[This blog is part of the "Innovate to Educate" blog series.] Amongst the biggest struggles in Education at the moment, bringing quality teachers to our students remains at the top. UNESCO estimates that approximately 18 million teachers would be needed in order to impart quality education to the world’s children by 2015. In India alone, 20 lakh (2,000,000) new teachers would be required to enter into a certification program today in order to meet the goals in 4 years’ time. The debate in Education today is whether or not formal 4 year programs are truly necessary in order to impart quality education to students. A recent study conducted by Economics Professor Douglas Staiger at Dartmouth University and Business Professor Jonah Rockoff at Columbia University claims it’s nearly impossible to determine who will be an effective teacher up front, so the optimal strategy is to lower barriers to becoming a teacher and instead provide lots of support.Perhaps low–cost private, Affordable Private Schools (APS) have found the perfect answer to this dilemma, and perhaps the loose legal structures of the developing world have proven optimal in bringing the solution to light.
In Dan Pink’s Ted Talk on motivation, he tells us the “secret to high performance and satisfaction is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.” In other words, we require autonomy, mastery, and purpose to do what we do at our most optimal ability.
APS provide three major opportunities to their new hires that few other teachers enjoy, but how well does this translate into the necessary factors to develop motivated teachers?
The training for teachers in APS is like that of Teach For America fellows: quick and as practical as possible. There’s no time to waste. In the typical 2 year teacher attrition timeframe and low-income student demographic that APSs operate in, theory holds much less value than the low-cost, innovative energy that newbies bring to the table. Teachers are able to gain mastery in the field of education in a short and valuable time frame. The question remains, is the “thrown into the deep end” training sufficient enough to truly master teaching and positively impact students’ lives, or is it simply the “better than nothing” step up from a low income student’s alternative public schooling option?
APS teachers are often the primary bread winners for their whole family. They are not guaranteed a job for life like their counterparts in the public system, so showing up and working hard is imperative. They know they are replaceable however they know they are valued for the time that was invested in their training. They are lastly, and most imperatively, accountable to their students and students’ parents. Studies show that people who pay for products & services inherently have more skin in the game and demand higher quality services than those who receive the same services for free. The question here is whether or not uneducated parents are demanding the appropriate outcomes from the teachers they are paying to educate their children. And furthermore, do these various players create a sense of purpose or a sense of fear and frustration in a teacher’s life?
Outside legal structures (Autonomy)
Till date, APSs have generally operated outside of legal structures. Although the government is now working on changing this fact, school owners have had the freedom to conduct curriculum, classrooms, tuition, hiring and education as they see fit. Has this autonomy trickled down to the teachers or have the minute-by-minute lesson planscrippled autonomy and creativity in the classrooms?
I truly believe an open debate around these critical motivating factors is necessary as we have been ringing the Affordable Private School bell claiming perfection for long enough. Perhaps a magnifying glass is needed to determine what should stay and what could go in order for us to get the equation right in bringing education to billions of poor children worldwide. And once we can master the ingredients, perhaps the developed world will look to the developing world for appropriate solutions to serve their neediest children.