Are There Enough Teachers?

Critic:

How would everyone going to private schools scale?

If there are enough teachers for government schools, are there not enough for replacement schools? Is it being claimed that governments hire lots of incompetent teachers, and the pool of competent teachers would be much smaller?

James Tooley’s real-world research in many developing countries discovered that governments insist on “credentials,” but ignore real-world defects such as sleeping and/or drinking on the job, and even not showing up. Private-sector schools fire teachers for such offenses, and will hire anybody, with or without a college degree, who can do the job effectively. After testing over 24,000 students, Tooley and his team concluded that the private-sector schools in their study were cheaper and about one grade level better than competing “free” schools. This scales so well that as many as 80% of students in some provinces attend private-sector schools.

Snipped a lot of meandering, which led to this:

The adult population is around 190309561(less than 65 and above 18), which means around 14% of the population is required to be a teacher for 1 on 1 learning. I’m sure you see the problem.

Apparently the author of this armchair exercise read about the Bloom 2 Sigma report – but then leaped to the theory that each child would require a dedicated teacher all day long. Perhaps no such thing as one-room schoolhouses ever existed, which practiced 1:1 or 1:few education without having one teacher for every student, by focusing on one student at a time, then allowing the student to work on his own? Perhaps we have no experience with home education, where a single parent, without formal training, effectively teaches a handful of children? And perhaps we know, beyond doubt, that education requires 180 days times 6 hours of children being tied to desks? Perhaps Democratic Free schools have never existed, nor enabled children to learn more effectively with much less 1:1 time? Perhaps the Monitorial System and the Hole In The Wall computers never existed, either? Which parallel universe, unattached to the Real World, did this overheated armchair theory spring from?

The author has assumed many, many things without evidence. One, that government “standards” are actually useful for determining who would and would not be an effective teacher. Two, that the government method of swallowing up thousands of hours of a child’s time is both effective and necessary. Three, that the teacher, not the child, is the main driver of learning. Four, that the internet does not already exist, and is not being used to support effective education.

Many home-schooled children are starting college at ages 12, 14, 16. Calculate the years not wasted, the hours saved. Factor this reduced demand into your calculations of the needed supply.

The critic gives his game away with his last remark:

Education and knowledge should be free and open to all, not commercialized.

I’m a huge fan of open-source educational materials. Tech already has greatly reduced the cost of education, and will continue to do so. Government, however, is singularly inept at optimizing the provision of education. One could almost say that government’s core competency is to de-optimize whatever it touches; to use its perversely reverse Midas Touch to suck up and destroy resources.

The voluntary, non-coerced sector will find better solutions. Some of those will be commercialized, some will be contributed just because people want to.

Beware fundamentalist opposition to voluntary transactions, with or without cash; it may lead to foolish theories which fail to properly consider basic economic realities. It is the business of entrepreneurs to solve these “gotcha” problems, and they’re a whole lot better at this than those who refuse to think in economic terms ever could be.

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