3 ways to attract future teachers

23 September 2020

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A teacher in a classroom, New York City (USA)
New York City Department of Education
A teacher in a classroom, New York City (USA)

With a few notable exceptions, ministries of education all face the same challenge: attracting and retaining qualified and motivated teachers. IIEP researchers have identified several measures (aside from the crucial issue of remuneration) that can have a positive effect on the attraction and motivation of teachers. Three of them are explored here. 

‘Over the last few decades, the status of the teaching profession has declined across the world in terms of pay, respect, and working conditions,’ notes the World Bank in its World Development Report 2018. Remuneration and, more broadly, the working environment and job stability remain basic needs that guide any attempt to upgrade the teaching profession. However, there are other factors involved in the mechanisms of attracting and motivating teachers. 

1. Diversification of career advancement opportunities

Some countries have established career paths in place, offering teachers opportunities for both vertical and horizontal mobility. IIEP researchers have observed such career ladders in Lithuania, Mexico, Peru, South Africa, and Thailand. The advantage of this approach is that it allows teachers to apply for new responsibilities within the school, without necessarily having to give up their jobs in the classroom. In South Africa, IIEP observed both that teachers appreciated the increased opportunities for advancement and also that there was a positive effect on their sense of autonomy.

Particularly acclaimed for its efficiency, the structure of the teaching career in Singapore gives every teacher the possibility to choose among three professional streams. Each teacher can thus control the direction and progress of their career according to their aspirations within pedagogy, school management, or a particular subject. 

2. Development and formalization of collaborative practices 

Peer coaching or mentoring; visits to colleagues' classrooms to observe, learn from others, and discuss mutual practices – although these kinds of informal development activities are not new, some countries have now started to take steps to formalize them. In New York City, the job descriptions of some teachers explicitly mention their support role regarding other members of the education team, with time specifically dedicated to collaborative activities. Among the benefits, IIEP found that there was a positive impact on teachers' feelings of isolation in their classrooms, as well as a rather encouraging effect, observed by local headteachers, in terms of attracting teachers to schools. 

 In New York City: ‘Teacher Leaders explain that collaborating with others is perceived as motivating because it breaks with a culture of closed-door teaching, puts them in a rewarding position where they can help others, and stimulates their process of reflection.’
Source: Teacher career reforms: Learning from experience, 2019: 51

3. Modifying the conditions of access to the profession

In several of the countries surveyed, changes in teacher selection procedures have had beneficial effects in raising the profile of the profession. This is the case in Colombia, where, in the early 2000s, a more competitive and transparent entrance examination was introduced, reserved only for holders of higher education qualifications. 

The causes of overall disaffection for the teaching profession vary across jurisdictions. In low-income countries, the rapid expansion of access to education has often required large-scale recruitment of teachers, leading to a certain 'de-professionalization' of the career. Thus, the widespread use of less-qualified teachers, alongside corruption or nepotism in some places, has a severe impact on the prestige of the profession and therefore also on its appeal. In the global North, the drop in the attractiveness of the teaching career is linked to the deterioration of working conditions and reductions in remuneration. 

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