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How teachers’ job compares around the world

By Kenneth Chimese
EVERY education system relies mainly on the availability of well trained and experienced teachers to effectively deliver the curriculum of a given society.
Such teachers are always expected to be appreciated for the important role they play in shaping the destiny of children who come under their care.
It is the children who, upon completing their course of study, take charge in determining the pace and kind of development their society hopes to achieve. Society, on the other hand, has a role to play in taking care of teachers and giving them fitting recognition and status.
People hardly have any choice regarding whether they should send their children to school to receive an education or not. And because everyone needs their child to go to school and receive formal education, the teacher remains under public scrutiny.
Often times, society thinks its role is to demand from the teacher and not to adequately cater for the educator.
And there are many people who rarely think about their children’s teachers. There are governments which think little about improving the welfare of teachers in their countries. In our local context, there are teachers who do not openly introduce themselves as such.
However, there are communities where teachers are well appreciated and get to enjoy their job, resulting in improved education delivery and excellent academic results as well as a good culture of societal values.
And because the role of teachers is increasingly becoming important as they are the ones who ensure that children receive formal education, a World Teachers’ Day is commemorated every year in October during which the whole world reflects on issues surrounding teachers.
But how is a teacher’s job perceived in different parts of the world? What are some of the aspects that distinguish one teaching environment from the other? Teachers and policy makers, including parents, can take a look at what obtains elsewhere regarding issues that affect teachers.
The Global Teacher Status Index reported that the world over, it is Chinese teachers who are treated with the greatest respect. And so are teachers in South Korea and Greece. Out of the more than 20 countries surveyed, Israel values its teachers the least. Zambia?
Finland’s education system offers the best value for money. Teachers in Finland manage to make their pupils achieve impressive attainments despite teaching relatively large classes.
In the education efficiency index, Finland has been ranked top, followed by Korea, the Czech Republic and Hungary. The education systems of Brazil and Indonesia provide the least value for money.
In terms of expenditure on teachers, there are governments which spend up to 80 percent of their education budget on remunerating teachers. Practice in reputable international private schools has shown that a school spends between 65 and 75 percent on staff remuneration.
But where is the teacher paid highest in the world? Teachers in Switzerland get the highest annual salary- an average of US$68,000 (K408, 000) and the average salary for the whole country is lower at K300,000 (US$50,000). This means that there are countries where teachers are among the most highly paid employees.
The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium are also among such countries. But teachers in the United Kingdom earn much lower, and this may explain why we in Zambia get expatriate teachers only from certain countries.
And which country has the highest number of teachers per school? Studies have revealed that in Brazil, there are an average of 32 pupils to every teacher, compared to Portugal where there are just seven. Norway and Greece also have relatively small classes.
And how long do teachers work in a week? Interesting! Some of our government school teachers can report for work at 07:00 hours, and if they do not teach ‘double-class,’ their lower primary school class ends at 10:30 hours.
Compare this with the average working week for some teachers, which is at 38 hours! In Japan, where teachers work the longest periods, studies have shown that teachers clock 54 hours per week.
Some of the perceptions and circumstances that surround the teaching job may be cultural, but others may have to do with the level of development coupled with national policy and political will.
What is of essence, however, is how the Zambian teaching job compares with other parts of the world.
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