August 2023 – Volume 27, Number 2
University of York, UK
Universitas Negeri Surabaya, Indonesia
Universitas Negeri Surabaya, Indonesia
University of York, UK
A mixed-methods sequential explanatory study was conducted in Indonesia to measure levels of job satisfaction among 326 secondary school English-as-a-Foreign-Language (EFL) teachers before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim was to identify significant differences in relation to gender, career stage, school location, school status, and school affiliation, and to establish which factors contributed most to job satisfaction. In the quantitative stage, the results revealed that job satisfaction both before and during the pandemic was generally high. With respect to gender, male teachers were more satisfied than their female counterparts. In terms of career stage, levels of job satisfaction varied before and during the pandemic, with significant differences in terms of pay, promotion, security, and professional development. Teachers working in state schools were more satisfied with their pay and security than teachers in private schools. Furthermore, teachers working in schools under the Ministry of Education were more satisfied with pay and security than those working under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. No significant differences in job satisfaction were identified with respect to school location. The qualitative stage partially supported the quantitative findings, with working conditions, col-leagues, professional development, and pay identified as enhancing job satisfaction.
Keywords: Teachers, English as a foreign language, secondary schools, job satisfaction, factors
Although research on TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) teachers is extensive, certain aspects in the area of educational psychology, including teacher autonomy, teacher well-being, or teacher job satisfaction (TJS), are frequently overlooked (Cirocki & Anam, 2021; Han, 2022; Karavas, 2010). This research remedies this oversight by shedding more light on levels of job satisfaction among 326 Indonesian secondary school English-as-a-Foreign-Language (EFL) teachers. Studies in general education generally reveal that high levels of TJS contribute to teacher well-being, high-quality classroom teaching, strong job commitment, overall school effectiveness, successful relationships between teachers and school management teams, and high teacher retention (Blömeke et al., 2017; Klassen & Chiu, 2010; Rezaee et al., 2021; Sadeghi & Sa’adatpourvahid, 2016).
Recent literature also highlights the increasing number of challenges teachers face, such as mixed-ability classrooms, antisocial behaviours, and new technologies (Arber et al., 2020; Cirocki & Farrelly, 2019; Cirocki & Levy, 2018; Genç & Kaçar, 2020; Pawlak & Mystkowska-Wiertelak, 2018; Troudi, 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought additional challenges, including hybrid teaching, flipped classrooms, Zoom-based online teaching, and online assessments (Gao & Zhang, 2020; Moorhouse & Kohnke, 2021). These have made teaching jobs more complex and led to unpleasant negative emotions in teachers, exacerbated by the perceived threat involved in dealing with the demands made (Allen et al., 2020; Jones & Kessler, 2020; Sokal et al., 2020).
21st-century job demands have unquestionably affected teachers’ personal and professional lives. Schools themselves, or more specifically their unique climates and cultures, have also influenced the behaviours and feelings of teachers. In this regard, it is useful to distinguish between organisational culture and organisational climate. According to Kuenzi and Schminke (2009), organisational culture refers to more abstract assumptions about organisations, but climate is more about surface-level impact on perceptions of teachers, and this seems a more useful concept. It is evident that school organisational climate in the form of teachers’ conscious perceptions and descriptions of their work environment (Kuenzi & Schminke, 2009), and TJS are inextricably linked (Ghavifekr & Pillai, 2016; Ortan et al., 2021; Valdez et al., 2019).
The context for this research project is Indonesia, where teachers adhere to the top-down model of education and are influenced by centralised educational policies that often restrict teacher autonomy (Cirocki & Anam, 2021). It may also be the case that this more controlled climate results in a more generalised set of teacher perceptions than would otherwise be the case. In this top-down model, it is also important to note that classroom practice tends to be teacher-centred and test-oriented. This means that the teaching-learning process pays more attention to test results instead of cultivating students’ language output ability, thus significantly eradicating creativity and innovation from the classroom (Sulistyo, 2007). Teachers’ classroom routines and teaching-oriented activities are defined and inspected by external bodies. However, schools have recently been granted greater power in decision-making processes relating to instruction and assessment, the aim of which is to ensure that the needs of both teachers and students are met (Cirocki & Anam, 2021; Heyward et al., 2011; Sofo et al., 2012). All these aspects are relevant to TJS. Recently, the Regulation of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology, number 21 (Kemdikbud, 2022), has brought a wind of change, stating that national summative exams have been cancelled in Indonesia. It is expected that the new regulation will result in greater creativity and teacher autonomy in the assessment procedures across schools, which will then lead to higher job satisfaction among English language teachers.
It is essential to emphasise that teachers in Indonesia are highly valued and well respected by the public, and English language teachers, in particular, have a high status. The system continually supports teachers in their professional development, yet little attention is given to enhancing their English language proficiency (Cirocki & Farrell, 2019; Renandya et al., 2018), which affects the quality of English language provision in schools. The recent professional development provision has mainly focused on enhancing teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge, classroom management skills, or teacher digital literacy. In terms of remuneration, which is an important factor in job satisfaction, teachers who are civil servants or who work in prestigious private schools are relatively well paid, whereas contract teachers are generally paid far below the regional minimum wage (Rosser & Fahmi, 2018). Consequently, most non-civil-servant teachers must take on more than one job if they are to lead a decent life, which affects their well-being as well as their career contentment (Haiyudi & Art-In, 2020).
Notwithstanding these income issues, teachers generally describe their working conditions as good and school equipment is considered adequate (Hasanah & Supardi, 2020; Octavia et al., 2020). The latter, however, remains a contentious issue, especially regarding the availability of technology and software in state schools (Google-Temasek, 2018). This was particularly challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic, where education had to switch from face-to-face to online learning, leaving teachers in a rather difficult situation.
High-quality empirical literature on TESOL in Indonesia, especially on English language teachers, is notably somewhat limited. The paucity of rigorous studies investigating levels of job satisfaction indicates a research gap. What makes this study original and unique is that it compares levels of job satisfaction in two different settings, namely before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic increased the complexity of teachers’ roles and responsibilities, resulting in unrealistic workloads and increased levels of stress. To the best of our knowledge, no such study has previously been conducted in Indonesia. Specifically, the current study answers the following four research questions:
- What are the levels of job satisfaction among Indonesian secondary school English language teachers before and during the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Are there any differences between levels of job satisfaction before and during the pandemic?
- Are there any significant differences in job satisfaction in terms of gender, career stage, school location, school status (state/private), and school affiliation (Ministry of Education/Ministry of Religious Affairs) before and during the pandemic?
- Which of the following ten factors – supervision, colleagues, working conditions, pay, responsibility, teaching, promotion, security, recognition, and professional development – contribute to enhancing Indonesian secondary school English language teachers’ job satisfaction?
The ten factors were deliberately included in the current project as international research reveals they exert a strong impact on teacher job satisfaction. One of the aims of the current study was to confirm whether it was also the case in the Indonesian TESOL context and, most importantly, to ascertain which of these factors impacted Indonesian teachers’ job satisfaction most. The following literature review looks at these factors in greater detail while synthesising previous research on teacher job satisfaction.
This article begins by defining TJS. This is followed by an overview of existing empirical projects investigating this concept. A mixed-methods study conducted with Indonesian teachers of English is then presented, and its findings analysed and discussed. Finally, implications for policy makers and school management teams are presented.
Understandably, TJS has long been a focus of research, with numerous studies undertaken in diverse school contexts, but relatively few in the field of TESOL (Rezaee et al., 2021; Zhang, 2022). The reason for this high level of research activity lies in the perceived benefits of TJS for teachers, students, institutions, and related stakeholders, and in enhancing the status of the teaching profession (e.g., Lopes & Oliveira, 2020; Toropova et al., 2021). TJS has been strongly linked to teacher attrition because satisfied teachers are less likely to leave the profession, while high teacher turnover has been associated with reduced student attainment (Atteberry et al., 2017). Teacher motivation is also linked to high TJS, which increases students’ intrinsic motivation (Moe et al., 2010; Patrick et al., 2000). The sources of teacher job dissatisfaction impede teachers’ successful engagement with reflective practice (Aliakbari et al., 2020), something that has become an important aspect of teacher development (Cirocki & Farrell, 2017; Farrell & Macapinlac, 2021). TJS has therefore been studied in combination with other key research areas such as motivation, self-efficacy, and well-being. The following sections first consider definitions of TJS, and then review empirical research studies to establish key findings in both general education and the TESOL context.
