Monday, October 09, 2017

Teacher quality

I agree with the claim below that teacher quality is the key to good learning but I doubt that more teacher training would enhance that.  From what students tell me, teacher training courses are so dumb and boring that many students drop out and do something else -- with mainly the dummies left. 

The enthusiasm of the teacher is the key in my view.  My High School economics students did well in their exams because economics is a great enthusiasm of mine and I taught it with many indications of its relevance and importance. And I taught without one minute of teacher training behind me.

As to the poor pay of American teachers, that too can be attributed to quality. Many American classrooms are so chaotic that teachers are little more than childminders, with some students graduating high school barely able to read and write.  So such teachers are poorly paid and that drags the average remuneration down

And the idea that better teachers can be had by raising the bar for them to qualify is a laugh.  The opposite is going on.  In order to get people into their teacher training schools, they are LOWERING the bar.  Almost anyone can now enter teacher training, even people with poor literacy and numeracy levels.  Teaching in many of today's chaotic schools is so unattractive that it is in the main only the desperates who will take it on.

But bringing back effective discipline would change everything

According to the report, Education at a Glance 2017, US teachers, on average, earn less than 60% of the salaries of similarly-educated workers. They have among the lowest relative earnings across all OECD countries with data. This is what teachers’ salaries, relative to that of other college-educated adults looks like in 24 of the OECD’s 35 countries:

There is ample evidence that the quality of teachers is the key ingredient to raising educational standards—more than money spent, or class size, or what curriculum is best designed. Pay doesn’t dictate quality, but it certainly influences it.

John Hattie of the University of Melbourne has examined more than 65,000 research papers (1200 meta-analyses) on the effects of hundreds of different educational interventions. He discovered that things we think matter a lot—class size and streaming by ability—don’t matter nearly as much as the quality of a teacher. According to the Economist, “All of the 20 most powerful ways to improve school-time learning identified by the study depended on what a teacher did in the classroom.”

Money and prestige matter. The highest performing education systems always prioritize the quality of teachers says Andreas Schliecher, head of the education directorate at the OECD. “Wherever they have to make a choice between a smaller class and a better teacher, they go for the latter. Rather than putting money into small classes, they invest in competitive teacher salaries, ongoing professional development and a balance in working time.”

US teachers spend 38% more time in front of the classroom than their international peers: 981 hours compared to an OECD average of 712 per year. This is time that they are not collaborating with peers, honing their knowledge of their subject or the practice of teaching.

Two top-performing education systems in the world are Finland and Singapore offer insight on the importance of teachers. They are markedly different: in Finland, kids start school later, around 7, they don’t have too much homework, there is little high-stakes testing. In Singapore, expectations are high, kids are tested frequently, and pressure is intense.

Both systems have one thing in common: Teaching institutions are highly selective, teachers are highly-trained, and they are trusted. They are given time to work with other teachers and administrators to solve problems, in the classroom, with the curriculum, and with parents.


Call for Higher Educational Attainment in Britain

This is utter nonsense.  The vague justification behind this bit of pomposity is that the “needs of the economy are likely to mean a need for more high-level skills."  Maybe so but are the universities going to help with that?  They are more likely to produce useless knowledge about literature etc.  High-level or specialized skills certainly don't need university -- or need it minimally.  Take what must be just about the ultimate high level skill these days:  Computer programming.  Some people learn that by themselves without doing any course of study and most courses in it can be completed in a year.  I learned to code in FORTRAN in one week -- and FORTRAN is not the easiest of computer languages. More apprenticeships and internships is what is needed

Britain should set a target for 70 percent of young people to enter higher education, according to an influential higher education policy expert.

Nick Hillman’s proposal in A New Blue Book is likely to prove controversial with a sizable chunk of the Conservative Party, whose policies the publication aims to influence.

Hillman is director of the Higher Education Policy Institute -- although his book chapter is written in a personal capacity -- as well as being a former adviser to David Willetts in his time as a Conservative universities minister, and a former Conservative parliamentary candidate in Cambridge.

