Na­tion’s teach­ers ‘well paid’

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - TIM DODD HIGHER ED­U­CA­TION EDITOR

Aus­tralian teach­ers are well paid by world stan­dards, earn­ing more on av­er­age than teach­ers in other de­vel­oped coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to new fig­ures from the OECD.

In its an­nual Ed­u­ca­tion at a Glance sur­vey, the OECD said Aus­tralian teach­ers were paid 36 per cent more than the OECD av­er­age at pri­mary level, 32 per cent more at lower sec­ondary level and 22 per cent more at up­per sec­ondary level when mea­sured in pur­chas­ing-power par­ity terms, which com­pares the cost of a bas­ket of goods and ser­vices in each country.

The OECD said the pre­mi­ums for Aus­tralian teach­ers were at the pre-pri­mary level, where they earned 52 per cent more than in other de­vel­oped coun­tries. The OECD re­port also re­vealed a gen­der gap in Aus­tralia’s ter­tiary ed­u­cated pop­u­la­tion: “In 2018, 59 per cent of young women in Aus­tralia were ter­tiary ed­u­cated com­pared to 44 per cent of young men.”

Aus­tralian school teach­ers are well paid by world stan­dards, earn­ing more on av­er­age than teach­ers in other de­vel­oped coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to new fig­ures from the OECD.

In its an­nual Ed­u­ca­tion at a Glance sur­vey, the OECD said Aus­tralian teach­ers were paid 36 per cent more than the OECD av­er­age at pri­mary level, 32 per cent more at lower sec­ondary level and 22 per cent more at up­per sec­ondary level when mea­sured in pur­chas­ing-power par­ity terms, which com­pares the cost of a bas­ket of goods and ser­vices in each country.

The OECD said the high­est pre­mi­ums for Aus­tralian teach­ers were at the pre-pri­mary level, where they earned 52 per cent more than teach­ers in other de­vel­oped coun­tries.

How­ever, Grat­tan In­sti­tute school ed­u­ca­tion an­a­lyst Peter Goss said the bonus for Aus­tralian teach­ers was not as high as it seemed be­cause Aus­tralian wages were above the av­er­age of other OECD coun­tries’ in pur­chas­ing-power par­ity terms.

OECD data showed Aus­tralian av­er­age wages were 14 per cent above the OECD av­er­age when mea­sured in this way, mean­ing Aus­tralians in gen­eral, not just teach­ers, earned more than their over­seas coun­ter­parts.

Ac­cord­ing to Aus­tralian Ed­u­ca­tion Union data, pub­lic school teach­ers’ salaries var­ied across states and ter­ri­to­ries but in most ju­ris­dic­tions started in the low $60,000s for new grad­u­ates and rose to the low $100,000s, de­pend­ing on fac­tors in­clud­ing se­nior­ity. Western Aus­tralia paid teach­ers well com­pared with other states, with a start­ing salary of $70,137, ris­ing to $116,626.

The OECD said Aus­tralian teach­ers had a com­par­a­tively flat ca­reer struc­ture com­pared with other de­vel­oped coun­tries, with their pay ris­ing quickly to the ceil­ing level: “For ex­am­ple, it takes only seven years for a lower sec­ondary teacher to progress from the statu­tory start­ing salary to the top of the scale, com­pared to 25 years on av­er­age across OECD coun­tries.”

The OECD data also said Aus­tralian teach­ers suf­fered the dis­ad­van­tage of hav­ing a lower salary in­crease in the course of their ca­reer, com­pared with their over­seas coun­ter­parts.

“At the top of the (Aus­tralian salary) scale, statu­tory salaries are only 48 per cent more than start­ing salaries at all lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion taught, com­pared to 61-67 per cent on av­er­age across OECD coun­tries,” the re­port said.

The re­port found school prin­ci­pals were well paid in Aus­tralia com­pared with other de­vel­oped coun­tries, be­ing 59 per cent higher than the OECD av­er­age in pur­chas­ing-power par­ity terms.

Dr Goss — who ar­gued in a re­cent Grat­tan In­sti­tute re­port that high-per­form­ing teach­ers’ pay needed to be in­creased to at­tract high ATAR stu­dents into teach­ing — said the best com­par­i­son mea­sure for Aus­tralian teacher salaries was grad­u­ate pay in other oc­cu­pa­tions, not the salaries of teach­ers over­seas. Aus­tralian teacher salaries were about 93 per cent of the salaries of other ter­tiary ed­u­cated work­ers.

The OECD re­port also re­vealed a large gen­der gap in Aus­tralia’s ter­tiary ed­u­cated pop­u­la­tion: “In 2018, 59 per cent of young women in Aus­tralia were ter­tiary ed­u­cated com­pared to 44 per cent of young men.”

“In Rwanda it’s not easy to get a job,” says Jean-Paul Ba­hati, a stu­dent at Ke­pler, founded in Ki­gali in 2013.

But the 22-year-old be­lieves his course will help him stand out. He stud­ies health­care man­age­ment, a grow­ing in­dus­try in Rwanda. Ke­pler’s de­grees are ac­cred­ited by South­ern New Hamp­shire Univer­sity, which runs one of the largest on­line uni­ver­si­ties in Amer­ica. The first six months are a crash course in skills such as crit­i­cal think­ing, English, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and IT.

In re­cent decades, mil­lions of young peo­ple such as Mr Ba­hati have swelled the num­ber of stu­dents in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa. To­day, eight mil­lion are in ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion, a term that in­cludes vo­ca­tional col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. That is about 9 per cent of young peo­ple — more than dou­ble the share in 2000 (4 per cent), but far lower than in other re­gions. In South Asia the share is 25 per cent; in Latin Amer­ica and the Caribbean, 51 per cent.

