As someone who has a deep appreciation for the teaching profession, having grown up in a family of educators, with my first job being in education, I am always compelled to address the transformation of the education landscape in Malaysia.
Today, I would like to share my candid thoughts on how we can enhance the social status, rank, and perception of educators ie. teachers, lecturers and other educators as esteemed professionals in Malaysia.
It is no secret that professionals such as pilots, doctors, lawyers, architects, and engineers are highly respected by society due to their elevated salary levels. Unfortunately, the mindset that “anyone can be a teacher” has led to a decline in the social status and overall branding of the teaching profession.
Therefore, I hope this article can serve as a catalyst for education industry stakeholders, including the education ministry, teachers, educators, and administrators, to reflect on the proposed points. Ultimately, we need to recognize and value the role of teachers as professionals who have the crucial responsibility of shaping and nurturing our future generations.
Teachers play a vital role in shaping individuals for various professions. They not only develop the character, mindset, and culture of students but also spend the majority of their time with them. In some countries, teachers start their day as early as 7:30 or 8:00 am and continue until 2:00 or 3:00 pm, including co-curricular activities.
Students spend more time with teachers than with doctors, lawyers, pilots, or engineers. This is not to undermine other professions but to emphasize the importance and value of educators. Therefore, it is crucial to elevate their status, bring them up, and improve their standards of living in the eyes of the community.
We need to recognize teachers as “Professionals” and acknowledge their critical role in the development of children from preschool to primary and secondary school. The functions of preschool teachers are as essential as those of university lecturers since the students they develop will later consume all the knowledge and develop into great characters to enter universities.
I call this an “Education Value Chain,” and it must be well-protected and developed to ensure that students receive the best education and character development possible.
Increasing the status level of teachers requires a multifaceted approach that involves various stakeholders, including the government, schools, teachers themselves, and society at large. Here are some strategies that can be implemented:
- Provide better compensation. Teachers should be paid well to reflect the importance of their role in society. Higher salaries can attract more talented individuals to the profession and help retain experienced teachers.
- Offer professional development opportunities. Providing regular professional development opportunities can help teachers improve their skills and keep up with the latest teaching methods and technologies. This can also help teachers feel valued and invested in their profession.
- Increase autonomy. Giving teachers more autonomy and control over their work can increase their sense of professionalism and ownership over their teaching practice.
- Recognize and reward excellence. Recognizing and rewarding excellent teachers can motivate others to improve their teaching and raise the status of the profession.
- Encourage collaboration and mentorship. Encouraging collaboration and mentorship among teachers can foster a sense of community and support, and help teachers develop professionally.
- Raise public perception. Increasing public awareness of the importance of teaching and the hard work that teachers do can help raise the status of the profession and attract more talented individuals to it.
Implementing these strategies requires a commitment from all stakeholders to prioritize education and invest in the teaching profession.
Let’s learn how Finland does it
In Finland, the teaching profession is highly valued, and there are several measures in place to compensate for and increase the status of educators.
Firstly, teachers in Finland are required to have a master’s degree in education, which is a highly respected and rigorous qualification. This ensures that teachers are highly trained and knowledgeable about their subject matter.
Secondly, teachers in Finland are paid on the same salary scale as other highly educated professionals, such as doctors and lawyers. This reflects the importance of the teaching profession in Finnish society.
Thirdly, Finnish teachers are given a high degree of autonomy in their work. They are trusted to design their own lesson plans and assessment methods and to make decisions about the content and delivery of their lessons.
Finnish teachers are encouraged to engage in ongoing professional development and are given time and resources to do so. This allows them to stay up-to-date with the latest research and teaching methods, and to continually improve their practice.
Overall, the Finnish education system places a high value on the teaching profession and has put in place several measures to compensate for and increase the status of educators.
Highly trained, respected: why Finland’s teachers are different. In Finland, it’s easier to become a doctor or lawyer than a teacher.
With such selective admissions — it was harder to gain entry to the University of Helsinki’s teacher education program (6.8 percent acceptance rate) than the law program (8.3 percent acceptance rate) or the medical school (7.3 percent acceptance rate) in 2016 — and rigorous preparation, one might expect Finland to suffer teacher shortages not unlike those seen in the U.S. But this is not the case.
A major reason for this is that the teaching profession is seen as desirable. We are, again, trusted and appreciated. We have the freedom to choose among a wide range of high-quality learning materials, our salaries are competitive and the work calendar is attractive. We are not subject to accountability systems based on student test scores but instead are encouraged to develop our work and collaborate with others.
There are several ways in which Malaysia can adopt the educator policy in Finland, such as:
- Valuing and prioritizing education. Finland places a high value on education, and Malaysia can adopt this approach by prioritizing education as a national agenda and increasing its budget allocation for education.
- Teacher training and development. Finland has a rigorous teacher training and development program that helps to create high-quality educators. Malaysia can adopt a similar program by investing in teacher training and development, providing ongoing professional development opportunities for teachers, and creating a supportive work environment.
- Encouraging collaboration and teamwork. Finland encourages collaboration and teamwork among teachers, which helps to foster a sense of community and support. Malaysia can adopt a similar approach by encouraging teachers to work together and share best practices, as well as creating opportunities for collaboration among schools and teachers.