Defining Teacher Job Satisfaction
While no universally accepted definition of TJS exists, it can basically be understood in terms of positive or negative evaluations of jobs. An often-cited early definition by Locke described TJS as “the pleasurable emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job as achieving or facilitating the achievement of one’s job value” (1969, p. 1304). Later definitions include both cognitive and affective responses to working conditions and work context. Skaalvik and Skaalvik (2010, p. 1030), for example, defined it as “teachers’ affective reactions to their work or to their teaching role.”
Toropova et al. (2021) explain that TJS has two components: job comfort, which refers to working conditions, and job fulfilment, which alludes to an individual’s satisfaction with personal accomplishments and meaningfulness of work. The TALIS project significantly adopts Locke’s (1969) concept of TJS in relation to teacher fulfilment and gratification at work (Ainley & Carstens, 2018). TALIS is an international survey begun by the OECD in 2008 to give a voice to teachers to self-report on a range of workplace issues. Its most recent cycle in 2018 involved teachers and school leaders in 48 countries with over 260,000 participants (OECD, 2019). The TALIS project approaches TJS via two constructs, working environment satisfaction and professional satisfaction, which map onto Toropova et al.’s (2021) constructs of job comfort and job fulfilment. For the purposes of this study, TJS refers to teachers’ positive perception of their working conditions, and their rewards in relation to the fulfilment of personal goals (Lopes & Oliveira, 2020; Pepe et al., 2017).
Sources of Teacher Job Satisfaction
In an earlier study of research in general education, Dinham and Scott (1998, p. 376) proposed a three-domain model for understanding the sources of TJS: (1) the intrinsic rewards of teaching, including aspects of self-growth and satisfaction from student achievement, (2) “universal extrinsic dissatisfiers,” including educational change, poor teacher status, and heavy workloads, and (3) school-based factors, including school leadership, reputation, and infrastructure. They found that sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction varied within these domains with the potential for change within schools. More recently, Pepe et al. (2017) distinguished two main perspectives in the literature: the importance of personal factors versus work and societal conditions. Dreer (2021) recently suggested that findings providing insight into TJS relate to personal and environmental factors. Within these two perspectives, key research findings in general educational settings are now discussed.
Having reviewed existing research, Pepe et al. (2017, p. 399) concluded that TJS in teaching “is derived from the gratification of higher-order needs such as positive social relationships, rather than lower-order needs (e.g., pay incentives),” and that “satisfaction with positive relationships with co-workers, parents, and students mitigates some of the adverse effects of teaching work.” Lester (1985) conducted a study of public school teachers in the US and found that respondents were relatively satisfied in relation to supervision, colleagues, responsibility, work, and job security, but were relatively dissatisfied with pay, advancement opportunities, and recognition. Lester then developed the TJS Questionnaire (TJSQ) (Lester, 1987) based on these results.
A working paper by Mostafa and Pál (2018) on the PISA 2015 report, an OECD comprehensive survey collecting data from students, teachers, and schools in 19 countries, reported on science teachers’ job satisfaction and revealed that working conditions greatly affected teachers’ turnover rate, which is a strong indicator of teacher job dissatisfaction. Meanwhile, Kartika and Purba’s (2018) study on international school teachers in Indonesia pointed out that teachers’ dissatisfaction with their jobs may not lead to turnover intention if they have strong organisational identification (i.e., teachers’ sense of belonging within the schools in which they teach). A more recent study of private school teachers in Indonesia by Hasanah and Supardi (2020) highlighted the importance of working conditions which often lead to dissatisfaction, with low salaries negatively impacting TJS. Focusing on working conditions, Toropova et al. (2021) used survey data collected from Swedish maths teachers to investigate relations between TJS, school-working conditions, and teacher characteristics. Their findings support Pepe et al.’s (2017) conclusions that student discipline, teacher cooperation, and teacher workload were significantly related to TJS. Importantly, they also concluded that working conditions of a social nature were more important than material ones.
A teacher’s perception of interpersonal relations is a strong predictor of TJS, which corresponds to Dinham and Scott’s (1998) intrinsic domain (see above), or teacher/personal factors. One of the few studies on TJS, conducted in Indonesia by Bernarto et al. (2020), emphasised the role of transformational leadership and its impact on TJS. Similarly, another Indonesian study of public elementary teachers by Sembiring and Purba (2019) confirmed the importance of the work environment for TJS, emphasising the key contribution of interpersonal relations. Skaalvik and Skaalvik (2010) highlighted the importance of relations with supervisors in their large-scale survey of self-efficacy and TJS among elementary and middle school Norwegian teachers. Supervisory support was indicated by items that drew upon teachers’ perceptions of cognitive and emotional support, a feeling they could ask the school leadership for advice, and their view of their relationship with the school leadership as one of mutual trust and respect. In addition, a key finding in relation to personal self-efficacy was the importance of relations with parents, and how their evaluation impacted teachers’ perceptions. A recent study by Lopes and Oliveira (2020) provided more indicative findings on interpersonal relations. The authors used data from the TALIS study of 2013 to investigate TJS among teachers from Portuguese schools. They found a significant variation between public and private schools, with interpersonal and positive social relations deemed more important for TJS than pay and incentives, and teacher cooperation predicting TJS only minimally. In fact, at the teacher level, perceived teacher-student relations were the best predictor of TJS. Their findings partially supported an earlier study by Skaalvik and Skaalvik (2010) in Norway, although that study highlighted the way that TJS was strongly related to positive relations with colleagues and parents.
In fact, Lopes and Oliveira’s (2020) finding that teacher-student relations were the best predictor of TJS is an excellent example of a personal factor within Dinham and Scott’s (1998) intrinsic domain but, arguably, has been less explored (Dreer, 2021). Veldman et al. (2013) conducted four narrative case studies in the Netherlands to explore experienced teachers’ perceptions of interpersonal relations with students. The findings revealed a positive link between TJS and teachers’ views of strong relations with students. However, student data did not always coincide with this reported positive relationship. Admiraal et al. (2019) responded by developing a typology of veteran teachers based on interpersonal relationships with their students and their TJS. Likewise, a study conducted in Shanghai by Liu et al. (2023) using TALIS data found that teacher-student relations positively predicted TJS.
A notable recent study conducted in Germany by Dreer (2021) investigated TJS in relation to various domains of well-being. It found that positive emotions in the workplace were the strongest predictor of higher rates of job satisfaction. The domains investigated were from the PERMA model developed by Seligman (2011) in his work on well-being, corresponding to the five dimensions of positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement. Dreer (2021) found that interpersonal and personal relations play a key role in determining well-being and job satisfaction, confirming other findings in these areas (O’Shea, 2021; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2015).
Research in Canada and the US have demonstrated that in non-teaching occupations, women tend to have higher levels of job satisfaction than men (Magee, 2013), but the situation is more complex with respect to teachers. Some studies have reported no gender effect for TJS. For example, in their survey of secondary school teachers in the UK, Crossman and Harris (2006) found no significant differences in satisfaction according to gender, but did find differences according to the type of school, with women in independent and privately managed schools reporting higher job satisfaction. In a study comparing TJS and teacher dissatisfaction between 1962 and 2007 in secondary teachers in the southwest of England, Klassen and Anderson (2009) found that gender differences identified in an earlier study had disappeared in 2007. They highlight changes in social expectations regarding the role of females in society and the increased number of females in work as reasons for this discrepancy.
Elsewhere, the findings on gender are contradictory. The Toropova et al. (2021) study, for example, reported higher levels of satisfaction among female teachers in Sweden, but also that teacher cooperation was more valued by males. In Turkey, a small-scale meta-analysis study by Aydin et al. (2012) pointed to higher TJS among men. By contrast, Aytac (2015), also in Turkey, referred to several studies that reported higher levels of TJS in female teachers. She discussed how, in the Turkish context in particular, the teaching profession may be preferred by women as it provides a means to economic independence while simultaneously allowing them to undertake family roles. Thus, the gender factor in TJS depends upon the national and institutional context in which studies are situated and may reflect aspects of the wider society and culture.
