In the Netherlands there is an ongoing discussion on how we could improve our education. A panel of 10 educators came up with the following suggestions:
- improve image of the teacher
- more opportunities to grow for teachers, but make sure you name and shame when teachers don’t achieve
- don’t just look at the marks of pupils but also take his/her social skills into account
- improve school management
- train teachers to deal with (socio-cultural) differences
- offer different exam levels to pupils; allow pupils to take exams per subject at the highest possible level
- less is more, reduce class sizes
What are your views on this?
Well, I find it interesting that the first line reads “improve image of the teacher” followed immediately by “name and shame” if a teacher doesn’t achieve. I have a real problem with the phrase “name and shame” as well as the concept behind it. It doesn’t seem to fit too well with improving the image of the teacher, does it?
I’m sure there are plenty of teachers who aren’t up to snuff but the majority work way too hard and put so much of themselves into their jobs. Why should they be treated in a way that doesn’t reflect what should be their professional status? We would never want to shame a child (or other student) in the classroom, so why is that acceptable behavior with respect to teachers?
I just read this story yesterday about a teacher in the Los Angeles area who friends, family, and authorities believe killed himself after he became despondent when the Los Angeles Times published teacher-effectiveness ratings on their website. The ratings, from what I understand, were published in a list format, with no additional information. Obviously, such a list, and such effectiveness ratings, don’t take into account the many factors involved with being a great, or even effective, teacher. Did this naming and shaming help further anything other than a tragedy?
To me, it depends a lot on what is meant by “improve education”. Depending on the end goal, reform may proceed in one direction or another.
And while it may be tempting to target “bad” teachers, is there any agreement on what makes a bad teacher? And how will it be measured? Poor exam results? Poor feedback from students and other stakeholders?
And strange that “increase teacher pay” wasn’t considered. Surely that’d be a way to attract the best minds to teaching.
I mostly agree with suggestion (7). Having thirty-odd students in your classroom does not necessarily conduce to your students’ learning process. Some programmes already work with smallish groups, though (10-20 pupils/students), so there the suggestion is largely irrelevant.
Suggestion (1) has been mooted repeatedly, by politicians and trade union leaders. What precisely does it mean, though? That, as teachers, we enjoy too little prestige? If so, what sort of prestige? Is it money-related? Or do they mean that a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, or even a PhD, does not command enough respect? If so, isn’t this a problem any academically trained individual will encounter?
5.train teachers to deal with (socio-cultural) differences
I mostly agree with this suggestion. As a teacher trainee I have seen a lot of different schools during my internships. If you are a teacher in a large city or town, you will come across different social and cultural backgrounds. If you cannot deal with these differences, it is difficult to gain respect from your class. You have to learn about these distinctions between students, so you can adapt to it and turn these individuals into one group. This is not only important for you as a teacher, but also for the students in the classroom. They can learn from eachother, and with all these various cultures, this could be a great thing.
(2) more opportunities to grow for teachers, but make sure you name and shame when teachers don’t achieve.
I like this one. I believe many high school teachers nowadays feel like they’re stuck in a rut or ‘stuck in second gear’. Most of them do love teaching, of course, but it’s not easy for them to advance in their careers. And, at the end of the day, that’s what we all want, isn’t it? To move forward, not backward. It’s not all about the rat race, no, not at all. It’s simply about offering people who enter this profession more career prospects and opportunities, so they can work their way to the top. Therefore, I’d suggest schools create new positions and/or new career goals within the organisation, or maybe even a fast-track scheme for teachers who aspire to take on some managerial responsibilities.
Further, I don’t agree with the name and shame idea. Simply dismissing someone if they have repeatedly refused to clean up their act will do just fine. There’s no way that looks good on your résumé. Don’t put their names up on billboards or drag their names through the mud; I think that’s just uncalled-for and unnecessary. Just for the record, I don’t support the name and shame, but I do, however, think it’s vital to have school inspectors check out schools on a regular basis.
I think the problem with the suggestions is that the nuances are missing. I agree with Mark saying; “it’s all about what is meant by ‘improve education’. Let’s go back; what do we think are the biggest problems in our education system? and then, what are the causes of these problems?
And I agree with Geert on asking the question ‘What is being meant by talking about image? Is the image of the teacher really one of the causes?
And can anyone tell me how suggestion 6 is applied in practice? By a preselection or by classification of the scores afterwards?
To suggestion 7) I would like to add a thought; ‘learning is something where YOU have to work on, no one can do it for you’. And how about teachers becoming more and more a facilitator of the learning process? Are the two, quality and large groups, necessarily exclusive?
I do agree with suggestion nr.7,allthough it seems an impossibility,since it’s allready a problem finding teaching fascilities.Even large schools suffer a shortage of classrooms and specialized teachers. Also the more pupils,the more funds the schools get, and unfortunately our new government is not keen on spending more money on education.
Extra training for teachers to deal with socio-cultural differences is not a bad idea either.Especially at the ‘so called’black schools this is a necessity.