Why do teachers always get paid so little?
It has also bothered me personally as I have always worked alongside mostly local teachers who are often unmotivated and exhausted because of the amount of compensation they get for their effort and the amount of moonlighting (outside working hours) they have to give just to make ends meet.
It's not a question that is unique to Indonesia although just as important to address here as anywhere else in the world.
Before we address the above question we should first establish if they really are paid too little. Fortunately there is no lack of studies done on this globally. The studies have been conducted in different ways.
- Focusing on the salary of teachers per hour compared to those of similarly educated professionals in regards to the duration of their degrees. Including benefits such as paid holidays etc.
- Focusing on the salary of teachers per hour compared to those of similarly intelligent professionals in regards to their IQ. Including benefits such as paid holidays etc.
In short most studies from the U.S. (where the compensation for teachers is pretty good compared to other parts of the world) show that teachers are paid less than their counterparts in both cases; although the gap is not as large as you would expect. That is thanks to the inclusion of average hours worked, where if you were to calculate it, teachers work much less hours than similarly intelligent or educated professionals, which makes them almost as well paid.
I feel however that those studies are based on a very shallow view of the teacher’s workload and do not take into account two very important points:
- The afterhours work that teachers put in. Often the studies focus on 'teaching hours' as many teachers in most parts of the world are permitted to go home when they've finished those hours. It also doesn't include the huge amount of professional development that teachers need to do to make sure they are always giving their best to their students.
- The impact that teachers have on society which is by far the most of almost any profession (despite the initial training of a teacher being fairly 'easy and light' compared to other professions).
So I think the statement still stands strong. Teachers are paid way too little for what they do (or should be doing).
Why are they paid so little? Probably because most governments of the world have lost a sense of priority. Probably also because the results of the changes that are made in education today, will not be seen in working society for perhaps a decade - long after the current politicians in power have changed. That leads to a lack of accountability which of course then leads to a lack of action and thus change.
Generally around the world teachers are paid about as well as laborers, sometimes less. This means that increasingly less people are looking at getting into teaching and although they may feel passionate about education, they will choose other fields that are more financially beneficial.
I guess the question should not be 'Why are teachers leaving the trade?' or 'Why do teachers always get paid so little?' but 'Why do they stay?' and 'What can they do to improve their situation?'.
Why do teachers stay in the profession or even choose it in the first place?
The answer in short is simple. Most teachers choose to teach because they want to make a difference in the world. Whether or not this passion stays with them throughout their career or even throughout their degree is another matter. So teaching is a career of sincerity. People do not choose to teach because they want to earn a decent living, they usually teach because they want to make a difference and want to serve society where it really matters.
Some teachers enter the profession for all the wrong reasons though. Usually because the degree is a relatively easy and cheap one or because they look at teaching as a pretty easy and simple job (with few hours).
Really then this article is for the majority of teachers, not those free loaders who think teaching is a breeze and just want to clock in and out ASAP to get their dosh (money) and sit in front of the TV watching soapies and reality TV.
This article is for those teachers who chose teaching for all the right reasons. They want to make a difference in this world and serve humanity in the best way they can.
What can teachers do to improve their financial situation?
So teachers don't look like they are going to get more money from private schools (which are mostly essentially money making businesses) or government schools (which are struggling to get better funding) any time soon, which means teachers are left with improving their financial position by themselves.
It's important that they are able to improve their financial situation because although teaching is truly a career of sincerity they still have families to support and dreams to fulfill. Without the ability to do those things the quality of education will suffer, this is a no brainer.
Let's first look at a few way teachers commonly try to improve their financial situation.
Private tutoring: The most common method is to do more teaching. Quiet a simple concept I guess 'I need more money so I'm going to work more'. One teacher explained it to me like this 'I only work at a school for prestige, I get a lot more money from my private students an work much less hours'. Often teachers get around 50,000-150,000 an hour doing private teaching with middle class students which is considerable considering their daily wage from the school is around 75,000. This means they can sometimes more than double their wage by doing just and extra hours work each evening.
Problems with Private Tutoring: It's not always easy to find clients and the work is not always stable. Also by teaching you own students or students from the school there is a moral issue of 'Shouldn't they be getting that kind of support from the teachers anyway?'. That is why many schools have forbidden teachers taking on private students on who are from that teachers school or at least from their own classes (which usually just ends up with an exchange between teachers anyway).
Working after hours at an institute: Similar to private tuition teachers can sometimes double their salary by doing this. They sign a contract with a language institute or tuition college and can usually make the same kind of money they make at their day job.
Problems with working after hours at an institute: The working hours of institutes often collide with teaching duties especially if there is a special event at the school. There are institutes that take this into account and let teachers who have day jobs plan at home and arrive a bit later than usual but still for special events there are few solutions. Besides that if a teacher works at an institute they will often be working until 8 or 9 pm at night which makes them very tired and worn out. That will almost always affect their performance in one or both positions which is why many schools and institutes now forbid their employees to work anywhere else (this is often stipulated in the employee contract).
Having a business on the side: This is probably one of the better options for teachers but requires a particular skill set in itself. Not all people are able to become successful entrepreneurs off the bat, especially when they are trying to balance a new business with a full time job. None the less many teachers are successful doing this. Common micro-businesses that teachers can manage while still working full-time include:
- Having a shop at home which the wife or husband (who isn't working) takes care of.
- Selling a product to people connected to the school (in or around working hours) as well as to the general public (after work).
- Becoming a sales executive that works on commission selling a product or service such as cosmetics or insurance.
