Andreas Schleicher presents the new findings from the second volume of TALIS Starting Strong.
The work of early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals is the major driver of the quality of an ECEC system. As evidence accumulates on the strong benefits of investing in early education, countries need effective policies to attract, maintain and retain a highly skilled workforce in the sector. This report looks at the makeup of the early childhood education and care workforce across countries, assessing how initial preparation programmes compare across different systems, what types of in-service training and informal learning activities help staff to upgrade their skills, and what staff say about their working conditions, as well as identifying policies that can reduce staff stress levels and increase well-being at work. The report also looks at which leadership and managerial practices in ECEC centres contribute to improving the skills, working conditions and working methods of staff.
The OECD Starting Strong Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS Starting Strong) is the first international survey that focuses on the early childhood education and care workforce. It offers an opportunity to learn about the characteristics of ECEC staff and centre leaders, their practices at work, and their views on the profession and the sector. This second volume of findings, Building a High-Quality Early Childhood Education and Care Workforce, examines factors that influence the skills development of ECEC professionals, their working conditions and well-being at work, and leadership in ECEC centres.
To note: Denmark had low response rates. Results for this country are not fully comparable to results from other countries. This is why Denmark does not appear on Figures of this publication.
The first volume of results from the survey focused on the quality of ECEC environments, and investigating the main factors related to quality interactions of staff with children and parents. Findings in the first report highlighted the key role of staff and leaders in providing high-quality ECEC and the need for policies to better prepare and support staff in their daily activities and practices with children.
This second volume focuses on attracting, maintaining and retaining a quality workforce. The objective of this volume is to analyse and discuss more specifically policy areas that ensure a stable quality workforce in the sector.
The analytical framework for this report identifies three main policy areas as key pillars to attract, maintain and retain a high-quality workforce: • Policies for skills development, encompassing initial preparation programmes, in-service training and opportunities for informal learning. These policies serve to attract and prepare new entrants to the profession and to maintain a high-quality workforce by providing opportunities for skill upgrading training and career progression. • Policies on staff working conditions, including salaries, contract status, the organisation of work, and resources to reduce stress and promote well-being at work. These policies can help sustain a positive climate at the workplace, limit stress and increase job satisfaction, and thereby the capacity of the sector to retain highly skilled and motivated professionals. • Policies on leadership and management in ECEC centres, which play an important role in creating opportunities for skills development for staff and improving their working conditions and working methods. These policies contribute to the capacity of the sector to retain staff.
• In some countries, Iceland, Israel and Norway, a significant percentage of staff do not have a post-secondary degree. • The slide also shows the percentage of staff who have been specifically trained to work with children. This is not universal. • Staff in Japan, Korea, Turkey, Chile and Germany appear relatively well-prepared through their pre-service training.
(Not shown on the graph) Close to 70% of ECEC staff across countries completed a practical module during their pre-service education and training to work with children
Staff who underwent a “practicum” covered more areas in their pre-service training than staff whose programmes did not have such a practical dimension.
In particular topics that are less often integrated into initial preparation programmes, such as working with a diversity of children or working with parents and families are more often covered in programmes with a practicum.
Most staff indicated that they have participated in professional development activities in the 12 months prior to the survey. Assistants are less likely than teachers to participate in in-service professional development activities, especially in Chile and Israel (pre-primary). [no bar when the category assistant does not exist in the country] In some countries, novice teachers are less likely to participate in in-service training than experienced staff (Germany, Iceland) but in Japan the opposite holds.
In terms of type of training, courses/seminar attended in person are most common.
But other types of training could be of growing interest to ensure skills development.
Centre-embedded professional development can be well-connected to staff’s experience and needs at the centre level, and build on existing resources and trust.
Centre-embedded approaches for professional development remain less common than traditional forms of training. This is for instance the case of coaching and mentoring that are often highlighted as two promising models.
Online training is also not common.
Staff show high levels of self-efficacy in supporting children’s development, learning and well-being, e.g. providing all children with a feeling of security, helping children to interact with each other, or calming children.
Staff show a lower level of self-efficacy in working with a diversity of children, e.g. supporting the development of children from a disadvantaged background.
In all countries, they report the lowest level of self-efficacy for the use of digital technology.
As ECEC settings increasingly accommodate a diversity of children and are being exposed to digital technologies, these results point to the need to develop policies to raise the skills and confidence of staff in these areas.
Informal learning through collaborative activities and knowledge sharing within teams can play a key role for developing skills to work with children, but also for making the profession more appealing and retaining staff.
Almost two-thirds of pre-primary staff report engaging either daily or weekly in discussions with colleagues about various topics.
