Thursday, November 8, 2012

Teacher Quality: Getting the Right People to Lead the Classroom

Teachers shoulder a great responsibility of molding the future citizens of society. Yet, only a few countries (Finland is one example) demonstrate a highly selective process for teacher education. Teaching schools, for example, are far below medical schools in terms of competitiveness in most places. Raising the quality of teachers will involve two important factors: attractiveness and selectivity. The teaching profession must attract young minds who have the talent and teaching colleges must select only those who qualify. This is the case with the medical profession. And yes, it is perhaps the reason why health care costs are a great deal to any society. To achieve the same with basic education, it will come with comparable costs and priorities. After all, education is as important as health.
Marc Tucker, downloaded from
Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (United States) recently wrote an article, "Teacher Quality: Who's on Which Side and Why", outlining what it takes to make the teaching profession both attractive and selective. Below is an excerpt:
...No one believes that high SAT scores or ACT scores, or high high school grade point averages by themselves guarantee that a candidate will be a good teacher. Everyone I know believes that a passion for teaching and an ability to relate well to young people are very important characteristics of good teachers. But these are not mutually exclusive qualities. The record shows that countries that recruit their teachers from a pool of people who score high on their college entrance exams, had high grade point averages and also show a passion for teaching and an ability to relate well to students produce higher student achievement across the board than countries that leave out one or more of these qualities when they are recruiting their students....
In addition to stating what seems to be obvious to many, the article also points out a dilemma faced by teaching colleges when becoming selective thereby connecting issues in higher education with those of basic education. Teaching colleges from the point of view of entrepreneurship do not favor the selectivity requirement to uplift teacher quality. Having less students hurts the bottom line of these institutions. Being highly selective and serving the needs of basic education do not make teachers' colleges profitable.

If I may use an analogy, research in the basic sciences can never be funded by the market. Yet, the United States and other developed nations fund research. It is one of the obligations only a government could provide. Thus, on similar grounds, teacher education falls into this category. A government must subsidize if not fully support teaching institutions so that these colleges can be more selective. This is only one of the factors. The other is making the teaching profession attractive. Again, with a public school system, the government is one of the employers of teachers. Salaries and working conditions can dampen without any doubt enthusiasm and dedication. All of these seem obvious but somehow there are some who still think that privatization and free enterprise can provide teacher quality. No, only a government representing the society as a whole that is genuinely committed to uplifting the teaching profession can.

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