Teacher Remuneration Around the World

teaching

The World Economic Forum recently shared updated OECD data on teacher salaries in different countries.

World Economic Forum – Where are teachers Paid the Most?

The source data also carries some other interesting data from many different countries splitting the remuneration down according to teacher experience and the age of the students they teach. There’s also data on class sizes, ages of Principals and teaching hours that are also very interesting for comparison purposes;

OECD Data –  Teacher and Education Data

(For both links, simply click on the link and it will open as a new tab or window)

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Authentic Learning/ Project-Based Learning

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Many teachers have changed the way they teach a lot in recent years, or at least added to their repertoire of teaching approaches. However, the pace of that progress has varied in different places and some teachers still struggle to transition.

So, it’s always useful to have access to resources and information from any source. This week I came across some very useful and interesting resources from a US Company, Hapara:

Hapara  – Resources – Authentic Learning

When you click on the link above it takes you to a resources page. if you scroll down or use the menu on the left side there are a number of useful infographics, some e-books and around 14 webinar recordings.

Some of the most useful resources include an e-book:
Real-World, Hands-On and project-Based: An Instructional leader’s Guide to Authentic learning
(PDF includes some useful links to further reading, sources and resources on the last page)

And two webinars stood out in particular:
What does it mean to prepare students to be succesful?
Leading the shift to authentic learning

There are also some interesting resources for making effective use of Professional learning Communities (PLCs). Quite rightly, they highlight that if the aim is to enable and motivate teachers to bring authentic learning to the classroom for students, so they learning methods for teachers should also be built upon authentic learning lines.

Enrollment & International Schools

Admissions Interview

In the past there was a very good chance that when someone decided to build or open a new international school in a particular town or city it faced little or no direct competition or at least the market was so immature that barring big mistakes they were pretty much guaranteed opening with a decent number of students and a solid progression to a break-even number within a relatively short number of years. In business terms we can really think of the experience of most schools as ‘picking the low-hanging fruit.’

However, I believe in most parts of the world now the scenario has moved on and schools need to reconsider their approaches. In most markets of the world the twin effects of market saturation and uncertain economies are combining to mean that suddenly many school owners find themselves scratching their heads, trying to determine why they’re not achieving the student numbers they had intended. This is a critical issue for a school owner. If the break-even number of students per class is 15, then every student above that number represents surplus, with little or no extra marginal cost. Thus, a drop in average number of students per class from 18 to 16 can slash surpluses, especially if it offers no scope to reduce class numbers.

When I was in India, as Director at The Shri Ram Schools we had the luxury of always knowing that demand for seats massively exceeded demand. As a result, processes were geared around selecting those children where there was the best ideological fit between the parents’ desires and the school’s vision. This even remained the case when constructing to increase capacity. So, there was next to nothing spent on marketing and admissions work was handled largely as an administrative task by academic secretaries. The schools even went as far as to place ‘security’ as priority over parent openness so no open days, guided tours or opportunity for parents to see the schools at work. My experience was that parents were so fixed on getting seats in the school that they accepted this, even though they didn’t like it and found it arrogant! Here in Malaysia we’ve seen some of the earliest International Schools who have started to hold open days and to pay more attention to admissions in the last two-three years as they’ve realised they can no longer rely on passive response to demand to retain full enrollment.

When involved in setting up new schools, in India and UAE there was obviously a far greater emphasis on marketing and more importance placed on admissions. However, there were a few things that became clear, even as most new schools were achieving their admissions goals;

a) Marketing methods were often blunt instruments lacking subtly and ‘copycat’ in nature. There was lots of use of billboards, newspaper and magazine advertisements to create brand awareness. Most schools were simply watching what others were doing and copying them. This included bland and vanilla visions, missions etc. paraded as evidence of the type of education a child would get in a particular school. Adverts made endless use of images related to young plants, green shoots etc. etc. all of these things can only create the awareness. Admissions and enrollment has to go way beyond this to get face to face and ultimately to enroll the right children for the school in the required numbers.

