For the second time in a couple of weeks I’ve been laid up with some kind of virus. The throat is very sore but my brain is still working so I’ve spent the day doing a bit of reading. This article popped up on my twitter feed. It’s quite an interesting read – particularly since it comes from a Murdoch run News International paper (they also publish The Sun).
There are some interesting points the article raises. Firstly, our mates in Finland come out on top again. South Korea come in second. Here’s what the article says…
Finland and South Korea perform so strongly because, although very differently organised, both countries place strong emphasis on recruiting, training and supporting the best teachers. The report concludes that valuing and respecting teachers as professionals is they key, rather than factors such as pay.
So basically the government here should be looking at getting the best quality teachers they possibly can. Are they doing this? Um… no. Her Ladyship Catherine Isaac has been arguing in favour of allowing unregistered, unqualified teachers to be allowed to work in her beloved charter partnership schools. But it probably doesn’t matter that much. Maybe ask the kids and parents in Kaitaia what can happen when the right checks and balances aren’t in place. And that all happened in a system that DID have checks and balances! Not only that, but they are planning a ‘fast-track’ teacher training – 5 weeks at uni then straight into a class (possibly unregistered). Goodo!
Although the article says pay isn’t a factor, teachers in South Korea get about twice the average wage. Although I think that probably helps to entice people in to the system. In New Zealand our average wage (from the Stats NZ Household Economic Survey) was around $28,000. If we used the South Korean pay model we’d be on $56,000. Oh, we are!! That’s probably a good start then.
The most important point the article makes is this – made by study author Sir Michael Barber (a former advisor to Tony Blair):
The challenge then for policy-makers is less knowing what they should do than having the courage to act on the evidence (my emphasis).
Acting on evidence is so important in teaching. Informing your pedagogy through best practise. What are the great things great teachers do get great things out of their students? Certainly not having uncertainty foisted upon them through a series of misinformed school mergers. Certainly not having teachers deal with a payroll system that doesn’t work. Certainly not marginalising the teaching profession by labelling them as a bunch of intransigent unionists resistant to change in order to sell reforms to parents.
In New Zealand we are currently at a cross-roads in education. Do we go down the path of the United Kingdom and the United States of America with charter schools and private companies making profits from public money, teachers ranked by the test results of their students, and having super-schools with thousands of students? All of these reforms have one thing in common – money. Making money or saving money. It’s all about the cash.
Although we live in the capitalist world and we all get paid with money, sometimes it isn’t about money. Sometimes it’s about what’s best for New Zealand. But that’s the ‘Big Picture’ view which can be quite hard for a politician stuck in a 3-year electoral cycle. Just ask the environment.