March 2, 2021

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OECD Report: COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that teachers cannot be substituted by on-line learning

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Education International has commented on the release of the latest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), entitled ‘Positive, High-achieving Students? What Schools and Teachers Can Do’. It has reaffirmed that teachers are and cannot be replaced by education technologies.

The report focuses on the link between the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

It is based on evidence from countries which participated in the TALIS/PISA link project, covering schools that participated in both the OECD’s TALIS 2018 and the PISA 2018. The countries involved in the project were: Australia, Ciudad Autonoma de Buenos Aires (CABA Argentina), Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Georgia, Malta, Turkey, and Vietnam. 

The OECD warned that caution should be taken in interpreting the report’s results. It said that no direct links can be drawn between students and teachers. The results can only be interpreted as correlational, and the limited number of jurisdictions taking part mean that the generalisability of the findings can only be limited.

Education International also underlined that the report’s methods of data collection could also raise questions, because they combine TALIS and PISA data and a machine learning technique for data collection. 

Importance of teachers and schools for students’ social, emotional and cognitive learning

“Despite the caveats the reason why the report is important is because it contains one of the direct statements the OECD has made to date about the importance of teachers and schools for students’ social, emotional and cognitive learning,” Education International’s General Secretary, David Edwards, recognised.

He added that the report is “a robust rejection of arguments which claim that the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that teachers can be substituted by on-line learning and it draws on a range of available research literature to reinforce its case”.

The OECD report indeed highlights that “the data tell us exactly what we have been learning about remote learning during this pandemic: teachers and schools really do matter for students”. It also acknowledges that “most parents have newfound respect for what teachers do in their classrooms […] and even if they like the flexibility, most students realise they miss interacting with their classmates and learning in schools”.

Support for Education International’s positions on teacher policy 

Edwards went on to stress that one of the most significant findings focuses on teacher job satisfaction. The OECD indicates that teachers’ job satisfaction and well-being are correlated to student achievement and a positive school culture and advises that,” in consultation with teachers, school leaders and education authorities could review working conditions in order to identify areas that could be improved”. 

This statement has strong relevance for education unions negotiating on members’ working conditions in the context of the pandemic, Edwards explained.  

New OECD conclusions 

Education International further noted a range of new OECD conclusions:

Social and economic disadvantage has a negative impact on student performance. 

In relation to gender and student assessment, boys seem to be more disturbed than girls by classroom disciplinary problems and school organisational issues.

Classes with students from mixed social backgrounds and with mixed abilities have an overall positive effect on student achievement.

Excessive administrative responsibilities on teachers undermine student learning.

Education International is calling on its member organisations to comment on the report, as their views on reports such as these are vital in helping inform Education International’s responses to global research.

The OECD report is available here
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