Vikas Pota on Raising the Status of Teachers

Education Executive and Political Commentator
If we want to get serious about improving the quality of education globally, we need to improve the professional status of teachers. In a new study by The Varkey GEMS Foundation offers nearly half a million data points that show us how to do that.
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TRANSCRIPT

Vikas Pota: The challenge of the world today facing in education is primarily twofold.  One is that we know that there is so many children who are out of school and the U.N. puts it about 57 million.  But actually the bigger crisis that exists in education is the fact that, not that 57 million children are not in school, but the hundreds of millions who go to school but don't learn anything.  So what our foundation has done is had a look at how we can create an impact.  And because the birth of our foundation comes from an education company, we have decided to focus on the issue of global teacher capacity and improving the quality of teachers in the classroom.

So, for example, I was in Ghana just a few months ago where I spoke to a teacher at great length.  And what she was saying to me was the reasons why I got into the profession was because teachers were held in high esteem in society.  And it wasn't necessarily about pay, but it's all now become about pay.  So it made us think quite a bit as to well, why do people become teachers and how do we attract the best teachers to the profession?  Because in many countries it's not the career of choice.  So we actually commissioned original polling research that looks at the global stages of teachers.

So this index looks at 21 countries to start with.  We've got almost half a million data points that tell us what people have said and responded on, which makes it fascinating reading. And this final piece should complete our understanding of the motivation behind people choosing to enter the profession.

So there are three points that are born out of this index, which are fantastically interesting to understand.  The first is that I think that there's worldwide consensus that teachers should be paid more.  I think it's fantastically important to understand also that the vast majority of people that we polled said that actually performance related pay should factor into teacher salary.  The Second is that when we looked at the professional status, professional ranking of teachers, in Europe teachers mainly were equated to the same status as social workers and librarians.  Whereas, if you look at a place like China, actually the status of teachers is quite higher because they equated it closely to that of being doctors.  I think that's a fairly important comparison.

And the third point that comes out is with regards to how students – or how people perceive student respect towards teachers.  And again, what we found was that generally speaking there was a high level of pessimism.  However, in China again, the perception was that students respected teachers greatly.  Those are the three main points that are born out of the index out of this report that we've compiled.  And each country level there's a whole vast multitude of different findings on a country-by-country basis, which makes it interesting as well.

The reason we did this was quite simply is that it's not captured.  You've got reports that capture everything else about education.  So classroom size, you've got pay, you've got reading, you've got mathematics, you've got science.  But this I think completes the entire data set when you think about status of teachers.  A lot of countries, when we speak to education ministers in particular, they're interested in this subject because they want to attract the best teachers into the profession and they want to retain them.  So there are cultural factors that actually matter when it comes to making sure the right candidates walk through the door and get into teaching as a profession.

But if you don't actually know how to improve teacher status, how are you going to do so? So this index and this report is an effort in measuring teacher status across so many countries, which has never been done.  And only after you measure it will you be able to actually improve it.

Produced/Directed by Jonathan Fowler and Dillon Fitton