Longer working hours and bigger classes

Australian teachers behind OECD average.

Mary Fogarty
Research Officer

More than 88 per cent of Australian teachers thought the advantages of teaching as a profession clearly outweighed the disadvantages.

Figures contained in the OECD’s Teaching and Learning in Schools (TALIS) Report show that Australian teachers worked an average of 42.7 hours per week compared with the OECD average of 38.3, and spent 7.4 hours per week doing administration work compared with the 4.5 hour OECD average. The average class size in Australian schools was 24.7 students, above the OECD average of 24.

The report found that 26 per cent of teachers were working in schools with more than 30 per cent of students coming from low income households, above the OECD average of 20 per cent.

Australia also has greater difficulty attracting experienced teachers to rural and remote areas than other countries. The report noted Australia is one of a number of countries with relatively high numbers of teachers with fewer years of teaching experience, teaching in rural areas.

Australian teachers also reported spending fewer days than average engaging in professional development activities in the past 12 months. On average they reported spending four days on courses and workshops compared with eight days on average for OECD countries. In Australia, fewer teachers than the OECD average reported that their professional development experiences had a meaningful impact on their capabilities.

Nearly half of all teachers work in schools where there is a need for teachers of students with special needs and need for more support staff.

Nearly half of all teachers, 43 per cent, reported that the appraisal and feedback systems in their school have little or no impact on the way they teach in the classroom. Compared with teachers from other countries, fewer Australian teachers reported that the feedback they received led to positive changes in their teaching practices, their methods for teaching special needs students or their use of student assessment to improve student learning.

The majority believe that appraisal and feedback is primarily an administrative exercise, and this has a detrimental effect on their job satisfaction. 71 per cent of teachers in Australia agree that feedback provided to teachers is not based on a thorough assessment of their teaching, and 69 per cent do not believe that the best performing teachers in their school receive the greatest recognition.

Only 39 per cent of teachers in Australia believe that teaching is valued as a profession by society. The countries that have the highest PISA results including Singapore, South Korea, and Finland had much higher levels of teacher appreciation with 67 per cent believing their profession was highly valued. Australia was one of three countries (along with Brazil and Estonia) where 10 per cent or more of the teachers work in schools where verbal abuse of staff occurs at least weekly. (The OECD average was 3 per cent.) Overall, however, more than 88 per cent of Australian teachers thought the advantages of teaching as a profession clearly outweighed the disadvantages compared to the OECD average of 77 per cent and over 81 per cent stated they would still choose to be a teacher if able to make the choice again.