“In the context of Brexit, which may mean a reduction in the supply of highly skilled migrants, and rising life expectancy … we should be planning ahead to increase the time spent in education,” Hillman writes.

“A target of around 70 percent participation by 2035 should not be unachievable. That may sound ambitious, but it is a comparable trajectory to in the past and, as South Korea, Russia and Canada have all achieved participation way ahead of ours, it can surely be done.”

Figures released by the Department for Education in September showed the provisional higher education initial participation rate for 2015-16 was 49 percent, an increase of 1.4 percentage points on the previous year. The HEIPR covers 17- to 30-year-old English participants at British higher and further education institutions. However, the statistical release suggested that enrollment at alternative providers may add 1.5 percentage points to the figure -- pushing it over the 50 percent target set by the Labour government in 1999.

Asked by Times Higher Education why further expansion was needed, Hillman said the “needs of the economy are likely to mean a need for more high-level skills."

He noted that many professions where a degree was previously not required -- including teaching, nursing and policing -- have evolved to become graduate professions as the nature of work changed.

In his essay, Hillman notes that when former Prime Minister Tony Blair set the 50 percent participation target, “Conservatives spluttered into their coffee, opposed the target and then promised, at the 2005 general election, to send fewer people to university as a way of funding the abolition of tuition fees.”

Although the mainstream of the Conservative Party has largely swung behind expansion since then, some voices in the party remain opposed.

Hillman told Times Higher Education that while there were critics of expansion across the political spectrum, “it does sometimes seem a particularly difficult issue for people on the right.” He suggested this may be because “at its worst, right-wing politics can sink into a ‘them and us’ attitude” in which higher education was deemed as being the territory of the middle classes, while some Tory MPs represented constituencies with high participation rates and hence saw little merit in expansion.

But Hillman said that “if we’re going to help those other parts of the country,” that would either mean fewer places for richer students “or more places over all.”


Why Education?

Joanna Williams

Nicholas Tate’s conservative case for education is, today, also the most revolutionary.

Education has declared war on the past. At universities, students demand the removal of statues and argue for courses to be ‘decolonised’ and cleansed of the influence of dead white men. Academics look to internationalise the curriculum and promote global citizenship rather than national heritage. Lectures on the canon have been replaced by workshops in employability skills. In schools, classic works of literature are rejected for being too challenging for digital natives. The pressure for education to be relevant, inclusive and diverse results in a tick-box approach to the curriculum that privileges the equal representation of different identity groups over both tradition and intellectual merit.

This is not because members of traditionally underrepresented groups are less talented than white men. As Simone de Beauvoir put it, ‘One is not born a genius: one becomes a genius’. But, she added, the need for time and space to ‘become’ means ‘personal accomplishment is almost impossible in the human categories that are maintained collectively in an inferior situation’.

Since de Beauvoir’s time, society has changed considerably and more opportunities are available for members of historically underrepresented groups to excel in science, the arts and academia. But teaching to represent diversity means privileging the current moment now that women and black people are more readily able to make their mark on the world. As a result, the past is reduced to decontextualised snippets, erased entirely or read selectively to meet the more prosaic goals of today’s schools. Young people come to inhabit a permanent present, a year zero with few historical reference points on which they can anchor their own experiences of the world. The past might be a foreign country, but today’s young people are likely to have little sense of how they do things differently there.

Education has not always been driven by disdain for the past. Knowledge of and from the past was central to an educational project conceived as a conversation between the generations and the means by which children were granted access to their intellectual birthright. This notion first began to be challenged by radical educators in the 1960s who focused on schools’ role in reproducing and legitimising social inequality. Instead of arguing that working-class children deserved better teaching and more access to knowledge, these radical educators attacked the content of the curriculum itself. According to this way of thinking, Matthew Arnold’s definition of culture as ‘the best which has been thought and said in the world’ was no more than a cover for promoting the knowledge and values of a social elite. It was assumed that middle-class children performed well because their knowledge was recognised in the classroom, while working-class children failed because their particular knowledge was not credentialised.

