We may believe the experience of going to school is universal, but it varies greatly depending on which country you live in. Some might say that the purpose of education is learning valuable information. Others would argue it’s primarily about becoming an effective critical thinker, or that it’s simply a bridge to university.
As the learning experience can vary depending on culture, politics, and economics, the teaching experience also comes with its own set of unique activities. Today we’re going to be looking at how teachers on different sides of the Atlantic deal with their day to day at school. What is similar and what is not, and who has the best role of the dice with the perks of the teaching game? Welcome to this episode of The Infographics Show: US Teachers vs UK Teachers.
When we started doing our research online, we first came across a topic that has been making headlines in the United Kingdom…the UK teacher recruitment crisis. The UK has a shortage of teachers, an issue that has arisen as a result of the boom in birth rates and the rise in the number of pupils attending schools. Though the number of primary teachers has been steadily going up, it is not enough to deal with the increased number of children joining primary schools. Adding to this, there have been complaints of high workloads, increased targets, and insufficient remuneration, which have resulted in experienced teachers leaving the profession.
According to a YouGov poll, 53 per cent of teachers are considering leaving their jobs. 11,000 young teachers actually leave during training; a figure that is three times more than it was six years ago.
British newspaper The Guardian reported that Ministers had failed to meet teacher recruitment targets for five years in a row, leading to 10,000 fewer secondary school teachers being hired, than intended. And that recruitment target for computing teachers had been missed by more than 1,000 over a five-year period. A shortfall in physics teachers of almost 1,200, and the target for mathematics teachers has been missed by 1,850 recruits. The figures published by the Department for Education in 2016, also showed teacher vacancies up by 26% over the year, with 920 vacancies for full-time permanent teachers in state-funded schools, up from 730 the year before.
So how does this compare to the US teacher talent pool? When we looked online, it seems many of the same issues are apparent. A 2017 Washington Post article referenced a study which published data stating that teacher education enrollment dropped by 35%, from 691,000 to 451,000, between 2009 and 2014, and that nearly 8 percent of the teaching workforce is leaving every year, many before retirement age.
The reasons behind the shortages are similar to those in the United Kingdom. 1. Student enrollments are increasing and will continue to do so by 3 million, to 53 million total, in the next decade. This is driven by higher birth rates and immigration. 2. Teacher attrition is high, at 8% annually, with two-thirds of those that leave, doing so before retirement age, and most because of dissatisfaction with the conditions of their employment. So it seems there is a similar situation with the teacher shortage in both the UK and US.
So this is all interesting, but what about the day-to-day experience of those teachers who are working in schools. How do the jobs compare? We took a look at salaries, and using data from The OECD, we did some side-by-side comparisons. This is what we found out. For starting salaries, US teachers are paid up to $42,000, where as in England, it is up to $31,000. Teachers working in the industry beyond 15 years, US teachers are paid up to $45,000, and in England it’s $42,000. For top of the scale teachers, US teachers are paid up to $46,000, where as in England it is still $42,000. Looking at how the ages of these teachers compare, the average age of a schoolteacher in America is 43, where as in England it is 39.
In fact, teachers in England are the fifth youngest, based on a survey of 5 million teachers in 34 countries. So US teachers do a little better on the salary front, but maybe there are some other drawbacks. What about working hours? Well, unfortunately for those teachers in England, the lower pay doesn’t equal lower hours. According to a study that was referenced in an article in the UK newspaper, The Independent, teachers in England work longer hours than almost anywhere else in the world. The study found secondary school teachers work an average of 48.2 hours per week, with one in five working 60 hours or more. That’s an extra 2.7 hours per week compared to teachers in America. The extra hours are spent on marking papers, lesson preparation, and filling out forms.
So the pros of teaching certainly seem to be weighted to the US side, but an area we haven’t explored, is teaching materials and supplies. UK schools are provided with supplies such as pens, paper and learning resources, and though we did find some cases where the school budget had been exhausted and the teachers had to dip in to their own pockets, these seem to be isolated.
However, in the US, this is a highly controversial area and in many cases, teachers are being lumbered with large bills for supplies, which if they do not buy, the teaching activities may not happen. According to a study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association, US teachers spend around $500 of their own money each year on supplies for their students. And in 2015, when the Huffington Post asked teachers to tweet how much they spent on their classrooms, many replied saying several hundred dollars, and some even several thousand, so this $500 average might be low.
We all know the importance of good teachers, so let’s look at what the data says in terms of student perspective. Statistics from an ING Foundation Survey, told us this; roughly 88 percent of people say a teacher had a “significant, positive impact” on their lives; Around 98 percent of people say a teacher can change the course of a student’s life, and though it can vary by grade level and number of years teaching, the average teacher affects more than 3,000 students during their career. There’s a lot to say about our community of teachers on both sides of the ocean, and whichever country a teacher is based in, there are always benefits and drawbacks.
Are you a teacher who has his or her own perspective on this subject? Maybe you’ve worked in both the US and UK? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our other video called Average American vs Average European! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!