A student in a Shanghai school. The achievements of China's education system are undeniable, but the US still has the potential to reverse the declines in its system. Photo: iStock / XiXinXing

An international poll shows that secondary school teachers in Shanghai have higher social recognition than their counterparts in other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and regions.

The Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) covered about 260,000 teachers in 15,000 schools across 48 countries and economies. Lower secondary school teachers and school leaders were asked about their working conditions and learning environments in mainstream public as well as private schools.

In Shanghai, 3,976 lower secondary teachers and 198 principals completed the TALIS questionnaire.

In terms of teachers’ motivation and drive, Shanghai teachers’ dedication was strong, with 87% noting teaching was their first choice as a career, compared with only 67% in OECD countries and economies participating in TALIS.

More than 93% of respondents attributed the reason as having the opportunity to influence children’s development or contribute to society as a major motivation. The average age of Shanghai teachers was 39.4, which is 4.7 years younger than the average in OCED member countries.

Being young does not necessarily mean less experienced as Shanghai teachers had 16.7 years of experience on average, roughly the same as the OECD average, with more than 99% at least holding a bachelor’s degree.

However, in terms of the number of teachers having master’s or higher degrees it was lower (12.7%) than the average in developed countries. Yet it was found that Shanghai teachers were generally better prepared for their profession and have more continuous professional development training.

More than 83% said they received induction training when they started and 99.3% took part in professional development activities in the year prior to the survey. These were the highest among all OECD countries and regions.

As for working conditions, Shanghai teachers worked about 45.3 hours a week and spent more time than their OECD peers in preparing lessons, communicating with colleagues, marking and correcting students’ homework, mentoring students and personal improvement in their academic areas.

They were among the most efficient in class-time teaching as they spend 85.4% (OECD average 78.1%) of their time on real teaching in the classroom, rather than on class management.

Despite stereotypical views of instructional practices in China being mostly teacher-oriented, Shanghai teachers reportedly became more aware of the importance of motivating students as life-long independent learners.

Up to 70% of teachers reported to ‘frequently’ or ‘always’ having students work in small groups to come up with a joint solution to a problem or task, while 67.4% ‘frequently’ or ‘always’ asked students to decide on their own procedures for solving complex tasks.

Yet, in terms of adopting project-based learning or using information and communication technology for projects or class work, which were considered to be a more student-oriented mode of learning, Shanghai had lower ratings of 20.8% (OECD 28.6%) and 24% (OECD 53%) respectively.

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