b) Enrollment or admissions is so important for the wellbeing of a school that it needs to be given major importance. However, in my experience, I’ve seen worrying numbers of cases where Principals and school team leaders wanted to have little to do with the whole process. Without due leadership from the front it’s liable to get inadequate attention. It’s not just something to simply be left to its own department with minimal attention.
Apart from anything else, the very way the school runs and the way it presents itself in the wider community plays a key part in driving admissions. This requires a continuous two-way flow of information about how the public are perceiving the school.

c) Too often there’s a lack of clarity and certainty about what admissions is really about. Firstly, I’ve been alarmed to see the number of cases where staff directly engaged in admissions had little clarity about the actual number of admissions they needed/ were expected to get in a year. Even when they knew this number they didn’t have clear objectives regarding how many enquiries would be needed to achieve those admission numbers.
School admissions staff and Heads are often uncomfortable with words like sales, yet that’s exactly how the admissions process should be treated, especially as competition increases. In sales there is a sales target. In this case the target number of students required has three elements;
(i) the target total enrollment for the end of the year minus the total enrollment at the start of the year,
(ii) the number of students due to graduate at the end of the year,
(iii) the estimated number of withdrawals/ attrition over the year – an intelligent estimate based upon current trends, the previous year, economic climate and competitive forces combined with the leadership team’s perceptions of current parent relations and satisfaction levels.
(iv) There might then be some modest adjustments to allow for classes that are at full capacity and/ or situations where the creation of a new class could only be justified if a certain number of admissions are secured to join that particular year (with availability of a classroom etc.)

Once a team has this single key number, they can then move on to the next stage of pipeline planning. There should be more than adequate data available to know how many face to face interactions take place to achieve a given number of admissions. This can be stated as a ratio and sets a second target for the number of face to face interactions required.

Then, the next calculation, again drawing on existing data, is how many enquiries are required to achieve that given number of face to face interactions. Let’s show this as a simple example:

School XYZ

June 2019 student numbers                                                  1,600
June 2020 student numbers budget goal                            1,800
Net difference                                                                             200 (i)
Students due to graduate in June 2020                                  130 (ii)
Attrition estimate (consistent 6% for last 2 years
and other factors unlikely to change this)
1,600 x 6%                                                                                    100 (iii)

Total (i) + (ii) + (iii)                                                                     430 admissions target

If we have a conversion ratio of 1: 2.5 for those seen face to face, then this indicates that we need 1,075 meetings for admissions. If our ratio of meetings from enquiries (with a common shared understanding of what constitutes an enquiry) is also 1: 2.5, then this indicates total requirement of enquiries for the year of 2,700.

A good team can map out all three of these numbers over the year, aware of when are busy and quiet times, so that there are targets for all three key numbers for each month. Now, regular review meetings can assess progress against all three key numbers. If, for example, two months in to the year, the enquiry numbers have been on track, but face to face are 20% below expectation and there’s a corresponding shortfall in admissions to date, then intelligent conversations can happen. Does the team need to have a push on enquiry follow-up, arrange a special event to bring in the undecided and hesitant. Has something changed in the market that may require rethinking our numbers? Do we need to accept a lower conversion ratio, so take some actions to increase the number of enquiries (a social networking campaign or some advertising?) Alternatively, can we improve our conversion skills so that we can manage with a smaller number of face to face interactions to still produce the desired number of admissions.

The key is maintaining accurate and timely data and having sensible and realistic conversations around that data. However, if the work above hasn’t been done, then admissions staff and school leaders can only shrug and cross their fingers if asked whether they are going to achieve the goals for which they’re accountable.

However, the duty to achieve these numbers is critical to the wellbeing of a school. This is not simply about meeting obligations to school owners/ promoters, but also to the staff, students and parents. If the admission numbers are not achieved, then inevitably discussions turn to cost savings and/ or fee increases. This can be detrimental to all stakeholders.

d) The achievements of these numbers are so crucial that it is right and reasonable that the people with direct engagement in admissions and student enrolment have a seat at the table when major school leadership decisions are being made. It’s also important that the manpower for admissions is appropriate, trained and motivated. Returning to our example above and the likelihood that the admissions team will need to conduct approx. 1,075 face to face interactions, then in most schools this is likely to require a team of three, keeping in mind that they must also have enough time for follow up, appointment setting and their involvement in other marketing work and event management.
School leadership must avoid temptations to use these staff in other peripheral administrative work in the school, otherwise its easy for the targets to quickly slip out of reach.

In this one article I’ve only really skimmed the surface and there are, undoubtedly many other aspects that can become part of the discussions, training and professional development of admissions personnel. As competition increases significantly schools need to raise their games in this area. Gone are the days when admissions staff could just act like passive application processors. They now need to see themselves as professional sales people with the responsibility to sell the benefits of their school to the right parents for the right children. I haven’t touched upon the aspects of admissions work that actually shapes a school’s ethos. Over-emphasis on the targets at the expense of all else, especially if they are very stretching, can see every attempt made to admit every child, even where either the child or the parents may not be an ideal fit for the school. For example, parents who demand and expect large volumes of homework may be a weak fit for a school with a progressive approach that believes in very minimal amounts of work at home. Schools are not, or shouldn’t try to be, all things to all people – one size fits all. There are also important aspects that relate to how students are assessed for admissions, but that’s for another day, another article.

The skills required are considerable, so I’m not surprised to see the emergence of professional training and  development/ affiliation organisations targeted specifically at admissions professionals. I expect to see more focus in this area as the work of admissions becomes more professionalized. This promises to make it a richer and more rewarding professional field. There are undoubtedly skills and knowledge that are domain specific, so it’s not going to suit anyone and everyone coming from a sales background. Also, it’s work that a teacher needs to think carefully about transitioning in to as there’s a lot to it. And, as stated earlier, it’s a crucial part of the portfolio of school leaders and they need to acknowledge this when allotting their time and energies. They also need to raise their skills in this area – the easy pickings are history.

 

For more information:
The Enrollment Management Association
Association of Independent School Admission Professionals
(the latter, as far as I’m aware is purely US centric)

 

Children’s Backpacks – The Lack of Drive & Energy to Change

Backpack

Backpacks should never weigh more than 10 – 20% of the child’s weight.

That’s the strong and firm recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In India at least. i would reckon that the angst about the weight of children’s school bags has roiled around for at least 15 years, and yet there’s still all the evidence that little has changed and that those bags are still way too heavy.

It’s become one of those problems and challenges where everyone seems to agree it’s wrong, but everyone is waiting or demanding that someone else should take the action to solve the issue. In the meantime, children keep suffering as everyone blames someone else.

There have been some creative attempts to solve the issues. I was aware of a textbook publisher in the South of India who replaced the separate textbooks for English, maths and Science in Primary classes with combined books for Term 1, Term 2 and Term 3. The idea was that the child would just need to carry the one book. The idea had limited success. People somehow believed that knowledge is compartmentalized according to subjects and therefore were not completely comfortable with these combined books. Teachers sometimes wanted to jump around the syllabus and not be tied to the earlier decisions about allocating the work across the three terms. Then, when exams came around they wanted the children to carry all of the books.

Here’s a recent article that highlights some of the issues – issues that really don’t seem to have changed much over so many years:
MSN – Mom Article – Here’s What Happens When a Child’s Backpack is Too Heavy

There are some key issues that people need to own up to if solutions are to be found;

a) Teachers retain their freedom to shift lessons around at short notice, so children can’t leave books at home and simply take to school the ones for the scheduled classes for that day. The more chaotic the scheduling and planning in schools, the more books the children carry each day – to avoid getting in to trouble. Teachers, all too often, don’t tell children to bring all the books related to the subject because they KNOW all the books will be required, but to retain maximum convenience for themselves.