Research findings are inconclusive regarding the association between teaching experience and satisfaction, with some evidence for higher levels of satisfaction among less experienced teachers. For example, the study of UK secondary teachers by Crossman and Harris (2006), however, showed no strong link between the two, and neither did a recent US study by Topchyan and Woehler (2020) on the impact of years of teaching experience on job satisfaction. Other studies report teachers with more experience showing lower satisfaction levels (e.g., Van Houtte, 2010) while the Ma and MacMillan (1999) Canadian study found that teachers with over 20 years of experience were significantly less satisfied than less experienced colleagues. A useful research approach has been to focus on self-efficacy and job satisfaction. For instance, Klassen and Chiu (2010) highlight how teachers’ growing mastery may explain increasing satisfaction in middle career years, but this diminishes in later years due to age and other factors. The study adopted a career stage approach to understanding experience and satisfaction, citing Huberman’s (1989) earlier work and the notion of a discovery stage for early career teachers, and revealed how commitment to work and motivation fall away in later career stages. In conclusion, there is strong evidence that novice and experienced teachers undergo changes in work beliefs, attitudes, commitment, and self-efficacy as they pass through career stages. These are expected to impact job satisfaction, although how this occurs may differ in relation to teaching contexts and other teacher characteristics.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected countries and education systems in different ways; to date, few studies on job satisfaction have been published. What is salient is that sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction may change as findings emerge. A systematic review by Li and Yu (2022) found several studies reporting a drop in job satisfaction levels due to emotional exhaustion and increased stress. In Germany, Stang-Rabrig et al.’s (2022) study of over 3,000 teachers highlighted the importance of social relationships and support in contributing to TJS in the pandemic, underlining the importance of prior usage of information and communication technologies (ICT) with TJS, but viewing this as both a resource and a demand. Administrative support was extremely important for teachers in the testing times of the pandemic, and although a Canadian study of kindergarten teachers (Sokal et al., 2020) reported favourably on this aspect, this was not always the case. For example, Gillani et al.’s (2022) research project of over 1,800 teachers in the US reported dissatisfaction with administrative support, communication and guidance, and showed how the pandemic exacerbated these causes of dissatisfaction.
In England, a large-scale national survey of teachers in primary and secondary schools explored job satisfaction during the first COVID-19 lockdown and identified sources of dissatisfaction related to responsibilities for deciding students’ examination grades and difficulties supporting remote learning (Walker et al., 2020). Notably, a quarter of teachers surveyed also reported the pressures they felt in parenting their own children during this period. The COVID-19 pandemic required that teachers used digital communication and promoted online learning. Hence, teachers’ experiences in using online learning tools and their attitudes towards this are important. A 2017 US report at the tertiary level, for example, found that fewer than 50 per cent of faculty members believed that online learning helped students learn effectively (Pomerantz & Brooks, 2017).
The need to move to remote learning also implies a steep learning curve for some. In Germany, for instance, a survey of early career teachers (König et al., 2020) revealed that only 23 per cent of participants extensively used ICT in their teaching prior to the pandemic, while the ability to maintain communication with students and parents was affected by the ICT resources available. Another key issue concerns gender differences in relation to digital teaching competence. Several studies have pointed to female teachers demonstrating poor self-perceptions regarding the integration of technology into their pedagogical practice as well as having a lower predisposition towards technologies and lower confidence in their use (Abtahi & Motallebzadeh, 2016; Gómez-Trigueros & Yáñez de Aldecoa, 2021). An interesting study by Erdoğan and Akbaba (2022) in Turkey highlighted the link between the concept of technostress (i.e., teachers’ inability to cope with new technologies) and job satisfaction, finding a significantly higher level of technostress in that period among female teachers.
Policies and Directives
Educational as well as school policies and directives can also affect TJS and this aspect has been investigated in such contexts as Tanzania (Elinihaki, 2013), the Philippines (Kadtong et al., 2017), Vietnam (Tran, 2018) and the USA (Small, 2020). Similarly, in the Indonesian context, several important policies concerning teacher professional development, teacher promotion, online learning during the pandemic, as well as the recent curriculum, have recently been implemented and prompted concerns among classroom practitioners. In terms of promotion opportunities, teachers who are employed as civil servants receive a good salary that increases depending on their years of service and qualifications; they can also be promoted as principals, supervisors, or hold high positions in local educational institutions. On the contrary, contract teachers are underpaid and face uncertainty in terms of contract extensions. Moreover, contract teachers do not have the opportunity to hold higher supervisory or administrative roles due to their status as non-civil servants (Rosser & Fahmi, 2018), which often evokes feelings of disappointment.
Similarly, the online learning policy issued by the Indonesian Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology (Kemdikbudristek, 2020) seems to have impacted TJS in Indonesia. This policy promoted online learning and encouraged schools to use various digital platforms for education to avoid learning loss during the pandemic. For example, Saputra et al. (2022) investigated secondary school EFL teachers’ perceptions of online learning. The study revealed various challenges resulting from the policy; these included teachers’ reduced control over assessments as they were unsure about the originality of students’ work, and teachers not receiving training to measure students’ progress using technology. Moreover, the study also reported on teachers’ dissatisfaction with the limited availability of Internet connection in many parts of Indonesia, which often prevented them from integrating ICT into their teaching (Fitri & Putro, 2021). In some rural areas, teachers were expected to offer home-schooling instead, despite their great concerns about their own health safety.
In the past, Indonesia imposed high-stakes national examinations on selected subjects, including English at the secondary school level as a requirement of school completion (Kemdikbud, 2007). However, the centralised system of examinations caused dissatisfaction among teachers and lowered their morale (Ashadi & Rice, 2016). Specifically, there was a tendency to give teachers unequal treatment and put them into two categories: exam and non-exam subjects. For instance, teachers in the former category were given more professional development opportunities, which caused unhappiness in the latter category. What is more, the teachers who taught exam subjects and attended extra CPD events soon became unhappy about their teaching quality as it was equated with a washback procedure consisting of a series of test-taking techniques and mock tests (Sidik, 2020) – teaching to the test.
Due to a large amount of criticism on its lack of effectiveness, the national examination policy was removed in 2020. A new assessment policy, Minimum Competency Assessment, was introduced in 2021 and administered in 2022. The new low-stake assessment procedure is diagnostic in nature and therefore puts much less pressure on teachers, especially because it has removed the negative washback effect from their teaching, which they disliked. In addition, the Minimum Competency Assessment policy, together with the implementation of the new Emancipated Learning curriculum, seems to have allowed teachers relatively higher levels of professional autonomy, which has brought positivity among classroom practitioners.
TESOL Teacher Job Satisfaction
A much smaller number of studies on English language teachers have been conducted relative to those in other educational contexts, with a dearth of such studies in Indonesia. Findings on TESOL tend to mirror those reported in other educational contexts. In an earlier study in the USA, Pennington and Riley (1991) administered the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ) to a small sample of TESOL organisation members and found support for Lester’s (1985) findings in that there was dissatisfaction with pay and opportunities for advancement, and relative dissatisfaction with administrative policies and practices.
Kassabgy et al. (2001) surveyed English language teachers in Egypt and Hawaii to assess both their motivation and TJS, based on what they considered important and their reported experience of their jobs. Similar to findings from general education, teachers usually valued intrinsic factors more than extrinsic ones and were intrinsically satisfied in general. Where dissatisfaction was reported, it was related to the extrinsic factors of pay, fairness, and the nature of school administration. This dissatisfaction with environmental factors or those beyond the task of teaching has been identified in several studies in general settings (Toropova et al., 2021).
Karavas (2010) surveyed Greek TESOL teachers and found that the most positive response in terms of teacher satisfaction was the recognition they received from their students. The study revealed that the highest levels of TJS were related to the intrinsic task of teaching and relationships with students; nevertheless, high levels of stress and burnout were reported, which seemed to relate strongly to low student motivation for their subject. While the latter finding provides a more nuanced confirmation of the importance of student relations in general education settings, Karavas (2010) also found that system-level factors, such as the state’s attempts to raise teachers’ status, their pay, and opportunities for promotion, were the factors most frequently leading to dissatisfaction, along with working conditions, resources, and insufficient opportunities for professional development. In terms of extrinsic school-based factors, the study reported high satisfaction related to cooperation with other teachers, but divergence over the nature of the administrative support they received. This corroborated most of the findings derived from studies in general education.
