In January 2011 Michael Gove wrote this:

‘The most important man in English education doesn’t teach a single English child, wasn’t elected by a single English voter and won’t spend more than a single week in England this year. But Andreas Schleicher deserves the thanks of everyone in England who wants to see our children fulfil the limit of their potential.’

However the report we highlight below seems to imply that maybe Schleicher is off Gove’s Christmas list these days as so much of what Schleicher recommends seems to be the complete opposite of current UK government approach and policy. But then when did Gove ever let evidence get in the way of ideology?

Anyway, we’ve taken the bits out that we thought most highlighted how far we are being led astray from the OECD path. Make of it all what you will… before it’s too late!

Building a High Quality Teaching Profession

Lesson from Around the World – Background Report for the International Summit on the Teaching Profession

Andreas Schleicher – OECD, 2011

Some highlights:

Perhaps the most challenging dilemma for teachers today is that routine cognitive skills, the skills that are easiest to teach and easiest to test, are also the skills that are easiest to digitize, automate and outsource. A generation ago, teachers could expect that what they taught would last for a lifetime of their students. Today, where individuals can access content on google, where routine cognitive skills are being digitized or outsourced, and where jobs are changing rapidly, education systems  need to place much greater emphasis on enabling individuals to become lifelong learners, to manage complex ways of thinking and complex ways of working that computers cannot take over easily.

The past was about delivered wisdom, the challenge now is to foster user-generated wisdom among teachers in the frontline. The goal of the past was standardization and conformity, today it is about being ingenious, about personalizing educational experiences; the past was curriculum-centered, the present is learner centered. Teachers are being asked to personalize learning experiences to ensure that every student has a chance to succeed and to deal with increasing cultural diversity in their classrooms and differences in learning styles, taking learning to the learner in ways that allow individuals to learn in the ways that are most conducive to their progress.

But people who see themselves as knowledge workers are not attracted by schools organized like an assembly line, with teachers working as interchangeable widgets in a bureaucratic command-and-control environment. Countries that have succeeded in making teaching an attractive profession have often done so not just through pay, but by raising the status of teaching, offering real career prospects, and giving teachers responsibility as professionals and leaders of reform. this requires teacher education that helps teachers to become innovators and researchers in education, not just deliverers of the curriculum.

…at its best, appraisal and feedback is supportive in a way that is welcomed by teachers… a key component of appraisal is appropriate training for those conducting the appraisals

The chances for success in reform can improve through effective consultation, through a willingness to compromise and, above all, through the involvement of teachers in the planning and implementation of reform.

Competitive compensation, career prospects, career diversity, and giving teachers responsibility as professionals are important aspects of (teacher recruitment)

…this also requires initial education to prepare new teachers to play an active role in the design and running of education, rather than just following standardized practices.

The OECD Programme for International  Student Assessment (PISA) shows that the best performing education systems provide most of their students with the kind and quality of education that average performers provide only for a small elite.

The pool from which an industry selects its professionals is  influenced by some combination of the occupational status, work environment, sense of personal contribution and the financial rewards associated with a given profession. teacher policy needs to examine these aspects closely

For desirable teaching jobs, sometimes qualities that are harder to measure, such as enthusiasm, commitment and sensitivity to students’ needs, are given greater weight in applications

Research shows that people who have close contact with schools – such as parents who assist in classrooms, or employers who have students in workplace learning programs – often have much more positive attitudes towards teachers than people with little direct contact. This suggests that building stronger links between the schools and the community can help to enhance the status of teaching


The essence of professional work can be seen as the acknowledgement that it is the professional, and not the supervisor, who has the knowledge needed to make the important decisions as to what services are needed and how they are to be supplied.

Since the 1980s, the Finnish system of accountability was redeveloped entirely from the bottom up. teacher candidates are selected, in part, according to their capacity to convey their belief in the core mission of public education in Finland, which is deeply humanistic as well as civic and economic. the preparation they receive is designed to build a powerful sense of individual responsibility for the learning and well-being of all the students in their care

Many countries have moved their initial teacher education programs towards a model based less on academic preparation and more on preparing professionals in school settings, with an appropriate balance between theory and practice. in these programs, teachers get into classrooms earlier, spend more time there and get more and better support in the process. this can include both extensive course work on how to teach – with a strong emphasis on using research based on state-of-the-art practice – and more than a year teaching in a designated school, associated with the university, during which time the teacher is expected to develop and pilot innovative practices and undertake research on learning and teaching.

Education is still far from being a knowledge industry, in the sense that its own practices are being continuously transformed by greater understanding of their efficacy. While in many other fields, people enter their professional lives expecting that what they do and how they do it will be transformed by evidence and research, this is still not generally the case in education.

The frequently cited claim that the best-performing education systems all recruit their teachers from the top-third of graduates – however that is defined – is not supported by evidence.

Making teaching an attractive and effective profession… also requires strengthening the knowledge base of education and developing a culture of research and reflection in schools so that teaching and learning can be based on the best available knowledge.

…older teachers tend
to engage in less professional development than younger ones

Across countries, the aspects of teachers’ work with greatest development need are “teaching special-needs students”, followed by “information and communication  technology teaching skills” and “student discipline and behavior”.

The cost of providing additional professional development needs to be seen in relation to the cost of not providing it, in terms of lost opportunities for students to learn

Teachers who exchange ideas and information and co-ordinate their practices with other teachers also report more positive teacher-student relations at their school. Thus, it may be reasonable to encourage teachers’ co-operation in conjunction with improving teacher-student relations, as these are two sides of a positive school culture. Positive teacher-student relations are not only a significant predictor of student achievement, they are also closely related to individual teachers’ job satisfaction

Under career-based systems, the risk is that the quality of the teaching force depends excessively on getting initial recruitment and teacher education right, and that any improvement over time will take many years to affect most serving teachers. Moreover, career advancement can become heavily dependent on adhering to organizational norms, which helps to ensure uniformity and predictability of service and a strong group ethos, but can make systems inflexible to change and ill-equipped to serve diverse needs in different settings.

China is trying to raise the social status of teachers by highlighting their role in economic development… Teachers will have to undertake 360 hours of professional training over five years in order to be recertified

Learning outcomes at school are the result of what happens in classrooms, thus only reforms that are successfully implemented in classrooms can be expected to be effective. One of the key conclusions of the Summit was that teacher engagement in the development and implementation of educational reform is crucial and school reform will not work unless it is supported from the bottom up. This requires those responsible for change to both communicate their aims well and involve the stakeholders who are affected. But it also requires teachers to contribute as the architects of change, not just its implementers. Some of the most successful reforms are those supported by strong unions rather than those that keep the union role weak.

Contrary to what is often assumed, a high-quality teaching force is not due simply to a traditional cultural respect for teachers but is a result of deliberate policy choices, carefully implemented over time.

Inclusive, consultative policy processes are slower and do not prevent conflict but over time, such an approach seems to pay dividends

Stakeholder groups should not be able to exercise a veto over educational reforms that are mandated through democratic political processes. to do so would be to risk losing the public support on which education so critically depends.

Teachers are experts in teaching and learning and thus can make an essential contribution to the design of reforms

It can be hard for (politicians) to make the case for reform on grounds of policy outcomes, because there is no consensus about how to assess outcomes in education. 

“Social dialogue is the glue for successful educational reform’ – ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations Concerning Teaching Personnel in 2003

Perhaps the greatest challenge to reform has to do with trust. Trust cannot be legislated

Students will perform at their best when their teachers’ morale is high, and teachers’ morale will not be high if they perceive themselves to be under attack by the authorities