Teaching Candidates Aplenty, but the Jobs Are Few – NYTimes.com


Teaching Candidates Aplenty, but the Jobs Are Few – NYTimes.com.

All over the United States, the teacher education programs are under pressure because of the insufficient funds to hire newly trained teachers.  The article cited above describes the plight of graduates of teacher education programs from renowned teacher education schools in the United States, such as the Michigan State University, Teachers College Columbia University, and University of Pennsylvania.  And it is not looking good! The Michigan State University, for instance,:

…has pushed its 500 teaching graduates to look out of state. As local jobs have dried up, it started an internship program in Chicago, a four-hour drive from campus. Professors now go with students to the annual campus job fair to make sure they do not hover around the Michigan tables, but walk over to, say, North Carolina, Texas or Virginia.

Teacher education programs depend on the ability of the school systems to require completion of preservice education and to be able to hire the graduate teachers.  There  obviously is an opportunity cost for individuals who choose to enrol in longer pre-service teacher education programs. It would have made no sense for individuals to spend a good deal of their time and money on programs that promised little or no returns.  The NYT report quotes a teacher expressing exactly the same concern;

Spending $50,000 for an education you can’t use is really frustrating…I definitely miss teaching, but I felt like I had no other choice.

In developing countries, this should be even more of a problem.  Consider the case of Pakistan, where reforms in teacher education are supported by multiple bi-lateral and multi-lateral donors in the last two decades.  Currently, they are experimenting with introducing a four-year Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) programme for initial teacher preparation.   In transition to the four-year programme, a two-year Associated Degree in Education (ADE) is also introduced by several public universities.

But if you look at Pakistani situation closely, the teacher education policy appears to have been moving simultaneously in two opposite directions.  On the one hand, they are implementing several projects/programs, such as the ones I mentioned above, focused on improving the initial teacher preparation.  These programmes are accompanied by efforts to develop professional standards as well as to monitor teacher development through accreditation regimes such as the one being put in place by the country’s Higher Education Commission (HEC).   On the other hand, faced with a shrinking economy and rising debts, policy has also encouraged hiring teachers on shorter contracts. Now, why would an individual want to go through a sophisticated and longer Initial Teacher Preparation if there are no guarantees for a well paid and decent job at the end of such a long and arduous education.  Instead, why not just complete a Microsoft Certified Engineer course in less than a year and make more money!

The problems of reform in countries such as Pakistan are further compounded because of the ‘travelling reforms’ that I alluded to in an earlier post.  The suggestion for a four-year teacher education programme, for example, is modelled on similar programs in the United States, such as the one in Michigan State University.  But the sort of problems such programs can face are illustrated by the report I am using as a basis for this post.  However, none of those problems and debates surrounding them will surface in the discourse of reform in the developing countries in general.  This is so, in large part, because reforms are not introduced after a long and arduous debate about the possible alternatives, but on the basis of ‘travelling’ suggestions based on education models from elsewhere in the world.  To be sure, I am not against one or the other model of teacher education.  I am only arguing, based on this NYT report, that there may be a need for urgent [and audible] debate about reforms before a particular alternative is accepted.

Is a four-year degree program good for teacher education? Of course, as some would say, it must be great to spend more time learning the craft of teaching.  But would prospective candidates like to spend four years of their lives to enrol in such a program?  Well, no one tries to answer this question.  Can someone tell us how ‘constrained optimisation’ [also mentioned in an earlier post] on the part of potentially aspiring teachers will work in favour of [or against] a decision to enrol in longer and expensive pre-service teacher education programs.

As the NYT report suggests, the longer and expensive initial teacher preparation programs are under a great deal of pressure in the countries where they were firmly entrenched once.  However, countries like Pakistan, where the economy is already on life support, are working to switch to four-year long degree programs for  teachers.

But one of the possibly many things they are not doing by way of preparation for such programmes, is a financial analysis to help the stakeholders understand the long term financial impact of longer-duration degree programs for pre-service teacher education.

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About Irfan

I am an independent researcher and blogger interested in everything under the sun, but more so in the philosophy and history of education and education reform generally, and specifically in the so-called post colonial contexts

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