b) Where lockers are provided to children, too often they’re not convenient or the timetable doesn’t permit sufficient time to use them. Or, quite simply, they’re not taught the skills and benefits of effective planning. I’ve seen too many situations where the lockers were in classrooms. So, if the room is engaged, students can’t enter to access their locker.
Even going back to when I was in school (and that was a very long time ago!) the timetable was set up with lessons in blocks of two (never more than three). The expectation was that we collect and carry the books for the lessons in that block. So, you didn’t have to go back between the lessons when there wasn’t time. It was my responsibility to plan this correctly. Between those blocks of lessons there was ample time to go and get books. So, if I was late to a lesson because I left getting my books until too late or arrived with the wrong books, that was also my responsibility. That said, human error happens and it’s through making mistakes that we get better. Missing a book occasionally is not the end of the world, but we can learn from it.

c) The first day of a new term/ academic year is one of the worst for heavy bags. Too often we see children carrying everything. Teachers can plan for this by providing information to parents and students about what to carry with the aim to bring everything gradually over the first two to three days. We’ve done this effectively in some schools where I’ve worked with the leadership team in the past. It was necessary to plan accordingly in age appropriate ways (for example making sure that the entire contents of the bag didn’t go back home at the end of the first day!)

d) There are similar issues about the end of the term/ academic year. The entire content of a child’s locker need to go home generally (or at the parents’ insistence). If we know this, we need to plan for it to avoid a last day when the children will carry a bag bulging with every piece of scrap paper and bag built up in the locker over a whole term Again, in the past, I’ve been involved in situations where communication with parents and the children ensured that the contents of lockers were first tidied and sorted and then moved home over two to three days at least. This effectively spread the weight burden.

e) The article advocates trolley bags as a way to avoid the issue of bag weight. In my experience this isn’t a good solution – in fact, it can make the situation worse, because all restraint on what goes in to the bag goes away. As stated trolley bags also don’t work when children need to go up or down stairs. This also troubles children when getting in and out of vehicles. There’s a bigger issue with younger children that lead us to outlaw these bags in at least one of my past schools – the potential for children to run over each others’ legs and feet, causing at least hurt if not injury.

f) Parents who want everything to go home every Friday pose a challenge and make themselves part of the problem instead of part of the solution. I’ve seen this quite frequently, often tied to their own perceptions that to prove themselves as effective caring parents who take a personal interest in their child’s learning need to go through the books at least once a week. Sadly, too often, I’ve seen these occasions lead to children dreading the weekend, feeling the need to defend their teacher and getting stuck between home and school. I’m sure few of these parents micromanage employees in their workplaces in such ways, yet they do it with their child and the teachers! Children learn to own their learning better by less frequent reviews of their learning. I prefer twice a term student-led conferences where the child gets to present the work they’ve been doing and reflect on their own learning with the teacher and parent.

g) Being cool is highlighted in the article, but especially in secondary schools is a massive issue around school bags. I remember being particularly frustrated in Bangladesh where the older boys wore their bags with the straps loosened off to the maximum so that it bounced below their bum. The strain they were doing to their backs was awful to see, all on the pursuit of peer pressure, being cool and fitting in. I used to applaud those who had the sense and personal strength to not feel the need to go along with the silliness.  The ‘one shoulder’ thing is also an issue.
Ultimately, the way to address this issue sits alongside so many others where peer pressure causes children to engage in behaviours that are not in their best interests. We can’t necessarily win all the time, but as parents and educators we need to do all in our power to stress individuality and the strength to pursue goals and objectives through independent thought, rather than going along to get along. That’s an issue for another blog post!

The reality is these heavy bags are harming children and have been doing so for many years. We haven’t done enough to address the issues and past solutions aren’t going to be enough. It’s going to require that parents and teachers care enough and combine their care for the children to create effective solutions.

Risks and Challenges for International Educators

Flags

Being an international educator brings some wonderful opportunities to travel, to live for extended time in some amazing and fascinating parts of the world, to earn good salaries  and to engage with other cultures. Also, generally, a lot of international educators believe that they get more freedom professionally within their schools and more opportunity to use their voice to shape educational approaches.

However, it’s not always a soft ride and people need to be aware of. the issues – it’s not a decision to go in to with rose tinted glasses. Some of the issues are really quite serious.

