. The satisfaction with autonomy in the target class scale measures the sense of control for determining course content, selecting teaching methods, assessing students’ learning, disciplining students, and determining the amount of homework for the target class in a randomly selected target class. The job satisfaction scale measures satisfaction with the profession and the current work environment.

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