Israeli teachers are among the least respected worldwide, a global survey published by the London-based Varkey Foundation has revealed, The Jerusalem Post reports.
The Global Teacher Status Index 2018 questioned 1,000 members of the public in each of 35 countries to evaluate the social standing of teachers in their societies and consider how it may impact education systems.
Of the countries surveyed, only Brazilian teachers were revealed to have a lower status in the eyes of the public than Israeli teachers, unchanged from the 2013 index. At the other end of the spectrum, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Indonesia respect their teachers more than all European countries.
When compared to a restricted list of 14 other occupations, there were significant discrepancies between how the teaching profession is regarded by members of the general public and how the profession is regarded when the ranking was carried out by teachers themselves.
The Israeli public held that the most similar occupation to teaching is 13th-ranked social work, while teachers regarded their profession as holding a similar status to 6th-ranked nursing. In Russia and Asian countries such as Malaysia and China, the public saw teaching as a profession of a similar stature to top-ranked medicine.
The survey revealed that in approximately 50 of countries, teaching is considered a profession that “deals with people on a personal, supportive basis,” likely leading to its comparison to social work.
To further analyze the status of the teaching profession, respondents were asked to rate the extent to which they would encourage their children to become teachers.
Nearly 20 percent of Israelis said they would definitely not encourage their children to pursue a career in teaching, and more than 30 percent said they would probably not encourage them. Less than 5 percent of respondents said they would definitely encourage their children to consider entering the teaching profession.
An additional measure of the social status of teachers examined in the survey was according to level of reward, with social standing often reflected by how much an employee is paid. Respondents were therefore asked what they perceived were fair wages for teachers.
A perceived fair wage for a starting career secondary school teacher, according to the Israeli public, was approximately 10,000 dollars greater than the actual average starting salary of 22,175 dollars.
The report also evaluated whether the issue of teacher status has any impact on pupil performance.
Relying on data provided by the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the report revealed that countries in which teacher status is high, such as China, Taiwan and Singapore, witness better student scholastic performance than countries in which teacher status is comparatively low, such as Brazil and Israel.
Niv Zonis, a 33-year-old teacher from Tel Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post that he was not surprised by the report, but that he did feel public appreciation for the profession.
“I usually hear from people that they, as individuals, really appreciate teachers, and that they think our conditions and wages have to improve. They agree that the country does not appreciate us enough,” Zonis said.
“On the other hand, I am aware that people do not want their children to become teachers, as the conditions and wages aren’t good generally, and especially not in keeping with the effort and time that the job demands.”
In addition to improved wages, Zonis said necessary changes included teaching fewer and smaller classes as well as supplying adequate equipment including more computers, printers and projectors in every classroom.
Wishing to speak anonymously, an elementary school teacher with 16 years of experience from the Sharon area told the Post that she was “embarrassed to introduce herself as a teacher, especially as an art teacher.”
“Nobody truly knows or understands what we do, and how much we do. And how much we do at home without financial recompense,” she said. “But who is counting the hours and who cares? There is interference from parents and lawlessness in the classrooms. It’s only elementary school after all.”