Studies of TESOL often focus on TJS in conjunction with other aspects such as teacher motivation, autonomy, or well-being (Dincer, 2019; Han, 2022; Jitpraneechai, 2019; Kamstra, 2021). In a Thai study at the tertiary level, Jitpraneechai (2019) investigated motivational factors related to TJS by surveying groups of Thai and native-speaking English language teachers. This confirmed general findings relating to the satisfaction gained from internal factors and their impact on intrinsic motivation while revealing external factors such as poor institutional support, unfair rules, and poor remuneration to be demotivating, leading to a loss of TJS. Kamstra (2021) conducted a qualitative study comprising interviews and observations with secondary state-school English language teachers in Spain to assess teacher demotivation and its impact on TJS. The findings identified external demotivators beyond the teachers’ control, implying that government and school authorities must tackle issues such as workload, empower teachers, and provide better training opportunities.
With a slightly different focus, Dincer (2019) investigated teacher autonomy in relation to TJS among Turkish TESOL teachers, using autonomy and TJS scales from the Skaalvik and Skaalvik study (2010). The study identified a desire for more autonomy but found no relationship with TJS. Although this contradicts findings from other studies, Dincer (2019) put forward strong reasons as to why this may be the case in Turkey and in relation to the profile of Turkish teachers.
In a very recent study in China, Han (2022) investigated the relationship between job satisfaction, resilience, and well-being among English language teachers across several provinces. Han found a significant relationship between the three, corroborating findings from the Dreer (2021) study and the close relationship between well-being and TJS.
The picture that emerges is that research in general educational contexts demonstrates the importance of social relations at work, and that intrinsic factors and relationships are the strongest predictors of job satisfaction. Conversely, extrinsic factors such as pay, autonomy (or lack of), and opportunities for advancement are strongly linked to dissatisfaction. The situation regarding job satisfaction levels at different career stages can be complex, but there is a pattern of increasing satisfaction in early years before later career dissatisfaction sets in. Findings on gender are inconclusive but there are specific societal and cultural factors that impact personal and environmental factors. Regarding the few studies on job satisfaction during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is compelling evidence to suggest a drop in satisfaction and that the move to online remote learning sits at the heart of challenges impacting satisfaction. The relatively limited research on satisfaction among English language teachers, particularly in Indonesia, reflects the findings in general contexts, highlighting the importance of the intrinsic task of teaching and relationships with students, colleagues, parents, and supervisors. The current study aimed to fill this gap in knowledge about TJS in the Indonesian TESOL sector.
This empirical research comprised a mixed-methods project conducted in Indonesia. Quantitative and qualitative methods were combined for three reasons: to provide robust insights, to enhance the quality and explanatory power of the data, and to ensure the study could be deemed trustworthy (Bryman, 2006; Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). A sequential explanatory design was adopted, with quantitative and qualitative data collected in consecutive stages. The aim of the quantitative stage was to assess teachers’ perceived level of job satisfaction in secondary schools and whether this varied according to gender, school location, school status, and career stage. The aim of the qualitative stage was to identify Indonesian teachers’ evaluations of the factors they perceived as having the most substantive impact on job satisfaction. Hence, the quantitative data answered the first three research questions, whereas the qualitative data answered the fourth research question. In addition, the quantitative findings informed the focus of the semi-structured interviews. This ensured the two research stages were complementary and enhanced the overall trustworthiness of the data.
The sample comprised 326 Indonesian secondary school English-as-a-Foreign-Language teachers, including males (n = 97) and females (n = 229). The participants worked in urban (n = 145), suburban (n = 91), and rural (n = 90) schools, which were classed as either state (n = 212) or private (i.e., not funded by the government) (n = 114) institutions, affiliated to the Ministry of Education (n = 214) or the Ministry of Religious Affairs (n = 112). In terms of career stages, participants were divided into three groups: early stage with five years of teaching experience or less (n = 87), middle stage with teaching experience between six to twenty-one years (n = 158), and late stage with twenty-two years of teaching experience or more (n = 81). All participants were involved in the quantitative stage and 37 volunteered to participate in the qualitative stage. Convenience sampling was employed to recruit all participants (Weathington et al., 2010).
Research Instruments, Procedure, and Data Analysis
Two instruments were utilised to collect the data: a questionnaire and a semi-structured interview. The former was translated into the participants’ native language (Bahasa Indonesia) to ensure full understanding. This was performed by native-speaking researchers, and then cross-checked for accuracy by two independent native-speaking colleagues.
The questionnaire measured teachers’ satisfaction in relation to ten job factors: (1) supervision, (2) colleagues, (3) working conditions, (4) pay, (5) responsibility, (6) teaching, (7) promotion, (8) security, (9) recognition, and (10) professional development. It consisted of 80 items responded to on a 6-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree). The use of the 6-point scale denies the possibility of choosing the neutral or moderate value and provides higher discrimination value, reliability, and convergent validity than the usual 5-point scale (Chomeya, 2010; Taherdoost, 2019). The items were prepared in two stages specifically for the Indonesian context. First, they were prompted by important literature on TJS and modelled on instruments used in previous research (e.g., Lester, 1987). They were then analysed with reference to Indonesian English language practitioners, the secondary school context and recent occupational policies. Those best linked to Indonesia were included in the questionnaire. The questionnaire was specifically chosen as a data collection tool since it allowed the gathering of a large body of data in a short period of time. It also enabled relationships between the gathered data to be identified and analysed with low error rates (Cohen et al., 2011; Wilkinson & Birmingham, 2003).
The next step was to assess the reliability and validity of the instrument. Regarding overall reliability, Cronbach’s alpha was 0.93, suggesting high internal consistency. To ensure content validity, several experts in the field were consulted. All items included in this instrument were therefore collectively negotiated and agreed upon.
Once the numerical data had been gathered, the qualitative stage began. This comprised the use of semi-structured interviews. Thirty-seven male and female practitioners agreed to participate, representing both levels of secondary education and different career stages. The interview was conducted in Bahasa Indonesia, the language chosen by the participants, and consisted of questions relating to factors affecting English language teachers’ job satisfaction. Open-ended questions were deliberately selected to encourage detailed responses that revealed participants’ thought processes, creativity, and resourcefulness (Mackey & Gass, 2005). These were invaluable in generating in-depth data on the feelings and opinions of participants. The extent of probing that was used varied. Overall, participants were willing to talk at length, although additional questions were sometimes asked to clarify precisely what was said.
The data were analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics (quantitative), and thematic coding (qualitative). For the former, paired samples t-tests, independent samples t-tests, and one-way between-groups ANOVA were performed to examine differences in satisfaction levels before and during the pandemic and across gender, school status, school location, school affiliation, and career stage. Those parametric tests were used following the results of the assumption testing. A p-value of 0.05 was selected to determine the presence of significant differences in the statistical testing. For the qualitative stage, the textual data were reviewed and coded. This served to index the text into categories, thereby establishing a “framework of thematic ideas about it” (Gibbs, 2007, p. 132). The identified themes were then analysed using the six stages of thematic analysis developed by Clarke and Braun (2013) and discussed. The two native researchers conducted the interviews in Bahasa Indonesia, transcribed and anonymised them, and translated them into English. Then, the anonymised English transcripts were read through and coded by all four researchers individually. Finally, the individual codes were discussed by the entire team and the final versions of the codes and themes were negotiated and utilised in the study.
Prior to data analysis, the participants’ responses to 40 items with a negative meaning, highlighted in grey (Tables 1-10), were reverse-scored to permit simultaneous analysis of all items. Positively worded items were scored as follows: strongly disagree = 1, disagree = 2, somewhat disagree = 3, somewhat agree = 4, agree = 5, and strongly agree = 6. The negatively worded items were scored in the reverse direction, for example: “strongly disagree” = 6 and “strongly agree” = 1. Means and standard deviations for items were then calculated. To facilitate interpretation of the findings, participants’ responses were classified into three levels of job satisfaction using equal cut-off points: low (1.00–2.70), moderate (2.71–4.40), and high (4.41–6.00).