Exchanging pedagogical materials with peers, and providing feedback to colleagues about their practice are relatively less frequent, but still reported to occur on a daily or weekly basis by a bit less than half of staff on average across countries.
Beyond participation in training, this report puts forward 2 features of quality of training: 1) the number of areas covered or breadth of training and 2) the deepening of knowledge/competencies acquired in pre-service training through recent in-service training (alignment of training).
In all countries, ECEC staff covered a greater number of thematic areas in their pre-service education and training than in their recent in-service training activities, which is unsurprising given the different goals and length of initial preparation programmes and ongoing professional development.
More variation exists regarding the breadth of in-service training across countries with staff in Korea report having covered 6 or 7 thematic areas in their professional development activities during the past 12 months, whereas staff in Germany and Turkey report having covered 3 to 4.
Variation between countries in the number of thematic areas that staff covered at both stages mirrors variation in the breadth of in-service training. This reflects that ECEC staff generally had some prior exposure to the topics of their recent professional development activities during their initial preparation programmes, rather than encountering these topics for the first time. Staff revisit areas already covered in initial training through in-service training.
Topics related to child development, playful learning and working with a diversity of children are those most often covered by pre-primary staff in both pre-service and recent in-service training.
Facilitating children’s transitions to school and classroom/playgroup/group management are topics for which a larger share of staff lacks training.
Staff in all countries show a high level of satisfaction with the profession .
TALIS Starting Strong also asks staff whether “if they could decide again, they would choose to work as an ECEC staff”.
Answers to this question may give indication on the willingness of staff to remain in the profession and on the capacity of the sector to attract candidates.
The percentage of staff reporting agreement is generally large, but smaller for Japan and Korea.
On average across ECEC staff, retirement is the most likely reason to leave the role reported by the highest percentages of staff. As expected, this is particularly the case for older staff.
Large percentages of staff also report leaving due to health-related issues as the most likely reason to leave the job, which could suggest exposure to stress.
Smaller percentages of staff indicate working in a different job as the most likely reason to leave the profession. On the one hand, this reflects the high level of engagement of staff; on the other, it highlights the limited possibilities for career progression that they envisage.
Work in a different job, not in the ECEC sector is the most likely reason to leave for a significant share of staff.
From 75% of staff in Israel for pre-primary to 31% in Japan feel valued by society.
Staff with lower educational attainment agree more than staff with higher educational attainment that ECEC staff are valued by society in several countries.
Assistants are more likely than teachers to report that ECEC staff are valued by society in some countries.
The various components of the working conditions can be thought of as either generating demands on staff (in grey) or resources and rewards to meet these demands (in blue).
Job demands are defined as those physical, psychological, social or organisational aspects of the job that require sustained effort and are therefore associated with certain costs for individual staff. Examples are high work pressure coming from the multiple tasks to perform, workload, size of the classroom that can make it difficult to manage children’s behavior and lead to emotionally demanding tasks.
Job resources refer to those physical, psychological, social or organisational aspects of the job that enable workers to achieve goals and deal with or face job demands. Examples of job resources are opportunities for training, material resources, work autonomy or control over decisions. Examples of job rewards are salary, other conditions of the work contract and career progression.
The balance between job demands and resources determine well-being at work. Stress emerges from imbalances between job demands and job resources.
In all countries, a majority of staff indicate a low satisfaction with the salary they receive for their work (in blue).
Related to this finding, when staff are asked to indicate the priority for the ECEC sector if the budget were to be increased, a large majority of staff in all countries except to some extent in Norway indicate improving salaries as being of “high importance”.
The number of hours worked at the centre by staff working full time can be an indication of workload.
There is variation across countries.
In countries where staff work many hours (Chile, Japan and Korea), this is partly driven by the number of hours spent without children.
Leaders play an important role in the day-to-day working environment in the ECEC sector.
A minority of staff report that they need more support from their leader in Iceland and a majority report so in Korea.
TALIS Starting Strong asks staff about whether and to what extent various aspects of their work are a source of stress.
For all countries, stress related to workload due to insufficient human or financial resources is a major source for stress. Examples: a lack of resources or too many children in the classroom/playgroup.
Workload stress coming from work outside hours spent with children is also an important source of stress in most countries, e.g, too much administrative work or documenting children’s development.
Working with children and job-related responsibilities (e.g. being held responsible for children’s development, managing classroom) is reported as a high source of stress by smaller percentages of staff in most countries except Chile and Israel.
This contrasts with the findings from TALIS for lower secondary teachers, who broadly indicate that “being held responsible for students' achievement” is a top source of stress.
