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Global concept of teachers’ status and improving the status of teachers in Vietnam

(LLCT) - In order to improve the quality of education and training, a correct conception about teachers' status and the institutionalization of the conception into the regulations plays an important role, which has an impact on the quality of education in many countries. Global and Vietnamese concepts of teachers' status share many similarities while possessing many differences as well. Vietnam needs a synchronous solution to continue affirming and raising teachers' status (regarding remuneration, salary, education - training, and working environment) to contribute to fundamental and comprehensive reforms of education and training.

Keywords: Teachers' status, teachers, teachers' roles, Education Law.

1. The global conception of teachers’ status

According to UNESCO, the status of a teacher means “both the standing or regard accorded them, as evidenced by the level of appreciation of the importance of their function and of their competence in performing it, and the working conditions, remuneration and other material benefits accorded them relative to other professional groups”(1). Accordingly, “teachers play a key role in the advancement of education and their contributions are important to the development of human beings and modern society”(2) and “the advance in education depends largely on the qualifications and capacity of teachers in general and on the human, pedagogical and technical qualities of individual educators”(3). The proper status of teachers is essential in the full implementation of educational goals and objectives. They are directed to the all-around development of the human personality and to the spiritual, moral, social, cultural and economic progress of the community, as well as to the inculcation of deep respect for human rights and fundamental freedom; within the framework of these values, the utmost importance should be attached to the contribution to be made by education to peace and to understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations and among racial or religious groups(4). In order to upgrade the status of teachers, there should be a synchronous implementation of the following factors: education and training policies; complementary education; jobs and careers; rights and obligations of teachers; conditions for effective teaching and learning; salary; and social insurance.

Teachers’ status can also be quantified by examining how teachers are paid compared to other professions and to what economic groups of society they belong(5). In other words, wages and income levels are also important indicators to provide a measurable view of teachers’ status compared to other professions. Besides, factors such as credentials and training requirements, working conditions, professional organizations or associations, authority, compensation level and prestige are also indicators for teachers’ status(6).

The Global Teacher Status Index study carried out by the non-profit organization Varkey GEMS Foundation considered the feedback of one thousand people from 21 countries who participated in international assessments. The survey included questions about how teachers are respected compared to other professions, whether or not parents encourage their children to become teachers and how many (and how) teachers are paid appropriately in accordance with their status. From these feedbacks, the authors have outlined the Global Teacher Status Index, ranking countries based on the level of public respect and evaluation of teachers.

Regarding the social respect of teachers, China, Greece, Turkey, and Korea, in this order, top the list. The United States ranked 9th among 21 countries in the study. Teachers with the lowest social status were in Israel, Brazil, the Czech Republic, and Italy. 50% of respondents from China said they “maybe” or “certainly” encourage their children to become teachers. Only 30% of Americans and 8% of Israelis had similar answers. In China, people are more likely to compare teachers with doctors than other professions. No other country had such a comparison. In the US, Brazil, France, and Turkey, teachers are often compared to librarians. In Greece, Egypt, Switzerland, and many other countries, teachers are considered by most a form of social workers.

Regarding salary, about 60% of respondents said that teachers should be paid according to students’ performance. In the US, 80% of people supported this. However, this study indicates that there is no specific correlation between teachers’ status and students’ performance in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. The survey also looks at average teacher salary in the countries studied converted into US dollars. Based on teacher salary, Americans rank 22 out of 27 countries surveyed “with teacher earning less than 60% of the average salary for full-time workers with college qualifications”(7). The highest salary for teachers is in Singapore, at an average of $45,755 per year, and the lowest is in Egypt, at $10,604 dollars. The average teacher salary in the United States is $ 44,917 a year(8).

In China, teachers’ status is one of the important topics to be considered when the education system is discussed. The country’s awareness of teachers affects how its education system works. China reforms its education system by assigning responsibilities to teachers and trusting them. If teachers of quality are needed for an education system of quality, teaching must be a career with an excellent workforce, and a teacher’s status affects the attractiveness of the teaching profession. At schools, students are taught to have a good attitude, especially relating to teachers, which has an impact on the learning environment(9).

In the United States, based on specialization features, using sociological tools, Richard Ingersoll and Elizabeth Merrill examined the teaching profession to “identify and describe teachers’ status”, such as professionalism level, salary compared to other professions, desire of students to become teachers, and motivation, prestige, and social influence. They found that teachers lack or almost lack the major professional characteristics; teaching is considered a semi-professional job. Wages and the status of teachers fall between those for lawyers and the military(10).

Countries with the highest scores in the Program for International Student Assessment such as Korea, Singapore, and Finland only recruit college graduates for teaching positions and actively support them in the classroom and take steps to respect the profession(11).

