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Brussels, 16 June 2009

Teacher effectiveness hampered by lack of incentives and bad behaviour in the classroom

Three out of four teachers feel that they lack incentives to improve the quality of their teaching, while bad behaviour by students in the classroom disrupts lessons in three schools out of five, according to a new OECD report prepared with the support of the European Commission. The report is based on the new Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) and provides, for the first time, internationally comparable data on conditions affecting teachers in schools based on survey findings in 23 participating countries.

Launching the report, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría insisted on the need to push for better teacher performance. “ High-quality teachers are key to the successful implementation of education policies, ” he said. “ The bottom line is that the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers and their work. ” 

The European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Ján Figel', added: " There are an estimated 6¼ million teachers in the EU, and they need all the help that education authorities can give them to provide the right kind of teaching in our rapidly changing classroom environments. This requires determination and commitment by policy makers to support our teachers, not only in enhancing their training, but also in improving their working conditions. "

The report, “Creating effective teaching and learning environments”, draws on the TALIS findings, and reveals the following:

  • In Australia, Belgium (Flanders), Denmark, Ireland and Norway, more than 90% of teachers say they don’t expect any reward for improving the quality of their teaching.

  • Teachers are less pessimistic in Bulgaria and Poland, but still almost half of them see no incentive to improve.

  • In Estonia, Italy, the Slovak Republic, and Spain, more than 70% of teachers at lower-secondary level work in schools where it was felt that classroom disturbances hinder the teaching process “to some extent” or “a lot”.

  • On average, 38% of teachers surveyed worked in schools which suffered from a shortage of qualified staff. In Poland, the problem affected only 12% of schools. But in Turkey, 78% of schools were suffering from such shortages.

  • On average, teachers spend 13% of classroom time maintaining order. In Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, less than 10% of classroom time is lost in this way.

  • Aside from classroom disturbances, other factors hindering instruction included student absenteeism (46%), students turning up late for class (39%), profanity and swearing (37%), and intimidation or verbal abuse of other students (35%).

  • Along with the lack of incentives for improvement, teachers in some countries do not even undergo any systematic appraisal or receive any feedback on their work.  This is the case for more than 25% of teachers in Ireland and Portugal, 45% in Spain and 55% in Italy.

The main policy lesson is that education authorities need to provide more effective incentives for teachers. Many countries make no link between appraisal of teachers’ performance and the rewards and recognition that they receive, and even where there are such links they are often not very strong. 

Overall, the survey indicates, educational planners could do more to support teachers and improve the performance of students if both the public and policy makers focused less on control over resources and educational content and more on learning outcomes .


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. In doing so, 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.

Questions addressed such issues as teacher preparedness, the teaching practices they adopt and recognition and rewards for teachers.


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