Stress could be limited by reducing group size, relieving staff from administrative work and from documenting children’s development, or by providing more resources to centres and staff. However, many countries face important budget and recruitment constraints and alleviating these sources of stress cannot be addressed easily. Some aspects of the work, such as documenting children’s development, may create stress to staff, but are needed for the quality of ECEC.
Policies can aim at mitigating stress by considering the various aspects of ECEC staff working conditions and targeting those for which changes are financially feasible and can lead to several benefits.
Policies can ensure that unfavorable working conditions do not accumulate on some ECEC staff.
Support from leaders, self-efficacy and satisfaction with salary act as buffers of stress in most of the countries. Policies can aim at developing further these buffers of stress.
Training related to the source of stress, collaborative practices and control over decisions are not found to act as effective buffers in the empirical analyses of this report. However, the academic literature points to these aspects as important buffers of stress. This suggests that these aspects are not sufficiently developed or not enough effective to act as significant buffers.
A majority of leaders has full autonomy on curriculum related decisions.
A minority of them has full autonomy on budget decisions and to some extent staff decisions.
Responsibilities are also shared between leaders and others (e.g. local authorities, centre governing boards).
Leadership encompasses several functions, the main ones being administrative and pedagogical leadership. Administrative leadership refers to tasks related to the management of operations, strategic planning and staff management. Pedagogical leadership refers to promoting the implementation of curriculum and assessment, creating trusting relationships, and supporting the professional growth of staff. Long-standing research has stressed the importance of the pedagogical function.
These leadership functions may be structured in different ways. Functions can be exercised by a formal centre leader alone (hierarchical leadership) or may be distributed among a leadership team or shared with ECEC staff (distributed leadership).
On average, leaders of pre-primary centres spend around 30% of their time on administrative functions and 20% of their time on pedagogical functions.
There are differences across countries. In Norway, ECEC centre leaders spend a large percentage of their time on administrative tasks. In Iceland on pedagogical leadership. In Israel on interactions with children (leaders with teaching role).
The size of the centre is an important determinant of the time leaders spend on the various functions.
Communication with parents is particularly important for this age group.
TALIS Starting Strong asks centre leaders about the way in which ECEC centres communicate with parents. Two types of activities are considered: informal communication (e.g. informal conversations on children’s development) and formal communication (e.g. attending parent-staff meetings).
As can be expected, informal communication takes place to a greater extent on a “daily” or “weekly” basis, whereas formal communication takes place more on a “monthly” or “less than monthly” basis.
Engagement with parents differs across countries. In Chile and Japan, leaders communicate quite frequently with parents both informally and formally.
In Norway and Iceland, informal communication dominates.
In Turkey, communication with parents is less frequent.
The survey includes questions to staff and leaders on the extent to which staff are involved in decisions. These give an indication on the extent to which leadership is distributed within centres.
A majority of both leaders and staff consider that their ECEC centre offers opportunities for staff involvement in decision making.
Views of staff and leaders are not always aligned. In all countries except Israel, a lower share of staff than leaders agree that leadership is distributed in their centre.
There is a clear positive between distributive leadership and different dimensions of staff job satisfaction.
When they enter their function, leaders have not all been trained for all aspects of their function.
Providing them with relevant in-service training is therefore important.
However, they face barrier to participate in professional development.
Like of time (conflict with the work schedule or not enough staff to compensate for my absence) are important barriers for large percentage of leaders in many countries.
Professional development being too expensive is also an important barrier.
In many participating countries, the share of staff with training for working with children from diverse backgrounds is greater in ECEC centres with a higher diversity of children.
This means that ECEC staff training profiles respond to the challenges associated with diverse groups of children in ECEC settings
This table shows the extent to which some aspects of the working conditions vary with the composition of children in the centre.
Most of the cells are blank, meaning that there are no systematic differences in staff’s working conditions according to the composition of children in the centre.
However, for a couple of countries and aspects of the working conditions, staff’s working conditions are less favourable in centres with a more diverse population of children (in yellow). For instance, in a couple of countries, staff report being more stressed by a lack of resources in centres with a higher share of children from diverse backgrounds.
Only in a limited number of cases (in blue), staff in these centres are supported by better working conditions in some of their aspects.
Building a high-quality early childhood education and care workforce: Further results from the Starting Strong Survey 2018
Building a High-Quality Early Childhood
Education and Care Workforce:
Further results from the Starting Strong
30 November 2020
What is TALIS Starting Strong?
An international survey of staff and leaders in early
childhood education and care
Ask staff and leaders about their working practices; training
and satisfaction; views about the sector
9 countries: Chile, Denmark (with low response rates),
Germany, Israel, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Norway, Turkey
2 levels of education: pre-primary (all countries); settings for
children under the age of 3 (4 countries)
training and skills
Main question of this report:
How to attract, maintain and retain a high quality ECEC workforce?