At the first International Summit on Education held in New York - USA (March 2011), many delegates said that it was necessary to upgrade the professional status of teachers, to cooperate with teachers in reforming education to bring about success; to establish the collaboration between educational congregations and leaders to ensure overall progress. According to Canadian delegates, respecting teachers and treating them as experts is the most important factor to ensure the success of education reform. One of the most important ways to show respect for teachers is to treat them like professionals and listen carefully to what they say about their area of expertise: teaching and learning. At the same time, it is necessary to use this knowledge to make better decisions about educational policies and practices(12). Peter Dolton, Professor of Economics at the University of Sussex, said: “There is a big difference between countries in public perception of teachers. This determines who becomes a teacher in each country, how they are respected and how they are rewarded financially. Finally, this affects the kind of work they do in teaching our children”(13).

Thus, for many countries around the world, such as China, the United States, Canada, and others, teachers have a good social status and appropriate mechanisms are facilitated to upgrade their status, which contributes to the development of education, economy, and society of these countries. This is one of the important factors to improve the quality of education and training of human resources for development.

2. Improving the status of teachers in Vietnam

In Vietnam, teachers have a special social status. The tradition of “respecting teachers” always upholds their role. Old sayings, such as “One word [we study] is thanks to our teacher; even half a word [we study] is also thanks to our teacher “, “No teachers, no accomplishments”, “If parents want their children to be successful, they need to respect their children’s teacher”, reflect this tradition. At present, teachers still hold a relatively high status in society, although there is no specific survey on this issue. The Education Law (2005) defines the role and responsibility of teachers as follows:

“Teachers play a decisive role in ensuring the quality of education.

Teachers must constantly study and practice to set a good example for learners.

The Government organize the training and retraining of teachers; apply policies on use and remuneration, and ensure necessary spiritual and material conditions for teachers to implement their roles and responsibilities; conserve and promote the tradition of honoring teachers and the teaching profession”(14). Resolution No. 29-NQ/TU of the 8th Plenum of the Party Central Committee (11th tenure) dated November 4, 2013 on fundamental and comprehensive reform of education and training, meeting the requirements of industrialization and modernization in the socialist-oriented market economy of Vietnam and international integration, considers developing the teaching force as one of eight important solutions to fundamental and comprehensive reform of education and training. Many guidelines of the Party and policies of the State aim to raise teachers’ status, namely considering education and training the national top priority, investment in education as investment in development; and are very concerned about teachers’ salary and professional allowance. Accordingly, the status of teachers has constantly improved.

However, many educational issues, especially in primary and secondary education, have recently affected social assessment and recognition of teachers in particular and education in general. Anti-educational behaviors, by teachers, by society, and by governing educational authority have taken place. Even violence by teachers happened at school. For instance, many terrible punishment methods were used by teachers: teachers forced students to kneel while studying; teachers ignored students and did not talk to them; teachers let other students’ slap their classmate’s face 231 times when they misbehaved; teachers forced students to drink water used to wash the blackboard duster. Also, teachers were often humiliated: parents forced teachers to kneel and apologize; schools terminated the contracts of teachers despite of their years of commitment. Bad practices in education are still commonly found: teachers have strong bias against certain students; falsified grades for some students were even found at the national exam in Ha Giang, Son La in 2018; diplomas can be counterfeited and exchanged; standards for future teachers are low, with the requirement entrance score of only 9 [out of 30] to be admitted to colleges of pedagogy, and pedagogical students are only expelled after 4 times being caught working as a prostitute. All of these affect the status of teachers, specifically the social evaluation on the teaching profession in general and school teachers in particular.

To overcome this situation, the Government issued Decree 101/2007/ND-CP on training and refresher courses for teachers, including secondary teachers; The Ministry of Education and Training issued Circular No. 30/2011 / TT-BGDTT and Circular No. 26/2012/TT-BGDTT on issuing programs and regulations on fostering school teachers. The evaluation of schoolteachers is also carried out in accordance with Decree 56/2015 / ND-CP and Decree No. 88/2017 / ND-CP on the implementation and application of professional standards for school teachers; Teachers’ emulation - rewarding receive due attention, reducing requirements for formalities.

Regarding salary and remuneration policies for teachers, Resolution 29 determines teachers’ salaries “to be the top priority in the salary ranking system for administration officials with additional allowances depending on the nature of work and/or by region”(15). However, many shortcomings still remain. The salary of school teachers is lower than that of other professions. According to Decree 204/2004/ND-CP, gross starting monthly salary (including insurance and fees for participation in school political organizations: trade union fee, Party fee) of lower secondary school teachers is 3,794,700 VND (2.1 x 1,390 + 30% professional allowance); starting gross salary of upper secondary school teachers is 4,228,380 VND (2.341 x 1,390 + 30% professional allowance). The salary ratio of teachers compared with that of civil servants of other professions is unreasonably high. The scale of upper secondary school teachers of rank 2 is categorized into A2.2 with salary ratio of level 1 of 4.0 while that of a senior expert is classified as A2.1 with a salary ratio of 4.40. There are still many limitations in the regulations on professional and seniority allowances of teachers, specifically, only after 6 years are teachers entitled to seniority allowance, and allowance for talented people is low. All of these have affected teachers’ psychology as well as their status in education.