- Putting together a co-op investment scheme amongst the teachers
- In some cases a teacher has enough money through inheritance or savings to manage to build a very successful business on the side with employees and a concrete location - this however often leads to them leaving their teaching career
The problems with having a business on the side: Having a shop at home means you need to have somebody at home to look after it, which means it's not really a business at all, it's a job for that person at home.
Selling a product to people connected to the school or outside the school is time consuming and will no doubt take time away from lesson planning and supporting slower students. If done in school hours it'll make the teacher tired and worn out. There is also the issue of sourcing suppliers which can take time.
Becoming a sales executive usually does not bring in a whole lot of money and can sometimes annoy friends and coworkers as any MLM program does.
Putting together a co-op is an extremely low-profit venture and you usually end up spending any profit made by buying from the co-op yourself. It's only real use is that you can get intrest free loans from the co-op which is nice.
A successful larger business for employees usually means the teacher is financially better off putting their time into the business instead of teaching, sometimes the business itself ends up demanding this as it expands.
The above ideas are not all bad. In fact I've seen one or two teachers implement one, a few or all of them with quiet some success (usually with the help of multi-vitamins, energy drinks and power naps).
An example of a teacher who implements all of the income supplement ideas above would be like the below:
Day job wage: 1.5jt
Extra wage from evening job: 1jt
Extra wage from tutoring private students between the hours of students going home and teachers going home (usually between 1-2hours which should be used for planning, correcting and meetings):1jt
Profit from sales executive commission: 500rb
Profit from product sales: 500rb
Profit from co-op investments: 50rb
Weekend tutoring 1.5jt
Totaling: RP 7,550,000
This however is the activity of a workaholic and it is likely that the quality of any of these ventures wouldn't be any good at all. Still possible, but not a good idea.
So what is a better way to improve our financial situation (without draining all our energy reserves) while still giving the best to our students, making a difference and serving society?
The first step is realizing that you don't get paid enough for the hours you work. This is not acceptable, if you are in a middle-class school or above it's not ethically okay that you get paid what you do. You are probably getting paid that much because of one of two reasons:
1. The school puts their money into facilities instead of manpower. This is much like a rich man buying a very expensive car only to hire the cheapest driver he can. The driver will no doubt mistreat the car, maybe even damage it and won't give the best service to his passenger (the boss). In the case of the driver the boss is directly affected and that is why most drivers earn more than most teachers. In the case of a teacher the damage is not so clear or immediate.
2. The school doesn't put money into facilities or manpower and only cares about the immediate profit.
If you're in the second type of school get out! Abandon ship! Count your losses!
If your in the first kind of school you need to make your case clear to management. The only way to do this is as a union. All of the teachers at the school should be serious about getting paid what they deserve and more importantly deserving more than what they are paid (this should make sense).
Having experience in several newly built schools I know that in the beginning better facilities means a bigger profit for the foundation. Parents like any customer buy based on perceived benefits and value. However parents also like any customer will continue buying and referring the service to friends only due to results and excellence in service i.e. perceptions can change and they do very quickly if promises aren't kept. Unfortunately not all parents realize when their children aren't learning enough and aren't getting the best out of their education. They only look to the report card and the national summative test as an indication of how well their child is doing. Fortunately most parents aren't blind either and will usually recognize quality instruction in action.
The fact of the matter is that better teaching conquers all. This is what (in the long run) will cause parents to keep putting their children in your hands and refer those masterful hands to others. So, improve quality of teaching and you'll improve the business as a whole. Make sure this is your key case when proposing a salary raise as a union to the management. First show them how good your teaching can get, increase your productivity and passion (making your hours more valuable). Then work together to get that raise you now definitely deserve.
The second step is realizing that you will never get paid enough for the difference you make in society. That is your legacy, your donation to society, your calling. Expect to get paid for the benefit you give to the business (the school) but never expect to get paid more for the benefit you give to society. Those are the extra small and magical things you give the individual human beings you mentor. Those things, that sincere work that separates a masterful teacher to just a really good one has no price and can not and will not be bought. This means that if you work in a government school the chance of a pay rise is very slim.
So if you can't get a pay rise for the value of the hours you put in and you'll never get a pay rise for the value of the contribution you make to society, how can you improve your financial situation?
Luckily there are still three very powerful options at hand:
1. Learn money management and basic investment
2. Consider your time teaching as a training program in excellence and set up a passive information business
3. Create your own school
Or why not do all three?
Easier said than done you say? To bloody right it is. But it isn't as hard as you think either.
I'm going to put you onto three tips that can help you learn more about these three powerful options.
1. Learn about money management and basic investment from these two points.
Invest in projects, not businesses and make your main investment sweat.
Tip: The better you get at making projects the less sweat you need. Examples of projects that are rich in sweat investment include: Events, Parties, Bazaars, Camps and products that you make yourself (especially information products which leads to point number 2).
Finally don’t get caught in the credit trap (if you already are, count your losses and pay the price with more sweat investment).
2. Lean about setting up a Passive Information Business from:
3. Learn about a way to create your own school by studying the co-operative concept. Imagine a school where the bulk of the profit goes back to the teachers? Imagine twenty teachers not sharing just 380jt a year but a couple of billion a year (monthly salary of around 8jt a month). As well as having a school with some of the best facilities around. All of that is possible with the co-operative concept.
So those are three great possibilities which I believe are very doable for teachers. There is no doubt many more but the point of it all is that you should never forget about what got you into teaching in the first place.
If you want me to expand on any of the things discussed about above just drop me an email. If you liked this article don’t forget to share it around.
Until next time, keep shining, sharing and changing lives!