Summary of Indicator D5. Who are the teachers?
The demand for teachers depends on an array of different factors including class size, required instruction time for students, the use and availability of teaching assistants, enrolment rates at each level of education and the years of compulsory education.
The large number of teachers will reach the retirement age in many OECD countries within the next decade alongside the increase of the school-age population (in some countries), must be addressed or else will result in teacher deficit. Furthermore, the calibre of teachers is the most in-school determining factor of student achievement, therefore there is a need to attract top quality teachers and provide them with high-quality training. Hence, governments need to develop effective policies to attract and retain teachers in the teaching profession (see Indicator D7).
Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed significant challenges for education systems around the world, notably to ensure the safe return to school (for teachers and students) after the reopening of schools.
Gender profile of teachers
On average, among all OECD countries, 70% of teachers are women in all levels of education combined. The proportion of female teachers decreases with the increase of level of education where they teach. In fact – on average − women represent the 96% of teaching staff in pre-primary schools, 82% at primary level, 63% at secondary level, and only 44% at tertiary level (Figure D5.1).
Hence, at the tertiary level, the gender profile of teachers is reversed, making men the majority among teachers. Only in Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, and the Russian Federation more than 50% of teachers at this level of education are women (Figure D5.1).
The share of women among upper secondary teachers tends to be higher in general than in vocational programmes, although women are over-represented in both types of programmes. In general education, women represent, on average, 63% of all teachers, but in vocational training they amount for a smaller share of teachers: 56% on average across OECD countries.
In particular, the share of female teachers differs significantly (at least 10%) between general and vocational programmes in: Austria, Brazil, Chile, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, and Lithuania. Differently the share of female teachers in general and vocational programmes is the same in the Czech Republic (at 60%), Norway (55%), and Slovenia (67%).
Potential sources and implications of gender imbalances in the teaching profession
Several factors may contribute to gender imbalances in the teaching profession. A main explanation is that social perceptions linking certain professions with a particular gender influence both men and women’s career choices. Furthermore, within the teaching profession there are gender imbalances related to the fields of study. In fact, at the lower secondary level, female teachers are less than male ones in science, mathematics, and technology. This is due to the social perception that these fields are of masculine domain.
Economic factors also contribute to the imbalance. Indeed, on average across OECD countries, male teachers earn less than other men with same level of education do in other professions, whereas this does not occur for women, thus making the teaching profession less appealing to men.
Aiming for a better balance among teachers’ genders by contributing to students developing positive gender identities and challenging stereotypes could have positive effects on students.
Trends in the gender profile of teachers
In most countries, the share of women is higher among young teachers (under the age of 30) than among older teachers (aged 50 or older). Furthermore, the difference grows larger at upper secondary level: on average across OECD countries, 63% of young teachers are women at this level, compared to 57% in the older group. The higher share of young female teachers (50% on average) compared to older ones (39% on average) at the tertiary level suggests that, in the near future, the gap between male and female teachers at this level will decrease.
Between 2005 and 2019, there has been an increase of the gender gap by 3% for the primary and secondary levels combined, in Slovenia this increase reaches 11%. On average among all OECD countries with available data for relevant years, female teachers represented 69% of teachers in 2005 and 72% in 2019. In comparison, at the tertiary level, there was a 5% decrease in the gender gap since the share of female teachers increased from 39% in 2005 to 44% in 2019.
This proves that the gender imbalance in the teaching profession has been consistent over the years, raising concerns among states. In response, for example, the United Kingdom has implemented policies aimed at encouraging the recruitment of diverse and inclusive teacher workforce.
Teachers’ age distribution
Teachers’ age distribution varies considerably across countries and levels of education. Young teachers (below the age of 30) only account for a small proportion of the teaching population: 12% in primary education, 11% in lower secondary, and 8% in upper secondary on average across OECD countries. The data for the upper secondary level is particularly striking, whereby young teachers make up less than 10% of all teachers in most countries.
The share of older teachers (aged 50 and over) increases with the education level, from 33% in primary education to 38% in secondary education and 40% in tertiary education. There is, however, a high level of variation across countries, with the share at tertiary level ranging from 13% in Luxembourg to 56% in Italy (Figure D5.3).
The aging of the teaching force has many consequences such as the need to put efforts in substituting retiring teachers and the impact of budgets, since, generally, salaries increase with teachers’ experience. Thus, the aging of teachers increases school costs which can result in limiting the resources available for other initiatives (see Indicator C7).
In addition, during the COVID-19 crisis, the high share of teachers over the age of 50 may raise health concerns, as older individuals are more at risk of developing severe forms of the disease. Hence, several countries including Austria, Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, and Slovenia have prioritized teachers’ vaccination as of March 2021.
The share of teachers in the population corresponds to the proportion of teachers in a given age group (e.g., below the age of 30) among the total population of the same age group. For more information, please see the OECD Handbook for Internationally Comparative Education Statistics 2018 (OECD, 2018).
Data refers to the academic year 2018/19 and are based on the UNESCO-UIS/OECD/EUROSTAT data collection on education statistics administered by the OECD in 2020 (for details, see https://www.oecd.org/education/education-at-a-glance/EAG2021_Annex3_ChapterD.pdf).
Summarized by Francisca Orrego Galarce and edited by Olga Ruiz Pilato from OECD, Education at a Glance 2021: OECD Indicators – Indicator D5. Who are the teachers?
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