In the context of globalization and the global booming industrial revolution 4.0, the fundamental and comprehensive reform of the current education and training system in Vietnam is in an important stage, it is worth noting some of the following issues to raise the teacher’s status, contributing to the successful implementation of the reform education process:

- Importance should be truly attached to teachers, especially school teachers’ direct involvement in the fundamental and comprehensive reform of education and training. Sanctions on this should be prescribed. Recently, the reform of education and training in our country has mainly focused on secondary education, in which the focus is reforming the forms of examination and evaluation. But the level of participation and the role of high school teachers in this important work is modest even though they are directly involved and play the most important role in the teaching process. In order to achieve the desired results of reform, deep participation of high school teachers is one of the important requirements. This is the experience of countries that have successfully reformed their education systems such as China, Canada and the USA.

- Educational philosophy should be built with: teaching objectives, content and methods; obtainable values; organizations and pathways of education construction and development for today. This is one of the important issues yet to be dealt with by Vietnamese general education. Although mentioned in many important documents of the Party and the State, a specific educational philosophy has not been established, causing confusion in the implementation of teaching. Therefore, it is necessary to build an educational philosophy, emphasizing the teacher’s role of orientation and coordination. They are not merely people who spread knowledge, but also guide and orientate learners to find, occupy, and turn knowledge into skills and actions. More importantly, teachers contribute to shaping learners’ personality through legal, humane, and moral actions. Thus, teaching content, programs, and methods should be reformed in the direction of harmonizing the relationship between knowledge and skills and behavior.

- Autonomy should be given to schools and educational institutions as well as to teachers in organizing teaching activities. Teachers’ autonomy does not mean that the teacher has the full power to decide his or her teaching, but that the teacher has the right to choose the content, method, and even his own educational philosophy and ways to evaluate learners on the basis of relevant regulations, such as the 3A Model (Autonomy, Assessment and Accountability). Autonomy will help teachers be independent in thinking, promote creativity in education and avoid passivity, that is, expecting or complying with and enforcing superior orders.

- The policy of salaries, wages, and remuneration for teachers, especially health insurance and social insurance (disability benefits, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, and old-age subsidies) should be improved. The policy of teachers’ salaries should be institutionalized into a document which can be specified in the Education Law in the direction of considering the profession as an important profession of special position in society. Besides, it is necessary to create good working and living conditions for teachers, especially those working in rural and remote areas. Many schools are under difficult conditions of economics and transportation; the minimum needs for education such as textbooks, reference books, and internet are lacking, which generates influences on the improvement of teaching quality. On the other hand, the lack of conditions to meet individual needs in the context of improved basic living standards affects the psychology of teachers in particular and the quality of education in general. Therefore, improving the lives of teachers through salary policies and other preferential regimes is an important condition to raise teachers’ status in the current context.

- Occupational standards (professionally and ethically) should be established in accordance with new conditions and circumstances and there should be strict sanctions to be used when there are violations. Occupational standards have been set by the Ministry of Education and Training, schools also have their own specific documents. However, the regulations still lack specificity and the criteria are not clear, many of them are still formal or inappropriate within the current context. Therefore, serious research and promulgation of teachers’ professional standards is an urgent task in order to both reduce the pressure for teachers and contribute to raising the status of teachers in society.



(1), (2), (3), (4), UNESCO and ILO: Teachers’ Status (translated by Nguyen Quang Kinh, edited by Dr. Pham Do Nhat Tien), Vietnam Education Publishing House, Hanoi, 2010, p.5, 4, 6, 6.

(5), (11) Dillon S: “US Is Urged to Raise Teachers’ Status”, The New York Times, 2011.

(6), (10) Ingersoll, R., & Merril, E: The Status of Teaching as a Profession, University of Pennsylvania GSE Publications, 2011.

(7) Murray, D., International Study: American Teacher Salaries Lag Behind Other Nations, Michigan Local News, 2011.

(8) Varkey GEMS: Global Teacher Status Index, https://www.varkeyfoundation.org, 2013.

(9) Fwu, B.-J., & Wang, H.-H .: “The Social Status of Teachers in Taiwan”, Comparative Education, 38 (2), 2002, p.211-224.

(12) The Voice of Canadian Teachers on Teaching and Learning, https://perspectives.ctf-fce.ca

(13) The Global Teacher Status Index Is Now Available, http://www.edudemic.com

(14) 2005 Education Law, https: //thuvienphapluat.vn

(15) CPV:  Resolution No. 29-NQ / TU of the 8th Plenum of the 11th Party Central Committee dated November 4, 2013 “on fundamental and comprehensive reform of education and training, meeting the requirements of industrialization and modernization in the context of socialist-oriented market economy and international integration”, dangcongsan.vn

MA. Nguyen Hoa Mai

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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