More autonomy for Turkish teachers
When covering education, the OECD often focuses on teacher quality issues and puts special emphasis on how to design policy options to attract talented individuals into the teaching profession. ‘Teacher quality’ is a hot topic in Turkey too. What should be the essential ingredients of a policy agenda aiming to attract, develop, and retain talented individuals into the teaching profession?
Andreas Schleicher: “Obviously it has to do with the material conditions, relative salaries of teachers and so on. But that’s not so bad in a case like Turkey. I think the harder challenge is the work organization of teachers. If you aim for high-level professionals, you need to offer them a work organization with the kind of peer collaboration.”
“A teacher should not be just delivering the curriculum from the Ministry, but actually contributing to the profession. It has a lot to do with professional autonomy within a collaborative culture. Those are very central elements for success. The work organization probably matters at least as much as salary and conditions.”
Avoid decentralization of bureaucracy
Turkey has one of the most centralized school systems in OECD. Should decentralization be on the education policy agenda? Schleicher: “Decentralization is an important issue, but my main concern is not to decentralize bureaucracy, which is what often happens. In many countries, decentralization has not really improved or increased the level of professional competence and autonomy of teachers.”
“The question is not who makes decisions on what in the system. But very much sort of how does a system as a whole – whether it’s the central government or regional government, communities, schools – how do different levels of government support your teachers in their work, bring them together?”
The best teachers for the most difficult classes
“One of the things for Turkey for example is when you look at the outcomes from PISA, some schools are doing really well and compete with the best schools in the world and other schools have very low performances. Good education systems really try to attract the most talented teachers into the most challenging classrooms, and to get the best principals for the most difficult schools.”
Andreas Schleicher points out that developing teacher’s capacity is key. “You want to have capable school principals who are instructional leaders, who bring the teachers together, who have them work together, collaborate together; who help their teachers develop lesson plans, who help their teachers evaluate lessons.”
No shortage of teachers
In Turkey there is an excess supply of teacher candidates. For every teaching position there are 6 or 7 candidates. Is it possible to introduce a more rigorous evaluation mechanism without increasing concerns regarding corruption and nepotism?
Schleicher: “Turkey has a fair, objective and rigorous evaluation system for teachers. While many other countries struggle with this, Turkey has achieved this already. My concern is more about relevance. You don’t become a good teacher just by reproducing a lot of knowledge.”
“A lot has to do with pedagogical talent and the teacher recruitment process should involve multiple stages. In the beginning an entrance test I think is the right approach to ensure that teaching is a selective profession, but at the very same time you want to evaluate teacher candidates also based on their pedagogical talent on their professional capabilities. You want to give future schools possibly a role in the evaluation and selection process.”
Peer evaluation is key
“If you go to Finland, one of the best performing systems in the OECD, you have of course also an academic selection at the beginning, but the toughest part of the teacher selection process is actually in the second year. Teacher-students spend significant shares of their time in the schools to learn and are evaluated by peers and professional colleagues.”
Schleicher does not think Turkey should do away or reduce its emphasis on rigorous and objective selection. “But it should probably add other types of methods to ensure that you get the right pedagogical talent. The most knowledgeable person is not necessarily the most competent, most talented teacher. I think getting both sides in right balance is the challenge.”
“Becoming a teacher should not be a one-stage process. You want to make sure that teachers are regularly evaluated, that teachers have regular opportunities to grow in their careers, that teachers get regular feedback on their work, on the quality of their work, not in a punitive way but a constructive way to help them grow in their careers, to help them improve in their professional competence.”
“You shouldn’t just jump over a herd once in your life and then you are teacher forever, but this should be a process of continuous improvement, continuous development where there is a lot of support on the part of the government.”
Andreas Schleicher gave the interview at ERI, the Turkish organization for quality in teaching.