Chapter 3: Dimensions


As Chapters 1 and 2 establish, teacher quality is generally accepted as an important determinant – although not the only one – of education outcomes. Good-quality teaching and teachers rely on high levels of teacher professionalism and autonomy: teachers need to be active agents in ensuring effective teaching and learning. Discussion of teacher quality should be underpinned by a contextualized and clear understanding of the pedagogical processes that generate quality learning and how a teacher agency can enact them (Sayed and Ahmed, 2014).

Good-quality teachers are a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for successful education. Good teaching is the result of a complex combination of different skills and competencies, working environments and support, as well as factors such as motivation and commitment. A body of evidence now shows that a number of factors impact both positively and negatively on teacher quality or performance. These include: initial education, CPD and qualifications; class sizes and PTRs; employment conditions, including rewards and incentives; working conditions and environment; access to resources; respect for teachers and their perceived social and professional status; involvement in decisions which affect them; and professional autonomy.

This chapter examines the most important dimensions a teacher policy needs to address. Many are interrelated and rooted in the historical, political, cultural or economic contexts of a given country or education system. For this reason, they must be addressed together as part of a holistic, integrated teacher policy.

Although the chapter focuses on the most important elements of a teacher policy, these must be seen in the context of a specific country or education system. Some of these elements have been the subject of extensive research and study, and the space available does not allow an exhaustive discussion of each. This chapter sets out the basic principles of each dimension; it then provides references to more detailed sources (in the form of both embedded references and hyperlinks) to allow the users of this Guide to research them in greater detail, as required. The chapter presents the basic principles of nine key dimensions that are considered crucial to any comprehensive teacher policy:

  • Teacher recruitment and retention
  • Teacher education (initial and continuing)
  • Deployment
  • Career structures/paths
  • Teacher employment and working conditions
  • Teacher reward and remuneration
  • Teacher standards
  • Teacher accountability
  • School governance.

Activity: The nine dimensions of a National Teacher Policy

Section 3 sets out the nine key dimensions of a National Teacher policy. As you read, think about your own context and for each dimension, identify three aspects that are particularly challenging or relevant to your own context.

For example:

Under 3.1, Elizabeth (working in the UK) identified:

  • The recruitment and retention of school leaders (3.1.6). Many posts remain unfilled owing the high stakes inspection and testing regimes which make it a very stressful job.
  • Recruitment problems in certain subject areas (STEM subjects) (3.1.1) as science graduates can earn more in our professions.
  • The lack of diversity in the teaching profession (3.1.5). Ethic minorities form 14% of the population in the UK and are under-represented in the teaching profession.

Under 3.3: Florence (working in Zambia) identified:

  • Deployment to rural, remote and difficult urban areas (3.3.2) as an issue. People do not want to go and work in remote rural areas and need incentives to do so.
  • Deployment to initial postings (3.3.3). As a young teacher she was posted to a rural school where she was the only female teacher. She felt vulnerable and unsupported. She would like to see policies to ensure newly qualified teachers are well-supported.
  • Deployment and the right to family life (3.3.4). When teachers are transferred, it can be difficult for the rest of the family.

When you reach the end of this section, you should have identified three priorities in your context for each of the nine dimensions.

3.1 Teacher recruitment and retention