Results and Discussion
This section analyses and discusses the data in four separate sub-sections. The first three subsections answer the first three research questions by presenting quantitative data. The final subsection presents purely qualitative data to answer the fourth research question.
Teacher Job Satisfaction Levels Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic
To answer the first research question regarding the perceived level of job satisfaction among EFL secondary school teachers, means and standard deviations both before and during the pandemic were calculated (Tables 1-10). The items highlighted in grey were reverse-scored so that all the items have the same direction and are consistent with each other, in terms of what “agree” and “disagree” mean. Overall mean scores before and during the pandemic indicated fairly high levels of satisfaction (M = 4.33; M = 4.32, respectively). Inspection of the ten factors indicates that the means ranged from M = 3.83 to M = 4.63 (Figure 1). In descending order, the ten factors before the pandemic were rated as follows: (1) teaching, (2) working conditions, (3) colleagues, (4) recognition, (5) supervision, (6) promotion, (7 and 8 equal) security and professional development, (9) responsibility, and (10) pay. During the pandemic, the order was as follows: (1) working conditions, (2) teaching, (3) colleagues, (4) recognition, (5) supervision, (6) promotion, (7) security, (8) professional development, and (9 and 10 equal) pay and responsibility.
The analysis reveals that the order of the ten factors remained almost the same in both contexts, that is, before and during the pandemic. These results are consistent with earlier research that focuses on the importance of intrinsic and personal factors in their contribution to TJS (Kassabgy et al., 2001; Lopes & Oliveira, 2020; Pepe et al., 2017; Stang-Rabrig et al., 2022). Kassabgy, for example, found that groups of experienced ESL/EFL teachers in Egypt and Hawaii valued teaching goals such as helping students learn and having good relationships with others. In relation to the pandemic impact, Stang-Rabrig et al.’s (2022) large-scale survey of German teachers during the pandemic found that social support from colleagues and leaders was crucial to TJS during challenging times, with a strong indication that personal resources such as self-efficacy with ICT impacted on TJS at that time. The two factors in the current study, which seemed to influence teachers’ job satisfaction most heavily (i.e., teaching and working conditions: M = 4.63 and M = 4.61 vs. M = 4.55 and M = 4.57), appeared in reverse order before and during the pandemic. On the other hand, the last two factors, responsibility and pay, consistently affected teacher job satisfaction least in both contexts, and this is in line with previous studies that found these external factors to be less indicative of TJS (e.g., Kamstra, 2021; Karavas, 2010; Toropova et al., 2021). Kamstra’s (2021) study of Spanish EFL teachers found that teachers’ TJS was negatively affected by external factors, such as pay, that were beyond their control, a finding supported by Lopes and Oliveira’s (2020) study of 177 Portuguese schools in which teachers placed positive social relations well above pay and external factors in terms of their TJS. It was observed that during the pandemic, the means of both factors further decreased by 0.15 and 0.05, respectively. Interestingly, in the qualitative part, the pay factor produced more nuanced observations, although it was evidently more a factor for dissatisfaction than a positive contribution to TJS.
Table 1. Factor 1: Supervision
|1||My immediate supervisor praises good teaching.||4.57||1.15||4.48||1.16|
|2||My immediate supervisor provides assistance for improving instruction.||3.92||1.29||3.94||1.29|
|3||My immediate supervisor does not support me.||4.74||1.06||4.71||1.10|
|4||My immediate supervisor explains what is expected of me.||4.46||1.08||4.49||1.07|
|5||My immediate supervisor is not willing to listen to suggestions.||4.57||1.14||4.59||1.10|
|6||My immediate supervisor treats everyone equitably.||4.39||1.24||4.39||1.24|
|7||My immediate supervisor makes me feel uncomfortable.||4.67||1.10||4.69||1.10|
|8||I receive too many vague instructions from my immediate supervisor.||4.4||1.13||4.40||1.14|
Table 2. Factor 2: Colleagues
|1||I like the people with whom I work.||5.09||0.883||5.01||0.95|
|2||I dislike the people with whom I work.||5.08||0.983||5.05||0.99|
|3||My colleagues seem uncommitted to me.||4.63||0.96||4.61||0.95|
|4||My colleagues are not willing to cooperate.||4.65||1.02||4.63||1.03|
|5||My colleagues stimulate me to do a better job.||4.78||0.963||4.79||0.96|
|6||My senior colleagues tend to be condescending.||2.63||1.223||2.63||1.20|
|7||I have made lasting friendships among my colleagues.||5.15||0.789||5.13||0.83|
|8||My colleagues provide me with suggestions or feedback about my teaching.||4.46||1.00||4.45||1.00|
Table 3. Factor 3: Working Conditions
|1||Working conditions in my school are good.||4.99||0.95||4.79||1.06|
|2||Physical surroundings in my school are unpleasant.||4.91||1.05||4.89||1.09|
|3||The management team does not clearly define its policies.||4.43||1.13||4.4||1.12|
|4||The management team does not seem to care about teacher well-being.||4.53||1.13||4.52||1.13|
|5||The management team communicates its policies well.||4.75||1.01||4.73||0.99|
|6||Communication between the management team and teachers is effective.||4.47||1.07||4.46||1.06|
|7||The management team prioritises the safety of teachers and students.||4.89||0.96||4.89||0.97|
|8||Work-life balance is not given sufficient attention by the management team.||3.9||1.23||3.87||1.22|
Table 4. Factor 4: Pay
|1||Teacher income is barely enough to live on.||3.84||1.47||3.70||1.52|
|2||Teacher income is adequate to live on.||4.17||1.33||4.06||1.36|
|3||Teaching provides me with financial security.||4.06||1.29||4.06||1.30|
|4||I am well paid in proportion to my teaching experience.||3.91||1.25||3.88||1.28|
|5||My current income is less than I deserve.||3.99||1.30||3.91||1.35|
|6||Insufficient income keeps me from living the way I want to live.||3.87||1.44||3.85||1.45|
|7||My pay does not compare with similar jobs in other regions.||3.11||1.29||3.08||1.30|
|8||My income encourages me to continue to work at school.||4.09||1.28||4.08||1.27|
Table 5. Factor 5: Responsibility
|1||There are too many school policies to follow.||3.19||1.28||3.09||1.31|
|2||I am not interested in the policies of my school.||4.51||1.00||4.5||1.00|
|3||My school makes me fully responsible for my students’ success.||4.62||1.05||4.58||1.05|
|4||I enjoy keeping up-to-date about current teaching methods.||4.96||0.85||4.98||0.90|
|5||It is important to provide opportunities for students to learn with technology||5.29||0.85||5.37||0.84|
|6||I don’t mind starting lessons a few minutes late.||2.45||1.05||2.47||1.08|
|7||I skip staff meetings whenever I can.||1.91||0.97||1.94||1.01|
|8||I have always been a role model for my students.||4.87||0.84||4.84||0.82|
Table 6. Factor 6: Teaching
|1||Teaching is very rewarding.||4.39||1.21||4.33||1.24|
|2||I am in my element in the classroom.||5.13||0.83||4.79||1.11|
|3||The work of a teacher consists of monotonous activities.||4.60||1.07||4.52||1.16|
|4||Teaching provides an opportunity to use a variety of competences and talents.||5.17||0.79||5.17||0.82|
|5||I find teaching boring.||5.24||0.92||5.11||1.06|
|6||The school I work for does not give me the freedom to make my own decisions.||4.29||1.22||4.27||1.23|
|7||The work of a teacher is very pleasant.||5.21||0.84||5.1||0.94|
|8||Teaching is physically and emotionally exhausting.||2.99||1.32||3.09||1.36|
Table 7. Factor 7: Promotion
|1||Teaching provides a good opportunity for advancement.||5.25||0.83||5.24||0.85|
|2||In my school, successful teaching leads to preferment.||4.03||1.39||4.02||1.340|
|3||In my school, effective teaching brings an opportunity to take on significant additional responsibilities.||4.34||1.10||4.34||1.09|
|4||Teaching provides limited opportunities for advancement.||4.51||1.27||4.48||1.29|
|5||I am not getting ahead in my present teaching position.||4.62||1.14||4.56||1.17|
|6||I don’t receive much support for promotion from the school administration.||4.35||1.20||4.33||1.17|
|7||Promotion is rare in my school.||3.97||1.26||3.95||1.25|
|8||In my school, hard-working teachers are recommended for promotion.||3.85||1.26||3.85||1.25|
Table 8. Factor 8: Security
|1||I am afraid of losing my teaching job.||2.92||1.48||2.88||1.46|
|2||Teaching provides for a secure future.||4.35||1.11||4.31||1.14|
|3||I never feel secure in my teaching job.||4.91||1.06||4.88||1.07|
|4||I’m well protected by law in my job.||4.82||1.03||4.83||1.01|
|5||My teaching contract can be terminated any time.||4.49||1.45||4.47||1.46|