How can staff develop their skills along their career?
How can staff develop their skills along their career?
Pre-service education and
Training to work
specifically with children
Features of quality:
alignment of training
Education beyond secondary level (ISCED 4) and training to
work with children are not universal among ECEC staff
Percentage of staff with the following highest level of education and with training specifically to work
Staff whose pre-service programmes included a “practicum” covered
more areas of training
Average percentage of pre-primary staff covering each thematic area in their pre-service education
Participation in training is high, especially for teachers and
Percentage of staff having participated in professional development activities in the
last 12 months
Centres for children under age 3
Pre-primary (ISCED 02)
Centre-embedded models of professional development are less
common than off-site training activities
Average percentage of pre-primary staff participating in each type of in-service training activities in the
12 months prior to the survey
Staff are confident about their ability to promote children’s socio-
emotional development, but less so about working with a diversity of
children and using digital technology
Average percentage of pre-primary staff reporting that they feel they can do the following in their
work with children
Average percentage of pre-primary staff engaging in collaborative practices with different levels of
Some cooperation practices can be expanded
The benefits of broad and well-aligned training
Staff who covered a greater
number of areas in their training
have a higher sense of self-
efficacy for supporting child
development and learning
Staff who deepen knowledge of an
area acquired in initial preparation
through ongoing professional
development report adapting
more their practices to children’s
needs and interests
Across areas Along time
Thematic breadth of pre-service training and of recent in-service
Average number of thematic areas covered by ECEC staff in their pre-service education and training
and in professional development activities in the 12 months prior to the survey
Some knowledge/competencies are explored in both pre and in-
Average percentage of pre-primary staff in each training trajectory, by thematic area
ECEC staff working conditions and well-being
Satisfaction with the job is high
Percentage of staff answering the following to the statement “All in all, I am satisfied with my job”
A majority of ECEC staff would choose again to be an ECEC staff
Percentage of staff who “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement “if I could decide again, I would
choose to work as an ECEC staff”
Retirement is the most likely reason to leave the profession
together with leaving for health-related issues, suggesting high
levels of stress
Percentage of pre-primary education staff reporting the following reason as the most likely reason to
leave the ECEC staff role, by age group, average of participating countries
Not all ECEC staff feel valued by society, and teachers and more
educated staff are less likely to feel so
Percentage of staff who “strongly agree” with “I think that ECEC staff are valued in society”
- Job content (e.g. administrative tasks versus
- Size and composition of the
- Regulations, inspection
Job resources and rewards
- Education and training; informal learning
- Material resources
- Control over decisions
- Support from leaders
- Career progression opportunities
What are the relationships between working conditions, well-
being and stress?
Satisfaction with salary is low and improving salaries is a budget
priority according to ECEC staff
Percentage of staff answering the following to the following items
Differences in hours worked is driven by hours with no children
Average number of weekly hours of full time workers spent on tasks related to the job at the ECEC centre
Part of ECEC staff report to need for more support from their
Percentage of staff reporting the following to “I need more support from my ECEC centre leader”
Main sources of stress relate to workload coming from insufficient
resources and work outside hours spent with children
Chile Germany* Iceland Israel Japan Korea Norway Turkey Denmark**
Workload stress coming from work outside hours spent with children
Too much preparation work for children's activities 13 2 19 11 10 12 6 10 7
Too much work related to documenting children's development 16 23 5 16 13 27 5 16 20
Too much administrative work to do 19 16 4 16 21 38 10 15 20
Workload stress coming from insufficient human or financial resources
Extra duties due to absent staff 13 33 15 10 7 10 22 6 22
Too many additional duties (e.g. cleaning) 8 20 15 16 11 27 15 12 8
A lack of resources (e.g. financial , material, staff) 18 29 26 22 27 33 26 21 36
Too many children in my classroom/playgroup 18 29 39 34 9 29 31 16 24
Stress due to work with children and job-related responsibilities
Being held responsible for children's development, well-being and learning 15 8 5 17 15 11 4 13 6
Managing classroom/playgroup/group behaviour 16 7 13 24 11 15 9 11 10
Keeping up with changing requirements from authorities 10 11 10 19 8 24 9 10 10
Addressing parent or guardian concerns 11 6 6 12 14 28 4 17 4
Accommodating children with special needs 12 10 10 13 15 12 10 11 16
Percentage of pre-primary staff who report that the following is “a lot” a source of stress
What can be done to buffer stress at work?