Teaching the established canon, transmitting a body of subject knowledge and inducting children into their national cultural and literary heritage came to be rejected as elitist practices. It led to the decentring of knowledge, particularly knowledge of or from the past, and the installation, in its place, of a cultural relativism that positioned children themselves at the heart of education. Nicholas Tate, former chief curriculum and qualifications adviser to the UK secretary of state for education, draws out the consequences of this move in his new book, The Conservative Case for Education. ‘If one stops giving priority to aspects of a society’s past that have been culturally more determining than others’, Tate writes, ‘one abandons altogether the very idea that education is about induction into, and transmission of, something already existing’.

The challenge to traditional approaches to education was presented as an attack on a politically conservative agenda. Yet there is little radical about replacing knowledge of the world, the best which has been thought and said, with knowledge of the self. The tyranny of relevance assumes working-class children should be taught the skills they need to get a job and black children should be limited to black knowledge, perhaps taught through ‘hip-hop pedagogy’, and activities such as ‘graffiti walls’.  Student-centred teaching, or a pedagogy of the oppressed, starts from where learners are – and risks leaving them there. As Tate explains, this can lead to ‘a self-congratulatory imprisonment within one’s cultural identity’.

Instead, what is radical is to consider the transformative potential of education, its power to begin from where learners are and, through opening up a whole world of knowledge, take them somewhere else entirely. In Willy Russell’s play, Educating Rita, the working-class Rita insists she wants to know ‘everything’. If we don’t allow students the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of giants, they will never be able to see further. If students are denied knowledge of the past, they will never be able to make an impact on the future. The demand that all young people, irrespective of social class, gender or skin colour should have access to the best which has been thought and said in the world challenges convention. Today, then, the people best able to defend the transformative potential of education are conservative in the sense that they see knowledge of or from the past as worth preserving and transmitting to a new generation. In this sense, The Conservative Case for Education is truly radical.

From the outset it is clear that Tate is not propounding Conservative Party education policies. Although he points to former Tory ministers Michael Gove and Kenneth Baker as education secretaries he admires, he is scathing of the Conservative Party’s current direction and is not persuaded by prime minister Theresa May’s call for a return to grammar schools. Tate grounds his work in a conservative tradition that runs far deeper than the current government’s linking of universities to the national economic interest and schools to every passing political whim. He takes us through the work of four key thinkers on education; TS Eliot, Hannah Arendt, Michael Oakeshott and ED Hirsch, not all of whom would eagerly align themselves with the politics of the Conservatives.......

Through exploring the work of Eliot, Oakeshott, Arendt and Hirsch alongside each other, Tate makes a compelling case for the significance of knowledge of and from the past to the project of education. This view is conservative because it looks to preserve culturally elite knowledge through its intergenerational transmission. However, it is also, at best, a radical challenge to today’s educational groupthink that denies children access to the knowledge of the past and leaves them, floundering, with nothing beyond their own narrow horizons.

It is through making the conservative case for education that Tate provides us with a devastating critique of many of the ideas that have become central to schooling today, such as the pervasive therapeutic ethos that privileges a pupils’ emotional wellbeing above intellectual risk taking. Most significantly, Tate is critical of the way education’s rejection of the past means a generation of young people have been left without any concept of national culture to identify with. ‘In many states’, Tate writes, ‘the problem is not now nationalism but a lack of identification with the national community and a disengagement from national and local politics’. The emphasis schools and universities place on global consciousness can undermine ‘the emotional basis on which any real interest in the future has to rest’.

Tate is not arguing for the end of religion or for cultural homogeneity. This is a far more radical argument that makes education central to democracy. ‘The world is still one of nation states; it is in nation states, not supranational groupings, that effective democracy is possible; nation states need borders; frontiers, boundaries, limits and national traditions can be a positive thing and the basis of distinctive identities; and children, as Durkheim insisted, need an education that inducts them into the kind of common culture necessary if these nation states are not to fall apart.’ Tate’s case for education, which I find compelling, is that conservative thinkers ‘value links between the generations and have a strong sense of the importance in people’s lives of deeply embedded and well-established communities such as family, locality, religious groups and the nation’. In this regard, Tate’s views on education mark him out not just as a radical but as a revolutionary.

More HERE 

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