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Teacher Respect Index: China 1st, US 9th

Posted by Grace Lee on Nov 4, 2013 10:40:00 AM

The Global Teacher Status Index is a research project funded by the Varkey GEMS Foundation to compare the "status" of teachers across 21 nations. It attempts to measure how teachers are respected and esteemed based on compensation, student and parent perceptions, etc in the form of a teacher respect index. The following four specific indicators were identified as most useful for the goals of this study:

  • Ranking the social status of teachers against other key professions
  • Analyzing the career of teaching as a desired profession
  • Gaining general understanding of teachers’ social status
  • Examining how and to what degree students demonstrate respect for teachers
Compared to 13 other professions, respect for Teaching was ranked 7th across the counties included in the study. Parents in China and South Korea were likely to encourage their children to choose teaching as a career, but parents in the United States were less likely to do so. Overall, teachers in China receive the highest degree of respect, while the U.S. ranks 9th.
This is consistent with my own experience with parents in all three of these countries. For example, a parent in one of my schools in the U.S. once told his daughter that he would pay for her tuition at a prestigious university so long as she didn't choose an education degree. His basis for this decision was that she would not be able to sustain the standard of living to which she was accustomed if employed as a teacher. His daughter acquiesced and became a business major. In the schools I have visited in Korea and China, the respect demonstrated by parents and students toward teaching as a profession is significantly higher.

The Shanghai Secret RevisitedShanghai School Tour

Thomas Friedman recently published an article entitled, "The Shanghai Secret," where he describes what he thinks is the reason Chinese students have done so well on international benchmarks for learning. He summarizes his tour of select schools in Shanghai by stating they have, "A deep commitment to teacher training, peer-to-peer learning and constant professional development, a deep involvement of parents in their children’s learning, an insistence by the school’s leadership on the highest standards and a culture that prizes education and respects teachers."

While I agree with these anecdotal conclusions, it should also be noted that schools in Shanghai, and elsewhere in China, have issues that also need to be addressed:

  • Crowded classrooms with students sitting shoulder-to-shoulder for extended periods of time
  • Hyper-emphasis on standardized testing results
  • Selection of students at early ages based on test results that tracks them toward specific vocations
  • Limited application of knowledge through experiences such as project-based learning or design thinking
  • Situation ethics, where schools frequently reproduce illegal copies of text books and other media content in violation of copyright laws
  • Teacher-centric instruction with little use of classroom methods that engage all of the multiple intelligences of a student
Every country has much to offer the debate about education quality and practice. U.S. schools and communities would benefit greatly from a cultural shift that esteems teachers (socially and financially) and the investments they make in children.

Topics: Teacher Quality

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