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Brussels, 24 November 2009

Are Europe's teachers getting enough training?

The OECD and the European Commission today present their new report on the “ Teachers’ Professional Development: Europe in international comparison". It concludes that teachers need effective feedback on their work in order to take full advantage of training opportunities, but variety in training experiences, and a better working climate in schools, are also key to successful professional development. Almost nine in ten teachers take part in some form of in-work professional training, according to the report, and more than half say they want more. Based on this year's Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), which was conducted in 23 participating countries, the report provides internationally comparable data for the first time on teachers' professional development.

Launching the report, the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Maroš Šefčovič, added: "We have over six million teachers in the EU and their ability to inspire all pupils to learn is central to the future of our societies. If we want high quality education it is crucial that we give our teachers the best possible opportunities to develop their skills, not only at the beginning but throughout their careers. By stimulating them to engage in professional development we contribute to the status and attractiveness of the profession."

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría added: “Teachers are the life blood of education, and professional development of teachers is an essential ingredient in maintaining the quality of education systems. The results from TALIS contained in this report show that teachers have an appetite to learn and to seek continuous improvement, but also that the provision of in-service professional development needs to be better targeted to the needs of teachers. “  

Key messages

The main finding of " Teachers’ Professional Development: Europe in international comparison" is that professional development is an established part of teachers’ lives. Hence it has significant potential as a lever for educational improvement. However, teachers suggest that "conflict with work schedule" is a main barrier to participation in professional development activities, which suggests that policies to integrate teachers’ professional development more effectively into their total work package and into the functioning of schools would be beneficial.  

Overall, the results indicate that a school policy of giving feedback to teachers on their performance is strongly linked to their professional development and its perceived impact. School climate also plays an important role. Teachers who feel good about their job and within their school are positive about their professional development. For policy makers these findings suggest that an increased focus on appraisal, feed-back and a positive school climate can contribute to the development of schools as ‘learning organisations’, fostering continuous professional learning, and thus improve the quality of teaching.

The thematic report " Teachers’ Professional Development: Europe in international comparison" was prepared by a team of researchers from the University of Twente in the Netherlands, supervised by professor Jaap Scheerens, who is also the editor of the report.

For more details on the findings of the report see the Appendix to this press release.

TALIS - Teaching and Learning International Survey

TALIS is the new OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey. It is the first international survey to focus on the learning environment and the working conditions of teachers in schools. It looks at issues affecting teachers and their performance, seen through the eyes of school principals and the teachers themselves. It aims to fill important information gaps in the international comparisons of education systems.

The survey was conducted with the support of the European Commission, and covers 23 participating countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium (Flemish Community), Brazil, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey.

In each country, around 200 schools were randomly selected, and in each school one questionnaire was filled in by the school principal and another by 20 randomly selected teachers.

To know more:

European Commission Press Release ( IP/09/926 , 16 June 2009): Teacher effectiveness hampered by lack of incentives and bad behaviour in the classroom

OECD: OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS)

European Commission: Teacher education

European Commission Press Release ( IP/09/1145 , 16 July 2009): Key data on education in Europe: Longer schooling, fewer pupils and teachers

The report:


Key messages from " Teachers’ Professional Development: Europe in international comparison":

  • While 89% of teachers report that they had taken part in "structured professional development activity" over the last 18 months, it is a source of concern that more than 25% of teachers in Denmark, Iceland and the Slovak Republic report they have participated in no professional development at all during this period.

  • When teachers participate in various professional learning activities and spend more days on professional development, they experience a greater impact of professional development on their work.

  • Feedback as part of overall school policy is strongly linked to teachers' professional development and its perceived impact. Moreover, by promoting a positive school climate, school principals can create a supportive environment for teacher learning.

  • More than half the teachers surveyed reported that they wanted more professional development than they received. Among EU teachers, the extent of unmet demand is highest in Portugal, Spain (Spanish teachers also have the highest participation rates) and Bulgaria. Female teachers and younger teachers are most likely to report unmet demand.

  • Conflict with work schedule is the main reason for not engaging in more professional development. In Portugal, Estonia and Spain this is the case for more than 50% of teachers. However, the lack of suitable development activities is also a significant factor.

  • Teachers report the greatest need for development in teaching students with special learning needs, which might be a reflection of the trend towards inclusive rather than segregated education and the growing emphasis on equity. Other areas of particular need are IT teaching skills and student discipline and behaviour.

  • It is striking how positively teachers view the impact of all development activities. However, fewer teachers participate in those types of development (qualification programmes, collaborative research) which they deem to have the highest impact. These activities are the most time intensive and also those for which teachers are more likely to have to pay the full or partial cost.

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