According to a recent study by Taloustutkimus, Finns consider teachers to be one of the most important occupational groups for the country's future. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many have come to realise the difficulty and value of the work of teachers in a deeper way, as a noticeably larger number of people now rated the importance of the teaching profession a full ten out of ten. The OAJ also wants that appreciation to be reflected on the teachers’ pay and working conditions in order for the teaching profession to remain an attractive career option.
Which profession is the most important for the future of Finland? When the Finns are asked that question, teachers and researchers are at top of the list. Finns rated the importance of the teaching profession a nine plus out of ten, which is an excellent result. What makes the work of teachers especially important is teaching new skills and influencing the development of learners and the future of the country as a whole.
What makes the work of teachers especially important is teaching new skills and influencing the development of learners and the future of the country as a whole.
The results are based on a survey conducted by the Taloustutkimus, which got more than one thousand responses from Finns in early January. A corresponding survey was last conducted one year earlier, and appreciation towards teachers has increased in comparison to that survey.
On a school grade scale, as many as 41 per cent of respondents rated the teaching profession a full ten out of ten, while one year earlier, the corresponding number was 35 per cent.
Teachers are particularly valued by those whose daily life is closely linked to teachers in some way, such as families with children and students and learners of different ages.
“Already a year ago, the level of appreciation was very high. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the fact that the level of appreciation has further increased and that a noticeably larger number of people rated the importance of teachers a full ten out of ten. Through public discourse and the experiences of those around them, Finns have realised how significant an effect the work of competent teachers has both on the lives of individual learners and on society as a whole,” says OAJ President Olli Luukkainen.
Finns agree on the value and difficulty level of the work – support for additional resource allocation
Almost all respondents to the survey conducted by Taloustutkimus agreed that the work of teachers is valuable to society as a whole (97%), responsible (96%) and demanding (91%).
A larger than previous proportion of respondents (88%) were of the opinion that funding for education and research in Finland should be at least at the same level as in the other Nordic countries. Half of Finns think that teachers are paid too little – and only 12 % disagree with that.
Nine out of ten Finns think that funding for education and research in Finland should be at least at the same level as in the other Nordic countries.
“In Finland, there is still a contradiction in that teachers are valued but that appreciation is not conveyed to them in practice. Teachers feel that the appreciation should also be better reflected in their pay and working conditions. Success in the profession requires not only a high level of education but also time and the opportunity to focus on the essential, which is supporting each learner. Factors that have an adverse affect therein include group sizes, which have grown too large, and the ever-increasing number of tasks irrelevant to the actual work of teachers,” Luukkainen says.
"It’s about time that the priceless work that teachers do is compensated accordingly"
According to Luukkainen, we need to do more to hold on to highly qualified teachers and attract competent new professionals to the sector. Showing and improving appreciation are not enough on their own.
“In Finland, resources allocated to education and teachers’ salaries are often discussed in terms of how expensive it would be to increase them. This is completely upside down because it would be even more expensive in human and economic terms if teachers were to become exhausted or cynical and change jobs. Also in financial terms, investing in education today is wiser than paying the cost of exclusion later.”
Luukkainen would therefore like to send a message to decision-makers and employers: it is their responsibility to ensure that the current problems hampering teachers' ability to cope are resolved.
“The results of the survey conducted by Taloustutkimus reveal that the most positive perceptions of teachers are linked to one’s own school experiences and to those of people around them. It reflects the competence of our teachers and the way that they have managed to support individual learners through generations. Recently, problems in the sector have also frequently been brought up in public discourse. These should not be swept under the carpet. Instead, decision-makers and employers must take action, so that future generations can grow with the support of the best teachers in the world. It’s about time that the priceless work that teachers do is compensated accordingly.
How Taloustutkimus surveyed perceptions of teachers
- Taloustutkimus conducted the survey in the form of telephone interviews in January 2022. There were 1,004 respondents.
- The study sample was formed by random sampling. The results represent the views of mainland Finns aged 15–79.
- The margin of error of the study at the 95% confidence level is around 3 percentage points.
Text: Heikki Pölönen
Foto: Leena Koskela