|6||Financial security is a weakness in my current job.||3.91||1.34||3.88||1.38|
|7||As a teacher, I enjoy a high degree of job security.||4.54||1.06||4.54||1.06|
|8||My school only offers me fixed-term contracts.||4.38||1.25||4.39||1.23|
Table 9. Factor 9: Recognition
|1||I receive full recognition for my successful teaching.||4.67||0.91||4.60||0.93|
|2||No one tells me that I am a good teacher.||4.52||1.12||4.49||1.11|
|3||I receive too little recognition for my teaching commitment.||4.43||1.08||4.43||1.09|
|4||My colleagues respect me for my excellent teaching.||4.76||0.88||4.77||0.87|
|5||My students appreciate the way I teach them.||4.74||0.92||4.71||0.93|
|6||The management team in my school pays little attention to teacher attainment.||4.21||1.21||4.19||1.21|
|7||My students’ parents do not show any appreciation for my commitment to teaching.||4.15||1.17||4.12||1.17|
|8||I know I am regarded as a respected teacher in my school.||4.42||0.99||4.41||1.02|
Table 10. Factor 10: Professional Development
|1||I receive financial support from my school to develop professionally.||3.7||1.28||3.67||1.29|
|2||I have full autonomy in choosing continuing professional development activities.||4.57||1.07||4.55||1.09|
|3||My school promotes excellent professional development events for teachers.||4.79||1.02||4.76||1.03|
|4||I can only attend teacher training events approved by my school.||3.42||1.37||3.49||1.36|
|5||I feel overwhelmed by the number of professional development events my school sends me to attend.||4.11||1.17||4.08||1.20|
|6||My school does not promote language enhancement courses for teachers where they could improve their English.||4.33||1.33||4.27||1.36|
|7||By attending professional development events, I become a more competent teacher.||5.12||0.78||5.11||0.78|
|8||Teacher professional development is not financially supported by my employer.||3.82||1.26||3.78||1.24|
Figure 1. Teacher Job Satisfaction Levels Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Differences in Teacher Job Satisfaction Levels During and Before the COVID-19 Pandemic
A series of paired sample t-tests were run to identify any differences in the overall job satisfaction score during and before the pandemic, as well as among the scores for each factor. Overall, TJS during the pandemic (M = 4.32) declined compared with before the pandemic (M = 4.35), t(325) = 7.527, p =.000, with a large effect size (eta squared statistic =.015). Regarding the comparison of the ten factors, TJS during the pandemic was lower than before the pandemic, with significant differences in the scores of eight factors (see the p values in Table 11), excluding supervision (p = 0.86) and responsibility (p = 0.52) factors. These results point to the negative impact of the pandemic in relation to teachers’ care and emotions (Jones & Kessler, 2020). Indeed, heightened anxiety levels have been reported (e.g., Allen et al., 2020), with the negative impact from increased stress and workload also documented in Li and Yu’s (2022) systematic review of studies on the pandemic’s impact on teachers.
Table 11. Differences in Job Satisfaction before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic
|Before pandemic||During pandemic||t||df||p||η2|
* Job satisfaction factors with significant differences.
The Relationships between Teacher Job Satisfaction Levels and Gender, Career Stage, School Status, School Affiliation, and School Location
Multiple independent sample t-tests were conducted to investigate whether the level of satisfaction and its ten factors differed significantly across gender, career stage, school location, school affiliation, and school status. As presented in Table 12, with regard to gender there were significant differences in TJS related to responsibility, both before and during the pandemic, in favour of male teachers. Furthermore, male teachers perceived greater satisfaction with their teaching during the pandemic than their female counterparts. No significant differences were observed in any other factors associated with satisfaction during and before the pandemic. It was noted earlier that gender findings often differ in relation to the particular culture of a country or the socio-economic position of men and women in different countries (e.g., Klassen & Anderson, 2009; Toropova et al., 2021). In this case, it is possible that female teachers were less confident and experienced in the use of ICT required for online teaching during the pandemic, and some studies have pointed to this gender difference (e.g., Abtahi & Motallebzadeh, 2016). A recent Spanish study indicated female teachers’ poor self-perception in terms of their digital teaching competence as well as a lower predisposition towards technologies (Gómez-Trigueros & Yáñez de Aldecoa, 2021), while Erdoğan and Akbaba’s (2022) survey study of 270 Turkish secondary school teachers showed an explicit link between the concept of technostress and lower job satisfaction among female teachers during the pandemic.
Table 12. Job Satisfaction Differences between Male and Female Teachers
* Job satisfaction factors with significant differences.
Regarding career stage, teachers in early, middle, and late career stages differed in levels of job satisfaction before and during the pandemic with respect to pay, promotion, security, and professional development. Teachers in different career stages also differed in their satisfaction with working conditions and recognition before the pandemic (Table 13). Interestingly, what is not evident here is the classic “career stage” development referred to earlier (Klassen & Chiu, 2010), in which TJS tends to increase into middle career years but diminishes later with age.
The results in Table 14 also indicate that teachers working in state schools felt more satisfied with their pay and security both before and during the pandemic than those in private schools, and this links to earlier findings from Indonesian teachers as in the Hasanah and Supardi (2020) study which showed private school teacher dissatisfaction with pay in particular. State-school teachers were also more satisfied with their professional development than private-school teachers during the pandemic. Although mean scores for professional development were not the highest in general, they do not suggest the same level of dissatisfaction reported in the Greek study of EFL teachers carried out by Karavas (2010). Perhaps one reason that state school teachers had higher levels of satisfaction for this aspect could have been due to more organised and systematic approaches to professional development in that sector. No differences were observed in other factors associated with satisfaction before and during the pandemic.
Further, teachers working in schools under the Ministry of Education were significantly more satisfied with pay and security before the pandemic and with pay, security, and professional development during the pandemic than those under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. No significant differences were found in other factors associated with job satisfaction (Table 15).
One-way between-groups ANOVA tests revealed no significant differences in satisfaction among teachers working in rural, suburban, and urban schools both before and during the pandemic (Tables 13-15).
Table 13. Job Satisfaction between Teachers with Different Career Stages
|Before the Pandemic|
|E & M||-0.13||-0.01||-0.20*||-0.72*||-0.06||-0.05||-0.18*||-0.63*||-0.17*||-0.18*|
|E & S||-0.18||-0.04||-0.29*||-0.92*||-0.05||-0.05||-0.30*||-0.82*||-0.22*||-0.25*|
|M & S||-0.06||-0.03||-0.1||0.2||0.01||0||-0.12||-0.19*||-0.05||-0.08|
|During the Pandemic|
|E & M||-0.13||-0.02||-0.17||-0.71*||-0.06||-0.05||-0.17*||-0.65*||-0.14||-0.20*|
|E & S||-0.16||-0.02||-0.25*||-0.92*||-0.04||-0.02||-0.28||-0.82*||-0.18||-0.26*|
|M & S||-0.03||-0.01||-0.09||-0.21||0.01||0.03||-0.11||-0.18*||0.04||0.20*|
|Note: E=early; M=middle; S=senior.|
|* The mean difference is significant at the 0.05 level.|
Table 14. Job Satisfaction Differences between Teachers in State and Private Schools
Table 15. Job Satisfaction Differences of Teachers under the Ministry of Religion and the Ministry of Education
|Ministry of Education||Ministry of Religion||t||p|
|Ministry of Education||Ministry of Religion||t||p|
Factors Contributing to Job Satisfaction among Indonesian English Language Teachers
This section presents and discusses the data relating to the fourth research question. The analysis revealed four main factors – working conditions, colleagues, professional development, and pay – as contributing to TJS. The first two factors correspond to the quantitative findings, whereas the other two appear to contradict them; hence, a more in-depth investigation of TJS in the Indonesian context is required.
