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Strong respect for teaching profession in S’pore: Survey

SINGAPORE — A survey of teachers’ status in 21 countries has found that Singapore has a relatively high level of respect for teachers, ranking seventh — ahead of Finland, Britain and the United States.

SINGAPORE — A survey of teachers’ status in 21 countries has found that Singapore has a relatively high level of respect for teachers, ranking seventh — ahead of Finland, Britain and the United States.

The same index also found that only 20 per cent of Singapore respondents surveyed would not encourage their children to enter the teaching profession, in contrast with Israel, where only 8 per cent would want their children to teach.

These findings are part of the inaugural Varkey GEMS Foundation 2013 Global Teacher Status Index, which was released yesterday. The study looked at key indicators of teacher status, such as public perception of the profession and salaries. One thousand respondents, aged 16 to 64, were polled from each of the 21 countries. The Varkey GEMS Foundation is the not-for-profit arm of GEMS Education, a private education company.

The index found that Singapore ranked third — behind Finland and Switzerland — for citizens’ confidence in their national education system, with more than 45 per cent of respondents believing that students have respect for their teachers. In contrast, in South Korea, just more than a tenth of respondents felt that pupils respect educators.

Respondents in Singapore also thought teachers here earn less than they actually do, even though they have the highest average pay of all the countries surveyed, at US$45,755 (S$57,000) annually. In contrast, teachers in Finland, a country highly lauded for its education system, have an average actual wage of US$28,780.

Also, the respondents’ estimate of what a fair annual salary for a teacher in Singapore should be was almost 14 per cent below actual teacher salaries.

The index also indicated that student outcomes were positively correlated to teacher salaries. Each country’s average Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) score — an international study that evaluates education systems worldwide by assessing 15-year-olds’ competencies in reading, mathematics and science — was plotted against the estimated actual wage, the perceived fair wage and actual wage of teachers. It was found that the higher the wages of teachers, the greater the student outcomes.

Nonetheless, more than 59 per cent of respondents across the countries surveyed thought that teachers should be paid according to the performance of their students. Roughly 70 per cent of Singaporeans surveyed were in favour of a performance-related pay system for educators.

Yet, beyond higher pays and salaries pegged to performance, a good education system requires “recruiting the brightest and best into teaching”, said former United Kingdom Schools Minister Andrew Adonis in the index report. “To recruit the brightest and best, teaching needs to be a high status occupation, and we need to understand better what contributes to the social standing of teachers.”

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