Teacher Crisis: Scraping the bottom of the barrel
Posted February 4, 2008on:
Interesting piece on stuff today about the teacher crisis currently happening in primary schools. Apparently it has gotten so bad that they are considering hiring teachers who don’t have adequate English language skills. A survey of 79 schools showed that three quarters of the shortlisted candidates were ranked as either poor or very poor. I didn’t realise that it was this bad.
Hiring primary school teachers who can’t speak adequate English is outrageous. It’s very common at university to have economics and finance lecturers who can’t communicate properly in English (attracting the best staff is a problem in the tertiary sector too given that we don’t have discipline specific salaries to reflect the high paying jobs economics and finance phds can get, see a great paper by Professor Glenn Boyle on the evidence) and I must say it’s a terrible learning environment. The subtleties of the English language often mean that by wording a question slightly differently it has a completely different meaning. Expecting a third year university student to decipher the actual question is one thing, our brains are fully developed by then. But when you have kids at primary school whose brains are still developing not being able to understand their teacher is another.
The fact that the government is about to reduce the student-teacher ratio and thus require more teachers is only going to make this problem worse. I can’t say I follow the education sector that closely, but I’ve always been under the impression that teachers are underpaid relative to their counterparts in other countries such as the UK (although I think everybody gets paid more in the UK!). Unless we pay our teachers more (incidentally I just remembered that Barack Obama keeps talking about the need to pay teachers more in the US, that could confound the problem here), we are going to struggle to attract good teachers in what it sounds like is turning into quite an international market.
Now I know the haters are going to say that teachers aren’t motivated by money and that kind of thing, but at the end of the day, if they can do the same job overseas and get paid more while still getting warm fuzzy feelings about the great things they are doing (which they are, I think teachers are so important), then why wouldn’t they??
Trying unsuccessfully to avoid ranting