Over my years in education I have helped choose teachers both for my employers and for my own projects. One of the biggest challenges faced when looking for teachers in Indonesia is the issue of qualification.
As a national plus school where English is the main medium of instruction, we generally try to employ teachers who have studied overseas or at least those that have an excellent standard of English, normally acheived through a degree at a top-end university. The problem for us is that the sort of teacher we want with the level of English and international mindedness we require is rarely the sort of teacher who has studied for the Indonesian Teaching Degree (Akte 4).
A recent article by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker suggests that we needn’t be too concerned about the lack of a formal qualification. Quality of teachers is by far the most important factor in the quality of education at a school ranking above issues like school funding levels, class size, and curriculum design, but new research suggests that a teaching degree is no predictor of who will make a good teacher;
A group of researchers… have investigated whether it helps to have a teacher who has earned a teaching certification or a master’s degree. Both are expensive, time-consuming credentials that almost every district expects teachers to acquire; neither makes a difference in the classroom. Test scores, graduate degrees, and certifications—as much as they appear related to teaching prowess—turn out to be about as useful in predicting success as having a quarterback throw footballs into a bunch of garbage cans.
So if the teaching degree doesn’t help us predict which applicants are going to be great teachers, how should we hire? Gladwell has some intriguing ideas;
It needs an apprenticeship system that allows candidates to be rigorously evaluated. Kane and Staiger have calculated that, given the enormous differences between the top and the bottom of the profession, you’d probably have to try out four candidates to find one good teacher.
I love this idea! Cost issues aside, the concept of nurturing a group of trainee teachers through a few years’ of apprenticeship during which we decide who has the ability to be a great teacher and during which the trainees also get the chance to decide if teaching is the profession for them. In fact, it is similar to a previous program at my school (since phased out) of taking on new teachers in an assistant role where they had a few years to prove themselves capable of moving into a lead teacher position.
The piece goes on to compare the teaching apprenticeship system to the gruelling process through which big financial firms choose their financial advisors;
What does it say about a society that it devotes more care and patience to the selection of those who handle its money than of those who handle its children? Link