While American salaries aren’t the lowest, many other countries not only pay better, but the gap is really, really big.
The simple summary: Other countries make teaching a more financially attractive career for college graduates than we do.
The facts are the facts. But allow me to predict one response to these facts: “Teachers aren’t motivated by money, they teach because they love it.” Often true. And I’ve noticed that the people who say that teachers teach for love are quite often themselves very good teachers. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine someone who teaches well who doesn’t like their students. However, it’s very easy to imagine many, many potential teachers—who would also love their students just as much—who have made the decision to forego a teaching career in order to better provide for their family.
Dollars aren’t the only thing that determines career choice. Prestige and working conditions matter too. (Finland pays a fair amount better than the U.S. The prestige attached to being a teacher is enormously higher.) My guess is that being a teacher has both more prestige and better working conditions in other industrialized countries than here at home. (How do administrators treat teachers? How do parents treat teachers? Heck even, how do students treat teachers?) No data though, so either facts or anecdotes from those who know more about teaching in other countries are in order.
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