Israel Flunks OECD Study on Teacher Status in Developed Countries

Israeli teachers are worse off than their counterparts in most of the developed world, according to data released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). OECD is an organization of developed democracies around the world.

Out of a list of 28 countries, Israel ranks 27th in terms of the status enjoyed by teachers. The best place to teach, according to the data, is Luxembourg. The worst, after Israel, is Chile.

The criteria reflect different views on how to evaluate teacher's status such as annual expenditure on students, the student-teacher ratio, the number of teaching hours in the classroom, the percentage of teachers under the age of 30 and finally, the annual pay for teachers who have been teaching for 15 years and longer.

In terms of expenditure on students, Israel is ranked 15th on elementary education and 19th on secondary education. Moreover, during the years 1995-2003, the average expenditure on students by members of the OECD has grown by 33 percent. In contrast, during those years, the expenditure in Israel has grown by 2 percent.

Israel fared better in its student-teacher ratio. Israel is close to the OECD average of elementary students per class, and slightly above the average for secondary schools.

According to the data, teachers in Israel work an average of 180 days a year, much like the annual average in other developed countries.

However, teachers in Israel spend many more hours teaching in the classroom than their counterparts in other developed countries.

The criterion of teachers under 30 years of age attests to the degree to which young professionals find the education system attractive in their foray into the job market. Israel noted its best score on this criterion, ranking 6th with 20 percent of the elementary school teachers under 30. Countries such as Germany and Italy received lower scores.

As expected, Israel occupies the bottom rung in terms of pay. Only in three other OECD countries (Hungary, Chile and Poland) are teachers with 15 years' seniority paid less than in Israel. This sad state of affairs pertains to both elementary and secondary school systems. Teachers are paid the most in Luxembourg, South Korea and Switzerland.

According to the latest report by the wages director at the Finance Ministry using 2004 figures, the gross pay of education workers was the lowest among all college graduates, at NIS 7,202 a month. Moreover, according to the Teachers Union, teachers' salaries have been eroded by 18.4 percent in the past 12 years. Yesterday, the Secondary School Teachers' Association resumed negotiations with the treasury after weeks of regional strikes over teachers pay and work terms.

It is noteworthy that some other cardinal issues pertaining to teacher's status are not among the criteria listed by the OECD, such as the degree of autonomy enjoyed by teachers in making pedagogical decisions in the classroom or in school at large. Another important criterion may be the requirements for acceptance into teacher training programs, or how teachers' pay correlated with other salaries of state workers. Such comparative data did not appear in the OECD survey.

The OECD is a forum where the governments of 30 democracies work together to address the economic, social and governance challenges of globalization and to exploit its opportunities.

The organization aims to provide a setting where governments can compare policy experiences, seek answers to common problems, identify good practice and coordinate domestic and international policies. In addition, non-members are invited to subscribe to these agreements and treaties.

Exchanges between OECD governments flow from information and analysis provided by a secretariat in Paris. The secretariat collects data, monitors trends, and analyses and forecasts economic developments.