Teachers' Salaries: Key to Quality Education

After the release of PISA scores in 2007, in which Finland had the top scores, questions have been raised to pinpoint the key factor behind Finland's success in basic education. The scores from Finland are not only high but are also marked with a relatively low standard deviation. Finland's students are well educated and the results are uniform throughout the country. Israel, whose students captured the 39th spot, offers an answer:

A comparison between Israel and Finland yields the following findings.
  • Finland actually invests less in elementary schools than Israel. Obviously, investing less is not the reason why Finland's students have better performance. In fact, considering all the countries that participate in PISA shows only a weak correlation between the test scores and the amount of investment made by each country for its students. Using this weak correlation, Israel estimates that by increasing its investment per student by 50 percent, only a slight improvement is expected, Israel will probably be 33rd instead of 39th. 
  • The total instructional time in a year for a Finnish high school student is about 800 hours, while in Israel, the number is 1000 hours. Longer instructional hours apparently do not lead to better student performance.
  • The pupil:teacher ratios in both countries are similar, 16-17 students per teacher.
  • The math and science classes make up 26 percent of the curriculum in both countries. There is no difference here.
None of the above can explain the much higher performance of Finnish students compared to those of Israel except:


An elementary school Finnish teacher earns $48 per hour of instruction while in Israel the pay is $18 per hour. In high school, a teacher in Finland receives $79 per hour while an Israeli teacher makes $27. Teachers in Israel also work longer hours than teachers in Finland, 54% more in elementary and 25% more in high school. 

We can compare the above with how the Philippine government has been treating its teachers especially the kindergarten volunteers. These teachers are paid about less than $2 per hour. We will definitely get what we pay for.

So, please, ring those bells loud. Salary upgrading of teachers to SG-15 will bring the teacher's pay to approximately $8 per hour, still much lower than either Israel or Finland, but surely, a step in the right direction.