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Swedish teachers feel least valued: OECD

Published: 25 Jun 2014 12:02 GMT+02:00

Education has been one of the most debated topics in Sweden lately, particularly after Swedish students' scores plummeted in international tests. But a new OECD study revealed that the problem is double-edged.

The Teacher and Learning International Survey (TALIS) asked teachers in OECD countries about their views on their jobs. 

Sweden landed at the very bottom when it came to rating a career in teaching. Only France and Slovakia had worse results. Only one in twenty Swedish teachers thinks that their profession is appreciated in Sweden. 

The average for OECD nations was 31 percent, and the highs were found in Malaysia and Sweden's neighbour Finland, where 59 percent of respondents said their job was highly valued.

The OECD has concluded that the degree to which teachers feel appreciated can have an impact both on recruiting and the desire to stay on their chosen career path. In other words, Sweden's future looks grim.

"Most people in Sweden today agree that we must increase proficiency in our schools, and most agree that the quality of instruction is something we need to focus on," Skolverket (the National Agency for Education) general director Anna Ekström said in a statement about the report.

"This examination does not give a direct explanation for the sinking Pisa test results," Ekström added. "But it does give important clues."

The TALIS results also revealed that only 53 percent of teachers in Sweden would choose the same career if they could start over. The OECD average is 78 percent. Some go even further, with 18 percent of teachers expressing regret over their career choice - even though nine of ten also said they liked their current positions. 

Swedish Education Minister Jan Björklund said the results may be rooted in adjustment to school reforms from two decades ago. In 1991 Swedish schools underwent a reform where chief responsibility for the educational system was transferred from the state to individual municipalities.

"It's a known fact, but of course it's worrying. It's quite the hassle with municipalities as employers," Björklund told news agency TT. "The profession's status decreased significantly during the municipalization period in the beginning of the 1990s, and it's a failure for municipalization."

Another recent OECD evaluation concluded that teacher salaries in Sweden are too low - another potentially harmful factor. 

"In higher-performing countries, teachers have higher salaries but also clear career possibilities," Andreas Schleicher, OECD Deputy Director of Education and Skills, said at the time.

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