This is yet another of those things which I’ve been thinking about and have been intending to write about for a long time but have never gotten down to it. Pinky wrote this excellent post on the topic today and that has got me thinking. To quote her,
A bad teacher makes a bad student. A teacher who looks at teaching as just another job is doing no good to anyone. She neither grows in her life nor contributes to the positive growth of a kid.There have been a few teachers in my life who i have tremendous respect for, not because they taught me effectively enough to pass in their subjects but because they taught me to listen, think and speak!
I don’t have any solutions yet but I thought I should just put some bullet points here, just to try and give a structure to the problem. Let me know your thoughts
- If we consider a person’s salary as Society’s recognition of his/her worth, school teachers are not recognized enough
- Abysmal salaries drive away a large number of potential school teachers away from the profession
- Love for teaching is important, but if teaching pays as abysmally as it currently does, the opportunity cost of doing what you love is way too high for some people, and so they end up in other professions
- We have a market failure in teaching – how do we run a school profitably while paying teachers competently while on the other hand keeping fees reasonable, and not resorting to any subsidies?
- India suffers from what I call the “official’s wife bug”. In the 60s and 70s, the teaching profession got flooded by women who weren’t really looking to make much money, but more to just pass some time and use their bachelor’s degrees rather than being housewives. This has fostered a culture of low schoolteachers’ salaries in India. People who weren’t looking to make money out of teaching crowded out those who found the opportunity cost of the low salaries in teaching too high.
- McKinsey interview level arithmetic: assume a school having classes 1 to 12, 4 sections per class, 40 students per section. 8 periods a day 5 days a week gives a total of 12 * 4 * 8 * 5 = 1920 periods per week. Assuming each teacher can take 5 classes a day (or 25 a week) we will need 77 (round it off to 80) teachers. Number of students is 12 * 4 * 40 = 1920, so essentially 25 students have to pay for one teacher’s salary, and this is apart from expenses towards school building, maintenance, overheads, etc. McKinsey level handwaving. 10 students have to pay for one teacher’s salary. Doesn’t sound feasible
- Primary and secondary education is simply way too important to be left in the hands of unmotivated disinterested people, but that seems like the situation we are in (I dont’ mean to say all teachers are unmotivated or disinterested; just that the situation doesn’t incentivize talented motivated people to enter the profession).
- Universities attract talent by allowing faculty to make money by other means such as consulting and organizing for-profit courses. Will something like that work for schools? And no, I’m not talking about private tuitinos as the other source of income. Is there something else?
- Government intervention is not a solution. In a place like India it will only end up messing up things further and draining more money from the system.
- In the pre-IT era, teaching salaries were more competitive (with respect to competing jobs) than they are now, so they could attract better talent
- I wonder if it is only in India that such a large proportion of school teachers are women. This is just a general pertinent observation, and has nothing to do with the rest of the post
- The officer’s wife model was good when it started off – some motivated people came into the system because fo that. Just that the system is not sustainable and we’re facing the problems of that now and because a lot of school managements fail to take into account that the model isn’t sustainable
Any thoughts on this? Any possible solutions? Of course it’s not possible to implement any macro-level solution. All I’m looking at is a school-level solution. How do you plan to run one school (of size I mentioned in my bullets) sustainably while ensuring teachers are paid adequately enough to not scare away interested people?