In some recent blog posts I’ve touched on a couple of important issues. Teachers have found themselves in very troubling situations when confronted with cultural differences – for example, coming to know about child abuse, but not having access to the support services and facilities to protect the child (or where family and local perceptions will be that this is a matter of family private choice and that the educator needs to stay out of it). i shared the evidence of even online teachers from the US experiencing trauma after witnessing child brutality at a distance, but having limited ability to do anything about it. It’s even more challenging when you can see the results of abuse almost daily, but have few direct tools with which to confront it.

Some teachers choose to take up roles in countries that subsequently become volatile and sensitive politically.  I had some of my own experiences with this. When I first went to Bangladesh in 2005 things were relatively calm. However, within months the tension levels ratcheted up significantly. What made it worse was that both geographically and for reasons related to the owner’s political affiliations, the school (and my apartment across the road) were right on the front line of the battle for power that was unfolding in the country. Some evenings while working late in my office I was aware of the inherent risks caused by meetings taking place in the room next to my office attempting to create a third political front to challenge the existing two party system. Thankfully they were never caught in action!

In many weeks i was only able to open the school for three days. Each evening I would spend hours on text and phone with a parent who was news editor for a local TV station. He was my eyes and ears to understand the issues, the risks and on which days i could offer an education for children and on which days the risks were too great. The daily stress was there very evident in the parents, pupils and teachers. We even had to deal with the ‘disappearance’ for some days of a teacher who was known to be politically quite active. When rioting broke out, chanting protesters armed with knives, machetes etc would pass the school front door, even as mothers clutching their children’s hands weaved through them. Then would come the tear gas as the protesters were dispersed.

Over the last 10-12 years one of the most rapidly growing communities of expat educators is in China. However, there’s evidence of a political/ cultural shift there which is now bringing their job security in to question. Whether it’s linked to the trade war with America or not would be near impossible to deduce. Around a year ago the Chinese government announced that they expected to enforce rigidly a law that previously had existed, but had been ignored by all parties. Put in simple terms it said that the private schools in the country were not meant to make a profit (similar to laws in India). However, some of the school groups expanding rapidly in China were quoted on US stock markets – where they openly and transparently reported their profits regularly, in accordance with the law there.

Then there are headlines and stories like the following:

Next Shark Article – China is Arresting, Deporting More Foreign Teachers Than Ever Before
(Click on the link above to read the article in a separate tab or window)

For any expatriate teacher working in China this would certainly be alarming. Likewise for those large numbers working in Hong Kong. The article appears to indicate that there is a specific objective which is about increasing ‘patriotism’ in schools. In other words, ideologically manipulative authorities would be uncomfortable with foreign teachers who encourage and incite ‘free thinking’, global perspectives and student voice.

The truth is that by no means are all international educators saints. Too many schools have rules that are way too lax when it comes to verification and security checks. Sadly, the profession has, at times, attracted some bad elements. Also, it could be said that some teachers who choose to go international really don’t think through the risks that they might be taking if they are going to engage in actions or choices that are out of alignment with local laws, traditions or expectations. Those of us in the field have also heard stories of teachers in the gulf countries, particularly UAE who have inadvertently stumbled in to legal quagmires through careless, indiscreet or other actions that are frowned upon locally.

Teachers have also found themselves getting in to difficult situations with parents and local communities over their teaching where it clashes with local customs or practices.  Issues can arise around gender issues, sex education, issues where the teaching of certain science comes in conflict with religious dogma etc. As the world suffers collective forgetfulness of history, permitting politicians to take actions that separate and divide people, the risks in these areas may well increase. Actions by one country can spark counter actions and international teachers can find themselves caught in the crossfire (hopefully only metaphorically).

I believe being an international educator is still a wonderful career. As a new academic year is getting under way there are experienced and fresh teachers are starting out with new classes, new colleagues and opportunities. Schools and their management can do more to open teacher eyes to the issues before they take up roles. But, ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the teachers to make themselves informed and to be sure that they’re comfortable with the things they will need to contend with. There’s no point believing that you’re going to go to someone else’s country and simply demand your right to openly act or speak in the way you choose, if you know it goes against the local values and beliefs.

