Suppose you’ve just completed college. And suppose that you are a topper – that you’re in the top 5% of the graduates. Would you consider becoming a teacher?
You should. For the sake of our children, you should. That, at least, is what McKinsey & Company suggest.
About five years ago, McKinsey sought to find out why some schools succeed while others don’t. They did that by studying the school systems of 25 countries, including 10 of the top performers, to identify the common characteristics of high-performing school systems.
McKinsey’s year-long study revealed that increased spending and ambitious education reform do not necessarily improve school systems. Instead, they singled out teacher quality as the most important attribute affecting student outcomes, and suggested that:
“The three factors that matter most are:
- getting the right people to become teachers;
- developing them into effective instructors;and
- ensuring the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction for every child.”
Teacher quality matters and matters a lot. That’s why South Korean schools make sure they attract the top 5% of the graduates. That’s why they boast one of the best school systems in the world. And that’s why the Koreans claim that: “The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.”
Similarly, other countries that have great school systems also attract the best teachers. Finland, for example, attracts the top 10% of graduates. And Singapore and Hong Kong each attract the top 30% of their graduates.
The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. That’s right. So that’s why we should do more to encourage our best graduates to become teachers. That’s why we should – as suggested by McKinsey – get the right people to become teachers, train them well, and then enable them to teach.
If we really want to improve our school system, we should get serious about attracting and then training and retaining the best possible teachers. That, unfortunately, is not the case right now.
And the situation is about to get even worse.
The RCSC has recently announced that, except for posts that require a teaching background, teachers will not be eligible to apply for other vacant positions in the government.
Our schools need to attract the best of our graduates. But the best will not opt for teaching if they know that they will never be able to apply for other government posts.
There’s no doubt that the RCSC’s rule is meant to address teacher shortage. But the rule is shortsighted – by preventing teachers from competing for other government positions, teaching is going to become even more unattractive and the best teachers will stay away from teaching in the first place. That will not be good for our schools. And that will not be good for our children. So the RCSC should rescind its rule.
Teaching should be attractive. It should not be forced, even for teachers.
Bonded teachers is not a good idea. The RCSC and the Education Ministry may wish to read McKinsey’s “How the world’s best-performing school systems come out on top” to understand why.