3.5 Teachers’ employment and working conditions

A teacher policy should strive to establish the most conducive working (teaching/learning) environment for motivating individual teachers and the school team to achieve three simultaneous and interacting goals:

  • Produce the highest levels of professional teaching and job satisfaction
  • Focus on core teaching and learning responsibilities
  • Maximize teacher effectiveness, measured by learning achievements or outcomes.

A number of principles should guide policy on education working environments:

  • The work of professional teachers is enhanced by the provision of a supportive working environment in which:
    • Teachers are able to work autonomously
    • Their responsibilities are clearly delineated
    • Management/supervision strikes a balance between respect for teacher autonomy and fulfilment of their responsibilities to learners.
  • Teachers will provide a high level of professional service based on policies they help design, implement and evaluate
  • Teachers are able to foster the best learning environment for students and help achieve the highest learning outcomes if they are provided the time and support to engage in:
    • Collegial activities within the school team
    • Appropriate and regular interaction with students and parents
    • Professional development and other reflective activities as a regular part of their professional activities.

In accordance with international standards, policy on teacher working conditions should be established in consultation or negotiation with teacher union representatives – also a key factor in improving learning quality (ILO/UNESCO, 1966; ILO, 2012; OECD, 2005; UNESCO, 2014a).

Employment and working conditions have a strong impact on the perceived status of the teaching profession, on the profession’s ability to attract and retain high-quality candidates, and on teacher motivation, morale and profession satisfaction (see, for example, Bennell, 2004; Bennell and Akyeampong, 2007; Mulkeen, 2010; Mulkeen and Chen, 2008; VSO, 2002 and 2008; UNESCO, 2010a).The working conditions that affect positively or negatively teachers’ motivation and morale, as well as attraction, retention and commitment, include:

  • Hours of work, workload and work-life balance
  • Class sizes and PTRs
  • School infrastructure
  • Availability and quality of teaching and learning materials
  • Student behaviour and discipline
  • School violence
  • Autonomy and control.

Leave terms and access to part-time teaching within a diversified career structure

3.5.1 Hours of work, workload and work-life balance