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With the recent attacks being leveled on teachers around the United States, it may be of interest to compare how American teachers stack up against teachers in other countries. If the U.S. wants to remain a superpower, it seems essential that the education system is comparable to other countries. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (O.E.C.D.) report from 2009 may be the best data to compare teachers globally.
American teachers work longer hours than those in other countries. Educators in the United States spend on average 1,080 hours teaching each year. Across the O.E.C.D., the average is 794 hours on primary education, 709 hours on lower secondary education, and 653 hours on upper secondary education general programs.
It is difficult to compare salaries globally. Cost of living is widely different between regions of countries much less between continents. Not to mention, higher education costs much less in many other countries so educators are not faced with the crippling debt that many in America deal with. But, generally the salaries of teachers in America appear to be above the global average. The average public primary-school teacher who has worked 15 years and has received the minimum amount of training, for example, earns $43,633, compared to the O.E.C.D. average of $39,007. However, a more accurate comparison can be seen if you compare teachers’ salaries to the amount of wealth that a country has. In that regard, America is lagging behind. In the United States, a teacher with 15 years of experience makes a salary that is 96 percent of the country’s gross domestic product per capita. Across the O.E.C.D., a teacher of equivalent experience makes 117 percent of G.D.P. per capita. At the high end of the scale, in Korea, the average teacher at this level makes a full 221 percent of the country’s G.D.P. per capita. This is perhaps the most startling statistic and the meaning behind it cannot be ignored. America does not put a priority on educating the youth.
The Program for International Student Assessment, a group that compares schools around the world, has a message for America– Train teachers better and pay them more. Top-scoring countries like Korea, Singapore and Finland recruit only high-performing college graduates for teaching positions, mentor them and take steps to raise respect for the profession, said Andreas Schleicher, who oversees PISA. “Teaching in the U.S. is unfortunately no longer a high-status occupation,” Schleicher wrote in a PISA report. “Despite the characterization of some that teaching is an easy job, with short hours and summers off, the fact is that successful, dedicated teachers in the U.S. work long hours for little pay and, in many cases, insufficient support from their leadership.”
On the most recent PISA reports, Finland and Singapore were tops in science, Korea and Finland in reading and Singapore and Korea in math. American students are ranked 15th in reading, 19th in science and 27th in math. Schleicher also said that America may spend a lot on education; they just aren’t spending it on the necessary areas. He noted that Americans spend much more in other areas, such as busing and sports facilities. “You can spend a lot of money on education, but if you don’t spend it wisely, on improving the quality of instruction, you won’t get higher student outcomes,” Schleicher told The New York Times.