Shanghai Teachers

A new study is out from OECD, comparing teacher perceptions from around the world. Here is a write-up from Yang Meiping on Shine:

The Teaching and Learning International Survey covered 48 countries and regions and assessed teachers’ professional development, teaching practices and working environment.

In Shanghai, it selected 4,000 teachers and 200 principals from 200 middle schools.

Nearly 60 percent of local middle school teachers felt that society attached great importance to the profession, compared with the average of 25.8 percent in OECD countries and regions.

This was because of the traditional respect Chinese have for teachers and education.

More than 90 percent of teachers were satisfied with their jobs, the highest among the surveyed countries and areas.

While we always take survey data with a grain of salt, if true, that is great to hear.

Although Shanghai is an aging city, the average age of the surveyed local teachers was 39.4, which is 4.7 years younger than the average in OCED members.

“It means teaching is an attractive job for young people in Shanghai,” said Zhang Minxuan, director of the TALIS program in Shanghai. “More importantly, we also found that 86.6 percent of Shanghai teachers chose teaching as their first-choice career, while the average in the OECD is 66.5 percent.”

This may explain the contrast I’ve seen in some Chinese private schools, where the Chinese teachers are impressive but the Western teachers are not.

When I talked to Western teachers, I heard 2 common stories.  One was that teaching was not their first choice career, just a way to earn cash to finance some travel.  A second was that teaching in American or British schools was their first choice, but since they struggled to get good jobs in those places, China was a second choice destination.

Nearly 74 percent of Shanghai teachers are female, compared with the international average of 68.3 percent.

More than 99 percent of local teachers have bachelor’s degrees, but only 12.7 percent have master’s or higher degrees, much lower than developed countries.

I have wondered why Chinese are often more impressed by “teachers who have masters degrees” than I am.  This data point is helpful.  In the USA, some school systems push teachers to get master’s degrees, but the course study is extremely easy and unimpressive.  In China this sounds different.

The survey also found that Shanghai teachers worked about 45.3 hours a week and spent more time than their OECD colleagues preparing classes, communicating with colleagues, reviewing students’ homework, mentoring students and personal improvement in their academic areas.

Shanghai teachers are among the most efficient in class-time teaching as they spend 85.4 percent of their time on real teaching in the classroom, rather than on class rules and management.

The average of all the countries and regions is 78.1 percent.

While yes, we don’t want teachers stopping for rules and management, we also don’t want teachers to achieve that by allowing disinterested students to stop paying attention.  Ted Sizer, one of my professors at Harvard, was once the youngest ever headmaster of Philips Academy in Andover, one of the best American private schools.  Ted wrote Horace’s Compromise where he “suggested that the students agree to generally behave in exchange for the schools agreeing not to push them too hard or challenge them too severely.”

Overall, the vast majority of teachers and school leaders view their colleagues as open to change and their schools as places that have the capacity to adopt innovative practices.

In Shanghai, 92 percent of teachers reported that they and their colleagues support each other in implementing new ideas.

The OECD average is 78 percent.

…“But Shanghai teachers also need to learn from their counterparts in other countries in some aspects, such as an awareness of promoting students’ ability in independent study,” Zhang said.

Only 20.8 percent of them “frequently” or “always” ask students to do assignments that are project-oriented and need to be finished in one week or longer. The OECD average is 28.6 percent.

Since American universities mostly assign projects and assignments that need to be finished in one week or longer, Shanghai bilingual and international schools probably need more of these types of assignments.  However, for studetns who will take gaokao and attend Chinese universities, I’m not sure how much middle and high school pedagogy should change if the universities themselves don’t plan to change…