Ensure that unfavourable
working conditions do not
accumulate on some ECEC
(e.g. large classrooms and
a diversity of children
Based on Job demand/ resource-reward models
Help staff deal with
Work on effective
Develop buffers that
have not been found
to be fully effective
Support from leaders
Satisfaction with salary
Training related to the
source of stress
Control over decisions
Making the most of leadership and management
Based on leaders’ reports at pre-primary level, average across participating countries
ECEC leaders’ responsibilities tend to be greater for pedagogy
related tasks than for budget decisions
How can leadership be characterised?
In most countries, ECEC leaders spend most of their time on
administrative leadership, followed by pedagogical leadership
Average proportion of time leaders report spending on different tasks during the 12 months prior to
ECEC leaders of small centres spend more of their time on
interactions with children
Proportion of time ECEC centre leaders report spending on interactions with children, on average
during the 12 months prior to the survey, by centre size
Frequency of ECEC centres’ communication with parents or
Percentage of leaders who report that the following activities take place in their centre
Pre-primary (ISCED 02)
Centres for children under age 3
Percentage of staff and leaders who “agree" or “strongly agree” that staff are involved in centre decisions
Perceptions of opportunities to participate in centre decisions
are positive, but less among staff than among centre leaders
Drivers and implications of strong ECEC leadership:
What do the data say?
In most participating countries:
Distributed leadership and pedagogical leadership go together
Staff who perceive leadership as being more distributed
collaborate more frequently and report higher satisfaction with
Pedagogical leadership is positively associated with staff attitudes
and practices linked to quality in ECEC settings
Leaders whose initial preparation focused on early childhood
and/or pedagogical leadership report more engagement in
Staff who perceive more opportunities for participating in centre
decisions are at least twice as likely to report high job satisfaction
Likelihood of staff reporting satisfaction with job among staff “strongly agreeing” that their centre leader
encourages all staff to have a say in important decisions, relative to other staff
Barriers to professional development for ECEC centre leaders
Percentage of ECEC centre leaders who reported that they “agree” or "strongly agree" with the following
barriers to professional development
I do not have the
conflicts with my
No time because
No incentives for
Not enough staff
% % % % % % %
Pre-primary education (ISCED 02)
Chile 7 67 62 29 32 59 48
Germany* 4 34 25 14 27 17 47
Iceland 5 28 42 19 21 27 44
Israel 5 24 31 44 18 47 49
Japan 16 42 76 35 30 35 56
Korea 39 58 86 51 55 72 80
Norway 3 39 31 19 2 7 39
Turkey 10 30 53 31 15 35 35
Denmark** 1 33 28 9 12 15 31
Centres for children under age 3
Germany* 1 39 28 13 27 16 53
Israel 11 41 55 36 20 65 53
Norway 5 41 28 16 4 12 43
Denmark** 1 35 34 8 17 12 29
Promoting equity through a strategic distribution of
the strengths of the ECEC workforce
In most countries, the share of staff with training for working with
children from diverse backgrounds is greater in ECEC centres with a
higher diversity of children
Percentage of staff with training to work with a diversity of children in both pre-service and recent in-
service training, by the composition of children in the ECEC centre
Pre-primary (ISCED 02)
Centres for children under age 3
Pre-primary education (ISCED 02)
Germany* - +
Iceland + -
Israel - + +
Turkey - -
Centres for children under age 3
Israel + +
Hours worked by staff
working full time
Percentage of time
staff spent working
Percentage of staff
satisfied with salary
Percentage of staff
who need more support
from their ECEC centre
Percentage of staff
stressed by a lack of
Difference by composition of children in the ECEC centre
In some countries but not all, staff in more challenging centres face
less favourable working conditions
Differences in staff working conditions and stress related to the composition of children in ECEC centres
Less favourable Difference is not significant
More favourable Missing values
Adopt high standards for ECEC initial preparation programmes, and create
the conditions to support both formal and informal learning among ECEC
Ensure that unfavourable working conditions do not accumulate on some
ECEC staff and that the status and reward of ECEC professions are aligned
Set the conditions for ECEC centre leaders to fulfil their multiple functions,
and develop a shared understanding of how leadership can best support
quality in ECEC centres
Target enhancements in staff professional development and working conditions
and in leadership development in ECEC centres with more diverse populations
What do these findings imply for policies?
* Estimates for sub-groups and estimated differences between sub-groups in the TALIS Starting Strong 2018 data need to be interpreted with care. See Annex B for more
** Low response rates in the survey may result in biases in the estimates reported and limit the comparability of the data.
This document and any map included herein are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and
boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.
The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the
status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.