Specifically, twenty-nine Indonesian teachers stated that working conditions, such as the organisation of work, work activities, working time, work-life balance, school facilities and equipment, class size, safety, and well-being, were crucial to their successful performance. Moreover, well-being was substantially enhanced by their working conditions and the environment within the school, increasing their level of job satisfaction. Although Dreer’s (2021) study of German teachers in general education concluded that interpersonal and personal factors were most important in relation to well-being, in the present study, it is evident that several environmental factors were also significant. In general, before the pandemic, the practitioners described their working environment as good or nice in urban locales; in rural areas, the working conditions were described as insufficient, resulting in increased levels of stress, as reported in other studies (e.g., Li & Yu, 2022). For instance, one interviewee from a rural state school noted that:
…working conditions are better in cities than in villages. There’s more money in urban areas than in remote areas, so schools are better equipped in cities than in villages. I think the government [prioritises] schools in cities. Teachers have access to more things like professional development opportunities, technology in the classrooms, and these schools are more modern than in rural areas. Teachers are happier in modern schools and their work is easier. Therefore, many teachers are unwilling to relocate to rural schools. (Teacher 9)
Another participant working for an urban state school added that the more access teachers had to technology, the higher the quality of their teaching was. Technology enabled them to create more engaging environments and forge closer and more friendly connections with their students. However, as the participant noted, “the teaching [-learning process] would have been more efficient overall had it not been for poor Internet connectivity” (Teacher 35). The latter observation was also confirmed by a few other teachers, including the same teacher from the rural state school above, who additionally stated that:
Although technology, software, and media are important these days, many schools struggle in this respect, probably more in villages than in cities. Indonesia is a huge country and it’s difficult to provide all schools with computers, laptops, [OHPs], etc. The situation is probably better in private schools than in state schools. (Teacher 9)
Similarly, another teacher from a rural state school emphasised that:
…good facilities, infrastructure, and equipment [guarantee] that teachers can maximise their students’ learning. Additionally, when combined with meaningful tasks, they offer students unforgettable experiences and improve their creativity and problem-solving skills. I think this happens in [urban] schools where both learning and teaching are more rewarding processes. (Teacher 21)
Twenty-three interviewees valued clarity and timely communication at work as this enhanced their understanding, boosted their engagement, gave them a sense of order, and reduced the amount of time wasted, thus bringing feelings of contentment. However, there was room for improvement in their schools. For example, several teachers complained about vague school policies and sixteen teachers stated that new policies and procedures were not always well communicated, which led to unnecessary confusion, uncertainty, and doubt. For instance, one participant working for an urban state school explained that:
The policies the school has introduced are helpful, but they are also open to many interpretations, which creates problems for teachers. It is very confusing when [teachers] understand them in different ways…and when [they] ask questions, the management team sometimes provides contradictory responses…At times, teachers find out about new policies too late and very often by chance, as my experience tells me. (Teacher 3)
Another teacher working in the same institution added that:
It is not only about the communication of policies. The problem is much bigger. While trying to find solutions to problems, for example, online teaching during the pandemic, the government often follows other countries, often in the West. Although Western policies and solutions sound good, they don’t always work in Indonesian schools, which the government fails to notice, and we – teachers – are expected to work wonders and make them work. Also, new policies don’t bring sufficient training for teachers, which causes a lot of stress among teachers. For example, during the pandemic, schools had very high expectations of teachers regarding the use of technology in teaching, but hardly any training was offered to support teachers. (Teacher 37)
Nineteen interviewees stated that work-life balance had a significant impact on both teacher performance and job satisfaction. However, slightly more male than female participants believed it was essential to maintain this balance to guarantee greater productivity, better engagement, and lower levels of absenteeism among staff. With the right work-life balance, all nineteen interviewees, more or less evenly representing urban and rural schools, felt they could create a friendly atmosphere in the classroom and maintain friendly relationships with students, which positively impacted their job satisfaction. The importance of maintaining such relationships cannot be underestimated as many studies have found interpersonal relationships to be the key to enhanced TJS (Lopes & Oliveira, 2020; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2010). Although teachers in this study tried hard to maintain this balance, it was not always possible due to being assigned unexpected work.
During the pandemic, the teachers realised that working conditions had a massive impact on TJS. Regrettably, under the new circumstances (e.g., online teaching), they described the working conditions as insufficient in urban schools and extremely challenging in rural areas, indicating these had worsened with the onset of the pandemic. A similar situation was reported in Latin American and Caribbean countries during the pandemic, in that social inequalities, in general, were exacerbated during the pandemic, and under-resourced rural areas suffered disproportionately (ECLAC/UNESCO, 2020). Although the various pre-pandemic issues described earlier still existed during the pandemic, the teachers often felt that schools took advantage of them and gave them additional tasks as if online teaching was not an onerous task in itself. In the long run, this made them feel overwhelmed and stressed. Six teachers also admitted to experiencing physical and emotional exhaustion at certain points, and this is in line with studies that similarly found higher levels of anxiety, stress and exhaustion among teachers (e.g., Allen et al., 2020; Sokal et al., 2020). However, the study by Sokal et al. (2020) with Canadian Kindergarten to Grade 12 teachers found a reasonable level of satisfaction with administrative support, while in the current study, these teachers were largely left to solve the problems themselves. One participant working for an urban state school reported that:
I was given a lot of work during the pandemic and was constantly asked whether all the classes took place and how I engaged the students in the virtual classroom. Further questions were about checking student attendance, online tests, and homework tasks. The focus was always on work. My superior never asked me how I was coping with all the tasks I had been given…and how I felt about my work in the new situation. There was no professional support to monitor my mental health, which was very disappointing. I thought that a healthy working environment was a must-have in any place of work, but in my school, it was not a priority. (Teacher 11)
The second factor contributing to TJS was that of colleagues. Eighteen teachers stressed the importance of positive and friendly relationships with work colleagues. The majority of them were female participants who believed it was essential that teachers worked together, shared ideas, and supported one another in both pre-pandemic and during-pandemic teaching. For example, one female teacher working for a city-based private school stated that:
It’s important that there are communities of teachers in schools…where they plan instruction together, share knowledge, create student-friendly environments, and support one another when problems [arise]. Such an approach to work leads to the creation of a friendly, supportive, and inclusive network for teachers…and makes them happy at work. (Teacher 4)
Another from the same context added that “supportive and positive colleagues make the school more successful and positively impact on other teachers’ performance and well-being.” (Teacher 10)
A collective approach to work was visible in all schools, regardless of status, location, or affiliation, and increased teachers’ positive feelings and attitudes towards their work. Inexperienced teachers strove for good relationships and effective collaborations with experienced teachers, given the importance of interpersonal relationships referred to above. One novice interviewee teaching in an urban private school explained:
For me, it’s important that I have a [fruitful] relationship with more experienced colleagues. They give me interesting ideas about how to teach or assess my students. They also have extensive knowledge about the system which I can benefit from, so I spend a lot of time with them. Our conversations help me develop as a teacher and make my time in school enjoyable. (Teacher 16)
Only four interviewees reported unpleasant working relationships and described their colleagues as uncommitted and disinterested. Two were novice teachers who described their more experienced colleagues as uncooperative and unsupportive, and their attitude towards them as condescending and/or arrogant. All four came from state schools, based in urban areas.
The third factor contributing to TJS, as reported by seventeen Indonesian English language teachers, was professional development. All participants, representing state and private as well as urban and rural contexts, stated that there was plenty of opportunity for this, which made their professional journey interesting, stimulating, and satisfying. Some of the activities were compulsory but there were also many optional events that teachers could attend according to their interests and needs. Again, several interviewees stated that “teachers from urban areas had more opportunities to develop professionally than teachers from rural areas.” (Teacher 4) Thirteen teachers also expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of funding available to cover the expenses of some of these events. The majority of these came from state schools, based in both urban and rural contexts.