Both the num­ber and share of young peo­ple in ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa will keep grow­ing. If African coun­tries are to meet the as­pi­ra­tions of ed­u­cated young peo­ple, they must en­sure there are op­por­tu­ni­ties for fur­ther study.

But so far they have strug­gled. State-run in­sti­tu­tions that trained the post­colo­nial elites are find­ing it hard to serve a mass mar­ket. In much of the re­gion pub­lic fund­ing per stu­dent has fallen since the late 1990s as en­rol­ment has surged.

The ef­fects of spread­ing pub­lic fund­ing thinly are ap­par­ent on cam­puses. African uni­ver­si­ties have 50 per cent more stu­dents per pro­fes­sor than the global av­er­age. Stu­dents are like­lier to study hu­man­i­ties de­grees than science ones, which are more ex­pen­sive to teach. More than 70 per cent of grad­u­ates have arts de­grees, ver­sus 53 per cent in Asia.

More young peo­ple are head­ing abroad in­stead. In 2017 374,000 stud­ied over­seas, up from 156,000 two decades ear­lier. Many never re­turn. One in nine Africans with a ter­tiary qual­i­fi­ca­tion lives in an OECD country, com­pared with one in 13 Latin Amer­i­cans and one in 30 Asians.

With the pub­lic sec­tor strug­gling to meet de­mand for places and to of­fer a high-qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion, the pri­vate sec­tor is fill­ing the gap. From 1990 to 2014 the num­ber of pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa rose from 100 to 500, while pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties grew from 30 to more than 1000.

Many are small but they are en­rolling a grow­ing pro­por­tion of stu­dents, notes Daniel Levy of the Univer­sity of Al­bany. In 2000, about 10 per cent of African stu­dents went to pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions; by 2015 the share was 20 per cent. In Rwanda more than half do so.

Stu­dents at pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties of­ten ben­e­fit from new ways of teach­ing. Con­sider Ash­esi, in Ghana, which has grown steadily since its found­ing in 2002. Much of Ghana­ian higher ed­u­ca­tion is based on rote learn­ing, ob­serves Pa­trick Awuah, its founder and a for­mer Mi­crosoft en­gi­neer, and was not “teach­ing stu­dents to think crit­i­cally”. He based Ash­esi on Amer­i­can lib­eral-arts col­leges, where stu­dents com­bine hu­man­i­ties and sci­ences.

Vo­ca­tional out­fits can in­no­vate, too. ALX, a for-profit in­sti­tu­tion that opened its first cam­pus in Nairobi last year, runs a six­month “boot­camp” in soft skills, then helps stu­dents find a six­month in­tern­ship. Its gam­bit is that its brand be­comes so strong that em­ploy­ers do not mind that its grad­u­ates lack a de­gree.

“A tra­di­tional univer­sity model is very hard to make prof­itable,” says Fred Swaniker, the Ghana­ian founder of ALX. He should know. In 2013 Mr Swaniker set up the African Lead­er­ship Univer­sity, which was dubbed the “Har­vard of Africa”. But its cam­puses in Mau­ri­tius — $US15,000 ($21,900) a year for board and tu­ition — and Ki­gali ($US9000) are “too ex­pen­sive”, he con­cedes. It has ditched plans to open dozens of cam­puses sim­i­lar to these and in­stead is ex­pand­ing the cheaper ($US2000 a year) ALX model.

An­other rea­son for the shift is reg­u­la­tion. Gain­ing ac­cred­i­ta­tion is ar­du­ous.

Yet the big­gest bar­rier to ex­pand­ing ac­cess to ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion is stu­dent fi­nanc­ing. This is true for pri­vate and pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties, since in most African coun­tries pub­lic ones charge upfront tu­ition fees. “The bot­tle­neck is not the ed­u­ca­tion model; it’s the fi­nanc­ing,” says Teppo Jout­tenus of Ke­pler. This is not just an in­jus­tice but a sign of eco­nomic in­ef­fi­ciency.

The av­er­age gap be­tween wages earned by grad­u­ates and non-grad­u­ates in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa is wider than in other re­gions. It would make sense if stu­dents could de­fer the ex­pense. This would en­sure that those who ben­e­fit the most from univer­sity cover the costs, leav­ing more pub­lic money for other things.

Sev­eral African coun­tries have in­tro­duced state loan schemes. But govern­ments have strug­gled to chase up debts.

The pri­vate sec­tor is now try­ing to do a bet­ter job. Ke­pler and Ak­i­lah, an all-fe­male col­lege in Ki­gali, are work­ing with Chan­cen In­ter­na­tional, a Ger­man foun­da­tion, to try out a model of stu­dent fi­nanc­ing pop­u­lar among econ­o­mists — in­come share agree­ments.

Chan­cen pays the upfront costs of a se­lect group of stu­dents. Once they grad­u­ate, alumni pay Chan­cen a share of their monthly in­come, up to a max­i­mum of 180 per cent of the orig­i­nal loan. If they do not get a job, they pay noth­ing.

Ke­pler’s ex­per­i­ment be­gan only in Jan­uary. But models such as these should help more stu­dents gain qual­i­fi­ca­tions, while en­cour­ag­ing in­sti­tu­tions to think about their job prospects. That can be only good news for young Africans.

One in nine Africans with a ter­tiary qual­i­fi­ca­tion lives in an OECD country

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