STUDENT LIFE / FEB. 05, 2014
version 5, draft 5

Better Teachers Needed: Not Richer Students

education is future

Although it has been touted for some time, that students from a poorer background are automatically more disadvantaged when it comes to education; a recent OECD study seems to debunk that theory. What it suggests, is that it is not about wealth or background. Instead it is about the quality of teaching that you receive. This seems to fall in line with an article I wrote recently, about the need to improve the teaching in schools, rather than just pump money and new initiatives into them.

Money Doesn’t Matter

According to a study of so called PISA tests by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), poverty or social class is no barrier to success. What the study seemed to suggest was that the reason for the UK’s dropping exam results, is a lack of quality teaching. It found that the poorest 10% of students in Shanghai are more advanced than their counter parts in the UK. Similarly, the poorest students in the Netherlands are one year ahead of their peers in the UK. OECD spokesman Andrew Schleicher said that it proved:

"Poverty isn’t destiny. For example the poorest 15-year-olds in Shanghai... do as well as the ten per cent most privileged students in the United States and 20 per cent in the UK. The data clearly show that, for many countries, the issue is not just with poor kids in poor neighbourhoods but with many kids in many neighbourhoods. The bottom line is that the country where you go to school seems to have a much greater impact on your learning outcome than the social background of your family or even your country."

What Is to Be Done

This revelation comes after earlier warnings by Schools Minister David Laws, about the rising gap between the poorest children in British Society.  State schools have even been given £900 in extra funding for each poor student. But the results above show, that just throwing more money at it will not make the problem go away. In fact, after years of pumping billions into the education system, results have only got worse. So, what can the government do if not throw money at it, as is the usual and now shown to be thoroughly stupid way of things? Well, the only option is to actually improve the teaching by not putting pointless initiatives in place or increasing Ofsted inspections. Instead, have higher standards for entry into university, higher quality graduates will improve the quality of future teachers and school leavers.

As well as this, remove some of the pointless red tape and paper work involved in teaching, teachers can then actually get on with the business of teaching and enjoy it more rather than hating their jobs. Teaching has earned one of the largest drop out rates and lowest job satisfaction rates, of any career in the UK, in recent years. Only 39% of UK teachers said that they felt satisfied in their job, this is a 25 year low. This is primarily due to stress and large class sizes, brought on by government initiatives, which have done nothing, but make the problem worse.

Overall, it seems that when Education Secretary Michael Gove referred to attitude being more important than funding, he was actually correct. Whether or not the government will take this approach, is another matter altogether. At present, the government have taken the same approach as previous governments, by just throwing money and initiatives at the problem. So let us see how the coalition handles this problem, or if they just leave it until after the election; perhaps for someone else to try and fix this mess which is our education system.

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