The recently published results of TALIS 2018, a study for assessing teaching and learning, reveal that teachers find teaching professions to be valued more and more in Estonia.
Results show that in the past five years the number of teachers who find their profession to be valued in society has increased. In 2013, only 13.7% of teachers found their profession to be valued in society; in five years’ time, this figure has increased to 26.4%, which even surpasses the OECD mean, 25.8%. What’s more, among those who began teaching within the past five years, as many as 39% perceived societal support.
"The survey makes the voices of Estonian 7th to 9th grade teachers and school administrators heard and provides insight into how those people who operate in the education system actually feel about it," Mart Laidmets, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Education and Research explains. "TALIS results are especially crucial right now, as we're drafting a new strategy that will shape our education until 2035. We've received important feedback to our current strategy and ideas for designing new approaches."
Estonian teachers stood out among TALIS participant countries for their great preparation, work experience, and continuous professional development. At the same time, there were changes in the career paths of those who have joined the teaching profession within the last five years. Although more than half on them did not consider the teaching as their first-choice career, most of them cite the opportunity to contribute to children’s development and society as a major motivation to join the profession.
Teachers need support and effective professional development
The study also highlighted the need to support young teachers for them to continue working at schools. Experienced teachers also need support during their careers because our changing society and expectations present continuous challenges. For example, only a third of the teachers who had either learned ICT in school (one-half) or as a part of recent refresher training (three-fourths) felt comfortable in the field.
According to teachers and school administrators, the student-teacher relationship is great at our schools. More and more teachers instil in students the belief that they can do well at school and help them to value learning. More attention is targeted toward managing behavioural problems, and teachers' self-efficacy has increased compared to 2013.
Most of Estonian school leaders have participated in professional training before or after nomination but developing a school that meets society's expectations still requires constant self-development, new knowledge, and skills.. Their main needs for professional training focus on improving how to support teachers professional development, give them feedback and improve collaboration among their teachers.
The issue of attracting new teachers and school administrators also deserves further consideration. The mean age of an Estonian 7th to 9th grade teacher is 49 (the OECD and participant country mean is 44). What’s more, 54% of Estonian teachers are older than 50 (OECD mean 34%). Estonian school leaders are 53 years old on average. This is quite similar to the mean age in countries and economic areas that participated in the survey (52 years).
TALIS (The Teaching and Learning International Survey) is an international survey assessing teaching and learning conducted by the OECD. The study gathers data on teachers, teaching, the learning environment, and teachers' work conditions in different countries across the world. In Estonia, 3083 7th to 9th grade teachers and 201 school leaders replied to the survey.
The increasing number of participant countries also goes to prove the international significance of the study. The first TALIS was conducted in 2008, 24 countries participated. Five years later, the number of participants had increased to 34. The third survey had 48 countries or economic areas as participants. Estonia has participated in all three studies.
TALIS studies have provided valuable insight into policy-making (including development of the Estonian life-long learning strategy 2020, designing both initial teacher education and continuous professional training, priority setting, etc.), allowed researchers to analyse trends and compare Estonia to other countries. Several TALIS results are used as national indicators.
International and national results of the main survey are published in two volumes. The second instalment of the international report will be published in March 2020. The first edition of the national report will be published by autumn, and regional seminars directed towards teachers will follow. The second part of the national report will be published in April 2020.