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November 13, 2010 10:03 AM   Subscribe

What's it like teaching in developed countries other than the US? We constantly compare test scores, but what are the differences in how teachers live, train, and are reimbursed in more competitive nations?

Context: We may be on the verge of major changes in how we deal with education budgeting and unions. What works elsewhere?

More context/follow up question: The legal battle over the teacher's union in DC may have far reaching consequences.
posted by es_de_bah to Law & Government (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Check out The Teaching Gap by James Stigler and James Hiebert. It compares teaching math in Japan, Germany, and the US.
posted by oceano at 10:27 AM on November 13, 2010

The OECD publishes a fair bit about this. You could browse through the case study publications in their education section, for example.
posted by bardophile at 10:52 AM on November 13, 2010

In Canada (at least in Ontario, but I'm pretty sure everywhere), teachers college is a second-entry program. In other words, you don't go out of high school and get a degree in education and teach. You go to university, get a degree in . Then you apply to teachers college and get a second undergraduate degree (yes, it's not a graduate degree -- law school is the same here. It's an undergrad degree, but you can't go to law school until you've done some other* undergrad first). Then you can be licensed as a teacher.

At least at the time I graduated, getting into teachers college was competitive and difficult. It required not only high undergrad grades, but also plenty of volunteer teaching experience

*I say "some" because some law schools do let you apply after 2 years of undergrad and then enter law school without a previous degree. I think some teachers college now have a similar program also.

posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:19 AM on November 13, 2010

More Ontario - all boards are unionised, and standard salary range for a teacher is 35-70k ish, I believe. All teachers in public schools (public system and Catholic system - constitution issues, don't ask ;) are required to be registered with the regulatory college in this province, and require the B.Ed to be registered. Curriculum is set by the province.
posted by purlgurly at 12:16 PM on November 13, 2010

Teachers in Japan make enough to be solidly in the middle class, though they work long hours. Most team sports are played year round, and there are very, very few schools that have full-time coaches for sports or clubs. Instead, you have a full-time teacher who, after the long home room period, has to get ready for their club activities. A law was recently enacted stating that students need to leave school by 6pm, so clubs usually run until then. After that, the teacher can get started on planning and preparing and grading. It's not uncommon for teachers to leave school close to 8 or 10pm. A lot of private schools also have classes on Saturdays, and clubs (sports and otherwise) usually meet on Saturdays as well, so teachers at private schools usually work 6 days a week.

Clubs meet in vacation periods as well, and there are summer courses too, so full-time teachers usually have to come to school over the vacation periods as well.

The one big difference would be hours actually spent in class. Teachers usually have fewer than 20 lessons per week, often around 16 class periods for full-time teachers, which gives them down time during the day for meetings, prep, and, yes, naps.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:50 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

As it is bound to be, things aren't quite the same in Quebec as in Ontario. There are special "Teaching X" programs for high school teachers. These are 4 year programs, where normal programs are usually 3 years, and you can take them right after cégep. Another 4 year undergrad program allows you to teach elementary. Admissission in "Teaching X" programs is notoriously easy; where admission in Medicine from cégep will require a "R score" of 34-36 or higher, and Engineering something like 25-27, you can usually get in an History Teaching program with a 21. Elementary teaching, however, is a bit harder to get into.

In the public system, everyone is unionized, and the teacher's unions are among the largest in the Province. The many (subsidized) private schools are often non-union shops.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:01 PM on November 13, 2010

In Germany, most things about school are decided by the state, so the system is a little different in each of the 16 states. I'm a teacher in one of this states and will try to give an overview; because of the differences I won't go into too much detail.

The school system in Germany has three different levels of school after elementary school (currently remodeled into just two in most states), and teacher education is different for elementary school, Hauptschule (vocational track), Realschule (track for more advanced jobs later) and Gymnasium (leading to Abitur (similar to A-levels) which is required to go to university). Every teacher has to complete between four and five years at university, studying two or three subjects plus pedagogy and didactics, and passing a state exam. This is followed by a year and a half to two years of teacher training, during which one receives further education and training on the job. At the end you have to pass a second state exam.

Depending on the subjects and type of school, it can be really easy or really hard to find a job afterwards at the moment. In most of the states of former Western Germany teachers are civil servants, which has some advantages and some disadvantages. Pro: like having tenure, teachers are employed for life and get a decent salary, health insurance and a nice pension. Contra: It's very hard to get a job at another school if the state wants you to stay where you are, and on the other hand you have to change schools if the state wants you to, and the state basically has a monopoly because nobody else employs teachers. (There are a few private schools in Germany.) Like all civil servants, teachers are not allowed to go on strike. Before you go into teaching you should think hard about the advantages and disadvantages and if they are worth it for you personally or not.

In the former Eastern states teachers are also employed by the state, but not civil servants. They get paid less if you deduct taxes, health insurance etc. because they don't get the same benefits that civil servants do. For both groups the income has decreased over the last decades because salaries haven't been raised parallel to wages/salaries in other types of jobs. The entry salary is still quite okay, but it rises very slowly with age, and there are not many positions you can apply for that pay more (between one and 10 per school depending on type and size of school), so overall you can almost certainly earn more money with a job elsewhere.

Germany used to have half-days at school (8 am to 1:30 pm or thereabouts), but this is changing at the moment because more and more parents both work, so schools are starting to offer either mandatory or optional afternoon classes. This changes things for teachers because most of them were used to going home at 1:30 and working there for the rest of the day.

As mentioned above, all teachers here teach two or three (more in elementary school) subjects and teach them on different levels. (I, for example, teach grades 5 through 13 at a Gymnasium.) The schedule for students and teachers is different every day, and you rarely teach the same lesson to more than one group of students during each given school year. Depending on the type of school teachers teach between 24 and 27 45-minute-lessons a week and spend more time with grading, preparing lessons, and the ever-increasing paperwork. The time worked per week differs greatly between, say, a teacher who teaches two languages and has a lot of essays etc. to grade, and a teacher who teaches sports and art and has a lot less grading to do.

Teachers of course don't go to school (but still get paid) during the school holidays which amount to about 12 weeks a year (six weeks during the summer). Even though many people outside the profession think that teachers lead a relaxing life (coming home early each day and spending 12 weeks out of school) studies have shown that teachers in Germany work an average of between 40 and 50 hours per week including holidays.

Please let me know if you have specific questions; I'd gladly try to answer them.

P.S.: Here's an international comparison between teacher salaries that also shows salaries for other jobs if you click on the country.
posted by amf at 2:19 AM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

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