We don’t always get to tell the rest of the world that we’re right and they’re wrong, or that our way is the best.

 

More on E-Sports

E-sports

Readers here will recall that a few weeks ago i wrote a piece in which I set out my reasons why I was unhappy to see schools falling in to the trap of offering ‘E-sports’ as an option – as an alternative to physical sports and physical education in the curriculum.

So, I was interested to see the following article in which the pros and cons are discussed;

Peak – Is E-Sport a Sport?

To be clear, the article isn’t particularly about the issue of E-sports being in schools, but it does go to the core of whether it’s appropriate for E-sports to be promoted as a legitimate sport. My personal reading of the article is that there is little strength in the arguments in favour of permitting it to be treated as a sport.

In my view, this alone would strengthen my concerns about allowing the games in to schools.However, we can add to that a brief snippet of a news item i caught on TV in the last week, as I entered the room. The gist was an investigation and suspicions that E-sports were willingly permitting advertising and other activity that brought gambling to the attention of children. This seems to be a massive red flag and increases my fears that it’s a trojan horse – working to get in to schools and the lives of children under a cloak of respectability for purposes that are not in the best interests of children.

I say even stronger – keep it out of schools.

 

Employers Get What They Attract, Not What They Say They Want

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Firstly, I share here an article and would ask you to read it before going on. It shares the best six attributes of a CV/ resume according to a top head hunter:

Inc.com  – Best Resume Article

When I read this piece, my heart sank for two particular reasons. The reality is that this headhunter isn’t really saying anything that comes as a surprise to most employees in companies or potential job hunters. However, there are two aspects that stand out as going directly against what so many companies claim they want in today’s fast moving and creative work environments.

Let’s remember that the review of a CV by a headhunter or their employees will determine which candidates get called for further interviews and exploration. A CV doesn’t land a person a job, nor is it meant to. Likewise, nobody can claim that the issues I’m about to flag up can be discussed out in the face to face discussions – those won’t happen if the CV/ resume is rejected at the pre-selection stage.

The first issue is in point 2 in the article – a clear story of progression. According to the article, attractive candidates have nice linear careers with every step logically thought out and all steps thoroughly thought out and in the control of the candidate.

Companies and employers today claim that they are crying out for people with creativity and the willingness to take risks. Some also claim that people should be willing to take lateral or even backward steps in order to gather knowledge and experience so that they can move forward armed with strong skills and abilities. Such a route won’t look nice and linear, with logical progressions all in ‘the right direction.’

What the article says is an admission that whilst companies say this sort of eclectic gathering of knowledge and being able to bring new and innovative ideas to the table is what they want, their actions tell a different story. It says we reward those who are masters at climbing the greasy pole in nice logical self-directed increments.

Secondly, as highlighted in point 4 of the article – we want CVs/ resumes that are honest and reflect integrity on the part of the applicants – no untruths or exaggeration. However, points two and three represent a reality that makes it almost inevitable that large numbers of job applicants will embellish and expand on reality when it comes to their achievements – especially when you take the two points together.

According to this piece, you have to be able to show this lovely linear career progression, with unmitigated success at every step. Yet, we tell employees that they shouldn’t be afraid to fail, that failing is a great way to learn.  We also tell them to subsume their personal identity in the interests of teams. So, if you’re part of a team where the project takes too many risks, doesn’t succeed or is curtailed by the company (even perhaps for political reasons), to admit so on a CV would be the kiss of death.

Yes, employers have to do a massive sifting exercise to decide shortlists for who to interview. But, if their actions tell everyone that the people who get interviewed are those who have trodden a safe, predictable, politically crafty career, especially if prepared to polish the apple a bit – then that’s what they will have to choose from.

Ant then, they can keep bemoaning the lack of fire, creativity and risk taking entrepreneurship in their employees.

Shame.

 

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