What influences social status of teachers?

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China, Greece, Turkey and South Korea may seem like an unlikely quartet of countries to top a teacher quality list, but these countries have taken top honors in a recent study.

The Varkey GEMS Foundation conducted an international survey of the perception of teachers' social status in 21 countries, and the list of nations above each hold the profession in the highest regard.  What is driving the elevated social status of teachers in these countries? Here are some theories:

  • Achievement scores - A definite no. As you'll notice, Greece and Turkey are not at the front of the pack in PISA scores. In fact, when the authors of the report compared PISA scores to social standing ratings, there was no correlation.

  • Teacher salaries - Just as surprisingly, social status of teachers does not relate to average salaries either. Perhaps the most telling - and extreme - examples are Greece and Turkey, which rate teacher social status very high, buy pay their teachers toward the bottom of those studied.
  • Perception of education system - Another no. The same study asked the question: How good is the education system in your country? The results did not match up with social status rankings either, but did more closely mirror PISA results. One of the few exceptions being South Korea, which has one of the highest regards for teachers and high PISA scores, came in third to last in what it thinks of the education system. Give yourself a break, South Korea!

So what gives? If student outcomes and compensation aren't related to the social status of teachers, what is? Entrance criteria for the profession? Value of education to society? What other indicators should we be watching?