Teaching may be a rewarding profession, but in Israel those rewards are intangible – because Israeli teachers are near the bottom of the charts in advanced countries in terms of salaries. A study of member states of the Organization for Economic Development (OECD) shows Israeli teachers coning in 28th place out of 36 OECD countries and observers polled. In dollar terms, Israeli teachers earn a maximum of $28,715 after 15 years on the job – and only $19,197 to start.
The OECD figures place Israel behind countries like Mexico and Turkey for teachers’ salaries, ahead of only Poland and Hungary. The salary gaps between teachers in Israel and most other OECD countries were constant across the spectrum of teaching roles, from kindergarten teachers and assistants to high school teachers. Among the latter, Israeli teachers earned an average of $19,917, compared to the OECD average of $31,013.
The report showed a clear connection between quality of education and teachers’ salaries. In international measures of the quality of science and maths studies, Israeli students on average perform below the average, as do students in other countries where teachers’ salaries are lower. With lower salaries, the report said, educational institutions have a harder time competing in the market for quality personnel, who prefer to pursue jobs in the private sector at higher salaries.
The best way to attract quality teachers, the report said, was to pay higher starting salaries to beginning teachers and offer them more opportunities for advancement.
A study last June by the Central Bureau of Statistics reached similar conclusions. Commenting on that study, Menashe Levi, chairman of the Israeli High School Teachers Association, said that finding quality teachers, especially in the sciences, was extremely difficult. “For many principals, the main qualification for a teacher to be hied is that they can breathe on their own,” he said. “I have been decrying this problem to the top figures in the education system for years, but to no avail.”