Most notably, nine participants thought that the language proficiency of many teachers was very low, and therefore professional development providers should offer language enhancement as part of their events. This finding links to the study by Cirocki and Farrell (2019), who reported Indonesian teachers’ dissatisfaction with their levels of English proficiency. The participants here believed this would boost teachers’ self-esteem and confidence, and lower their anxiety, leading to more regular use of the target language while teaching. Regrettably, most professional development events currently focus on developing pedagogical content knowledge. For instance, one interviewee from a rural state school and one from an urban state school stated, respectively:
I think professional development should now help teachers become better language users. In my school, teachers have limited knowledge of the English language. They mainly teach English using Bahasa Indonesia because they cannot speak English well. This is a big problem… this must change as soon as possible. (Teacher 13)
The problem in Indonesian schools is that English language teachers do not speak good English. As teacher education programmes are not fully successful in this respect, systematic language support classes for teachers must be [implemented] to improve the situation. Otherwise, student learning experiences are [at stake]. These support classes should be compulsory, and teachers should be given extra time for this from their schools. Teachers should be made aware that this initiative will bring them personal and professional benefits, including [increased] confidence and [lower levels of] language anxiety as well as more effective teaching and [greater] job satisfaction. (Teacher 23)
The fourth factor to address in this section is pay. While pay was not an important factor for TJS in the quantitative phase, fifteen interviewees maintained that salary was an important element of their jobs, and it should be noted that pay is one of several lower-order needs identified in earlier research to be central in determining job dissatisfaction (e.g., Hasanah & Supardi, 2020; Pepe et al., 2017). Pay was seen by participants to guarantee them financial security and was considered, as one interviewee from a city-based state school voiced, “a gratifying element in their professional lives, very often affecting [their] performance.” (Teacher 32)
In general, the teachers thought their salaries should be higher, regardless of school status, as they did not adequately match their job duties and responsibilities. As one interviewee from a rural state school mentioned, “…teachers have an important role in society; they educate citizens and give them the possibility of a better future, and therefore deserve a decent income.” (Teacher 1)
Moreover, this dissatisfaction was much stronger when it referred to teachers’ work in rural state schools during the pandemic. The interviewees thought their pandemic-time salaries did not reflect the amount of effort and dedication they put into teaching. It is interesting to note that more voices of dissatisfaction came from teachers working in state schools than from private institutions, perhaps partly due to the fact that the latter receive benefits that are not available in the state school sector. Eleven teachers, mainly from urban areas, admitted to working for more than one school or offering “private lessons after work to improve the quality of [their] lives.” (Teacher 6). Four teachers from rural schools thought that their income was barely enough to live on, although this was dependent on their family size.
Conclusion and Implications
The purpose of this research was fourfold: (1) to measure Indonesian secondary school English language teachers’ levels of job satisfaction before and during the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) to determine whether there were significant differences in levels of job satisfaction; (3) to assess whether there were significant differences in job satisfaction in terms of gender, career stage, school location, school status, and school affiliation; and (4) to identify which factors Indonesian teachers believed contributed to job satisfaction.
The findings from both quantitative and qualitative stages indicated that English language TJS before and during the pandemic was generally high, despite a significant decline during the pandemic. The quantitative stage revealed that male teachers were more satisfied with their jobs than their female counterparts, with responsibility and teaching factors influencing levels of contentment. Regarding career stages, levels of job satisfaction varied among teachers before and during the pandemic, with significant differences in terms of pay, promotion, security, and professional development. Teachers working in state schools were more satisfied with their pay and security both before and during the pandemic than teachers in private schools, which contradicts the qualitative findings. Additionally, teachers working in schools under the Ministry of Education were more satisfied with pay and security before and during the pandemic than those under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. No significant differences were observed among teachers working in different school locations before and during the pandemic. The qualitative stage only partially corroborated the quantitative findings. In descending order, the four main factors contributing to Indonesian English language TJS were: working conditions, colleagues, professional development, and pay.
There are several limitations of this research that need to be addressed. Firstly, the scarcity of previous empirical projects on English language teachers’ job satisfaction in Indonesia, and the lack of methodological rigour in those that do exist, made it difficult to understand, discuss, and contextualise the findings. Secondly, convenience sampling may have produced data that were not fully representative of the entire population (Crowther & Lauesen, 2017). Thirdly, the qualitative findings were rather limited in scope, and therefore not generalisable, which limited the impact of the research (Sandelowski & Barroso, 2007). Generalisation, in this case, was focused on the analysis and understanding of circumstances rather than the collection of representative data and entailed inferring the potential extrapolations, or transferability, of those results. Finally, the project relied on self-reported data that may have contained sources of bias, including selective memory, inaccurate memories, and exaggeration (Russell et al., 2018).
To facilitate the generalisation of both quantitative and qualitative data, future studies could recruit more participants from all regions in Indonesia and be conducted at different educational levels. Given the growing interest in this topic in Indonesia, it would be useful for local researchers to design and validate a context-specific survey. The current study could therefore be used as a reference point for this. The new survey should also link TJS with other psychological concepts such as teacher self-efficacy, teacher agency, and teacher well-being, which recent research suggests are all interconnected.
The findings have strong implications for policy makers and management teams in Indonesian secondary schools. Firstly, policy makers must allocate more funding to improve working conditions in schools in general, and rural areas in particular. This should be available not only for provision of cutting-edge infrastructure, and technological software and hardware, but also for teacher training on how to effectively use technology for teaching and learning purposes. As pointed out earlier, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought additional challenges to schools, including hybrid teaching, among others.
Secondly, policy makers must emphasise the professional development of teachers and ensure equal opportunities exist for all teachers, regardless of school location, status, or affiliation. A vital aspect of this provision should be target-language enhancement courses, enabling teachers to improve their overall English language proficiency while gaining a deeper awareness of the benefits of using the target language while teaching. This will increase teachers’ self-efficacy and job satisfaction. Language provision for teachers could also be promoted by school management teams through close collaborations with university English language departments. In addition, school management teams could encourage inter-school collaborations among English language teachers in communities of practice which already exist in Indonesia, but which do not actively promote the use of the target language. This would enable teachers to exercise more autonomy and agency, both of which are largely constrained by top-down education reforms.
Thirdly, it is vital that school management teams put pressure on the government with regard to insufficient technological equipment and poor Internet connectivity in schools across the country. Without strong Internet connectivity and high-quality professional development training on how to utilise and effectively integrate technology and digital tools into English language teaching, blended teaching – the expected approach to language teaching in the 21st century – is hardly achievable.
Finally, teacher pay must be improved without delay. This would not only enhance job satisfaction among teachers, but also result in greater employment security and better performance. In addition, it would improve teaching quality, lead to a more engaging curriculum and, above all, enhance the standard of candidates willing to take up English language teaching positions in Indonesia.
About the Authors
Andrzej Cirocki is an Associate Professor in English Language Education at the University of York, UK. He is a teacher educator and an ELT materials developer. In addition to being the author of numerous publications, being involved in international research projects and delivering CPD courses for TESOL teachers worldwide, he is also the editor-in-chief of The European Journal of Applied Linguistics and TEFL. ORCID ID: 0000-0003-0442-5092
Syafi’ul Anam is an Associate Professor in the English Education Study Program at Universitas Negeri Surabaya, Indonesia. He has been teaching courses in academic writing, language assessment, and materials development. His primary research interests include self-regulated learning, self-efficacy beliefs, and assessment in EFL contexts. ORCID ID: 0000-0002-4687-856X
Pratiwi Retnaningdyah is an Associate Professor in the English Literature Study Program at Universitas Negeri Surabaya, Indonesia. She has been involved in several teacher professional development programmes related to literacy instruction and the teaching of literature in EFL classrooms. Her research interests are gender studies, postcolonial criticism, teaching literature in EFL classrooms, and literacy as social practice. ORCID ID: 0000-0003-2282-1953
Bill Soden is an Assistant Professor in English Language Education at the University of York, UK. He is a teacher educator and teacher trainer. He has published work on English for Academic Purposes, postgraduate student academic writing, assessment and feedback in higher education and most recently testing and assessment in the ELT classroom. ORCID ID: 0000-0002-7621-2320
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