- Providing autonomy to teachers. Finland provides a high degree of autonomy to teachers, allowing them to design their lesson plans and choose their teaching methods. Malaysia can adopt a similar approach by providing teachers with greater autonomy and trusting them to make decisions about their teaching.
- Offering competitive compensation. Finland offers competitive compensation for teachers, which helps to attract and retain high-quality educators. Malaysia can adopt a similar approach by offering competitive salaries and benefits to teachers, as well as providing incentives for teachers who work in hard-to-staff schools or subjects.
There are several ways to increase the salary of teachers in Malaysia, including:
- Increase the education budget. The government can allocate a larger portion of the education budget toward teacher salaries.
- Performance-based pay. Teachers who perform well and achieve certain targets could be rewarded with a higher salary.
- Length of service. Teachers who have served for a longer period could be given a higher salary.
- Professional development. Teachers who attend professional development courses or obtain additional qualifications could be given a higher salary.
- Incentives for teaching in difficult areas. Teachers who teach in remote or underserved areas could be given a higher salary as an incentive.
- Collective bargaining. Teachers could be allowed to form unions to negotiate for better salaries and benefits.
- Public-private partnerships. Private sector companies could be encouraged to provide funding or sponsorships to support higher teacher salaries.
It is important to note that increasing teacher salaries is just one aspect of improving the education system in Malaysia. Other factors such as teacher training, curriculum development, and infrastructure improvement should also be taken into consideration.
Implementing KPI-based and performance-based incentives for teachers requires a clear framework and guidelines to ensure fairness and objectivity. Here are some steps that can be taken:
- Define clear KPIs. The first step is to define clear and measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are aligned with the objectives of the education system. This can be done through consultations with teachers, education experts, and other stakeholders.
- Develop a performance-based incentive scheme. Once the KPIs have been defined, a performance-based incentive scheme can be developed. This should clearly outline the rewards and incentives that will be provided to teachers who meet or exceed their KPI targets.
- Create a transparent and fair evaluation process. The evaluation process should be transparent, fair, and based on objective criteria. It should also take into account factors such as the resources available to the teacher and the level of support provided by the school.
- Provide professional development opportunities. To help teachers meet their KPI targets, professional development opportunities should be provided. This can include training, mentoring, and coaching.
- Ensure sustainability. The incentive scheme should be sustainable over the long term. This requires regular monitoring and evaluation to ensure that it is achieving its objectives and making a positive impact on teacher performance.
Overall, implementing a KPI-based and performance-based incentive scheme for teachers can help to raise the status of teaching in Malaysia and encourage teachers to strive for excellence. It requires a comprehensive approach that involves clear guidelines, transparent evaluation processes, and ongoing support for professional development.
Here are some examples of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that could be used to determine teacher salary and bonus:
- Student Achievement. The most straightforward KPI would be to evaluate a teacher’s ability to help students achieve academic success. This could be measured through standardized test scores, overall grades, or other metrics that demonstrate student learning.
- Attendance. Teachers can be incentivized to improve attendance by setting KPIs around their attendance rates. For example, a teacher who has perfect attendance for an entire semester could receive a bonus.
- Professional Development. Encouraging teachers to improve their skills and knowledge through professional development can be incentivized with KPIs. This could be measured through attendance at workshops or training sessions, earning additional certifications or degrees, or participating in research or teaching projects.
- Parental Involvement. Teachers can be incentivized to increase parental involvement in their student’s education by setting KPIs around parent-teacher conference attendance, the frequency, and quality of communication with parents, or parent feedback.
- Collaborative work. Teachers can be incentivized to engage in collaborative work, such as team teaching or sharing resources, by setting KPIs around the number and quality of these collaborations.
It is important to note that KPIs should be developed in collaboration with teachers and based on their needs and goals, to ensure their buy-in and support.
Rebranding of teaching or the professions relating to educators
In many countries, the teaching profession is not always seen as a highly regarded profession compared to others. Teachers are often undervalued and underpaid, leading to a lack of interest in the profession, especially among young people. However, there are ways to enhance the branding of educators and improve the image of the profession as a professional job.
One way to enhance the branding of educators is to increase the standards of the profession. This can be achieved by setting high standards for entry into the profession, such as requiring a higher level of education or experience. This can also be done by providing ongoing professional development opportunities to help teachers stay up to date with the latest teaching methodologies and technologies.
Another way to enhance the branding of educators is to improve the perception of the profession among the general public. This can be done by highlighting the importance and value of teachers in society, as well as showcasing successful educators and their achievements. It is also important to address negative stereotypes and misconceptions about the teaching profession and educate the public about the challenges and rewards of the job.
One effective way to enhance the branding of educators is to recognize and reward excellence in teaching. This can be done through various awards and recognition programs, as well as through performance-based incentives and bonuses. By acknowledging and rewarding teachers for their hard work and dedication, the profession can be seen as a highly respected and prestigious one.
Overall, enhancing the branding of educators as a professional job requires a concerted effort from various stakeholders, including government agencies, education institutions, and the general public. By increasing the standards of the profession, improving its perception, and recognizing and rewarding excellence in teaching, the teaching profession can be seen as a highly valued and respected profession, attracting the best and brightest candidates to the field.
Let me end this with some profound quotes:
- “Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions.” – Anon
- “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
- “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.”– Chinese Proverb
- “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela