Four in five people in Singapore would encourage their children to become a teacher, according to a global online survey which set out to see how well the profession is respected in 21 countries.

The survey by the Varkey Gems Foundation, which released the findings yesterday, also found that teachers here were the best paid.

Singapore placed seventh out of the 21 countries in the survey's global teacher status index after scoring 46.3 out of 100, which meant that teachers here are more respected than their counterparts in Finland and the United Kingdom.

And the country which values its teachers the most? China, which scored a full 100 points.

Singapore also came in third for how much confidence it had in the education system. Finland was first and Switzerland, second.

The online study surveyed 1,000 respondents aged between 16 and 64 in each of the 21 countries, which included South Korea, Germany and Egypt.

The countries, which were chosen based on their scores in certain global mathematics and science tests, included those which did well, such as Finland, South Korea and Singapore, and those at the other end of the scale, such as Brazil, Italy and Spain.

One of the questions asked in the survey was to compare the teaching profession to other jobs, such as doctors, lawyers and librarians.

Just like in Finland, those surveyed in Singapore said they saw teachers at the same level as social workers.

China was the only country where those surveyed felt that a teacher shared a doctor's status.

Three in four respondents from China also said that teachers had the respect of students, putting it top of the list. For Singapore, it was about 45 per cent, placing it third.

Ms Lim Chye Ling, a teacher of 13 years here, felt that her profession is held in high regard by students and parents.

"While there are also parents who have unrealistic expectations of teachers, most of them still look to teachers as a form of resource," said the 35-year-old, who teaches at Kent Ridge Secondary in West Coast Road.

"Parents will share with us the issues they face with their children at home and ask us to recommend strategies to them... This shows that they trust us."

Businesswoman Jane Ting, 46, who has two sons in Farrer Park Primary, agreed that teaching is a cherished job in Singapore.

"My kids also respect their teachers very much. Sometimes I will threaten them by saying, 'I will tell your teachers about your bad habits,' and they will get scared," said the mother of three.

As for her children becoming teachers, she said: "If they are really passionate about the profession, I will support them and ask them to go for it.Teaching is a job that you have to be passionate about. Not everyone is suitable."

The survey also stated that a secondary school teacher's annual starting salary here, without bonuses, is about US$45,755 (S$57,175) a year, putting Singapore top of this list, ahead of the US, where the figure was listed as US$44,917. According to the Education Ministry's website, the starting salaries of teachers holding a bachelor's degree is about $3,010 a month.

Economics professor Peter Dolton of Sussex University, who co-wrote the survey, said of the findings: "This informs who decides to become a teacher in each country, how they are respected, and how they are financially rewarded.

"Ultimately, this affects the kind of job they do in teaching our children."

The Varkey Gems Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Dubai-based Gems Education, the largest operator of private schools in the world.

It is setting up an international school, Gems World Academy, in Yishun, and will take in its first batch of students next year.