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Fukao, Tsuyoshi.pdf (4.59 MB)

To what extent can incentives change teacher motivation? A case study of teachers in Cambodia

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posted on 2023-06-09, 04:05 authored by Tsuyoshi Fukao
Quality is now at the centre of education policy and teacher performance is seen as critical to the enhancement of learning outcomes. Quality has become a particular priority in the developing world following two decades of expansion of access driven by the Education for All (EFA) movement. Teacher quality, performance and effectiveness are widely thought to be dependent on a complex combination of competency and motivation. However, studies have remained heavily focused on competency-related issues, resulting in the neglect of a deeper understanding of motivation in relation to incentives and context. This omission is particularly glaring in the case of research on developing countries – and Cambodia, the focus of the present study, is no exception. This study therefore investigates the complex relationship between teacher motivation and incentives on the one hand, and motivation and context on the other, exploring how teacher characteristics mediate these relationships. This study defines the ‘motivated teacher’ as an individual who strives for goals that are closely associated with those of the school in which he or she teaches. To examine these relationships, the study employs a mixed methods approach, combining analysis of national survey data and semi-structured interviews; drawing on responses from a survey of 676 teachers, classroom observations of 284 teachers, and follow-up interviews with 18 teachers. Quantitative datasets reveal larger patterns of association between teacher incentives and motivation, and the qualitative dataset offers a deeper understanding of the phenomenon. This mixed methods approach itself is seen as one part of the contribution of this research: it helps deepen and enrich current understandings of teacher motivation, opening the door for policies that are more sensitive to diverse contexts. The study found that the meeting of basic needs such as an adequate working environment and living salary was insufficient to satisfy most Cambodian teachers. Indeed, it emerged that salary levels were as low as those of factory workers, a situation that leads to the perceived low social status of teachers. Moreover, the data indicate that while teachers – particularly those who work in rural and remote areas – do identify the work environment as a critical motivator, this in itself cannot guarantee sustained motivation. Beyond such basic incentives, the active support of the school director was identified as the most significant motivator across age groups and regions. Two additional factors were also found to be significant, but differed according to age group: firstly, recognition from community and colleagues is most important to mid-career teachers; and secondly, professional development opportunities represent a strong motivator among newly assigned teachers. Within this complex nexus of incentives and motivation, the study found initial intrinsic commitment and motivation to become a teacher to be a consistently powerful factor in shaping higher motivation throughout a teacher’s career. This was associated with the impact of incentives on motivation; indeed, the data suggest that newly assigned teachers tend to have higher intrinsic motivation than those who have been in the profession for more than ten years. Thus, the thesis proposes that the same incentives can have different effects on teacher motivation, depending on whether or not the individual is intrinsically driven to enter the profession, and on his or her length of service. The thesis concludes by proposing the following education policy reforms: (i) improvement of basic working conditions and a raise in the salary level; (ii) strengthening of instructional support; (iii) revision of entry requirements for the ‘good teacher award’, with greater focus on mid-career teachers; (iv) greater provision of in-service training, as well as induction support for new teachers; and (v) reformation of the current entrance examination for teacher training institutions with greater emphasis on strong intrinsic motivation. Finally, this study seeks to open up further avenues for future research in the area of intrinsic teacher motivation by identifying the phenomenon as a contributory factor in education delivery, and drawing attention to how this variable has hitherto been absent from research on developing countries.


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