This is yet another of those things which I’ve been thinking about and have been intending to write about for a long time but have never gotten down to it. Pinky wrote this excellent post on the topic today and that has got me thinking. To quote her,
A bad teacher makes a bad student. A teacher who looks at teaching as just another job is doing no good to anyone. She neither grows in her life nor contributes to the positive growth of a kid.There have been a few teachers in my life who i have tremendous respect for, not because they taught me effectively enough to pass in their subjects but because they taught me to listen, think and speak!
I don’t have any solutions yet but I thought I should just put some bullet points here, just to try and give a structure to the problem. Let me know your thoughts
- If we consider a person’s salary as Society’s recognition of his/her worth, school teachers are not recognized enough
- Abysmal salaries drive away a large number of potential school teachers away from the profession
- Love for teaching is important, but if teaching pays as abysmally as it currently does, the opportunity cost of doing what you love is way too high for some people, and so they end up in other professions
- We have a market failure in teaching – how do we run a school profitably while paying teachers competently while on the other hand keeping fees reasonable, and not resorting to any subsidies?
- India suffers from what I call the “official’s wife bug”. In the 60s and 70s, the teaching profession got flooded by women who weren’t really looking to make much money, but more to just pass some time and use their bachelor’s degrees rather than being housewives. This has fostered a culture of low schoolteachers’ salaries in India. People who weren’t looking to make money out of teaching crowded out those who found the opportunity cost of the low salaries in teaching too high.
- McKinsey interview level arithmetic: assume a school having classes 1 to 12, 4 sections per class, 40 students per section. 8 periods a day 5 days a week gives a total of 12 * 4 * 8 * 5 = 1920 periods per week. Assuming each teacher can take 5 classes a day (or 25 a week) we will need 77 (round it off to 80) teachers. Number of students is 12 * 4 * 40 = 1920, so essentially 25 students have to pay for one teacher’s salary, and this is apart from expenses towards school building, maintenance, overheads, etc. McKinsey level handwaving. 10 students have to pay for one teacher’s salary. Doesn’t sound feasible
- Primary and secondary education is simply way too important to be left in the hands of unmotivated disinterested people, but that seems like the situation we are in (I dont’ mean to say all teachers are unmotivated or disinterested; just that the situation doesn’t incentivize talented motivated people to enter the profession).
- Universities attract talent by allowing faculty to make money by other means such as consulting and organizing for-profit courses. Will something like that work for schools? And no, I’m not talking about private tuitinos as the other source of income. Is there something else?
- Government intervention is not a solution. In a place like India it will only end up messing up things further and draining more money from the system.
- In the pre-IT era, teaching salaries were more competitive (with respect to competing jobs) than they are now, so they could attract better talent
- I wonder if it is only in India that such a large proportion of school teachers are women. This is just a general pertinent observation, and has nothing to do with the rest of the post
- The officer’s wife model was good when it started off – some motivated people came into the system because fo that. Just that the system is not sustainable and we’re facing the problems of that now and because a lot of school managements fail to take into account that the model isn’t sustainable
Any thoughts on this? Any possible solutions? Of course it’s not possible to implement any macro-level solution. All I’m looking at is a school-level solution. How do you plan to run one school (of size I mentioned in my bullets) sustainably while ensuring teachers are paid adequately enough to not scare away interested people?
5 thoughts on “Compensating Teachers”
lol at the mck level handwaving.
anyhow, i think someone has to spend (invest) significant money, maybe for 4-5 years or more, to show ‘results’, out of a batch of students taught by a selected bunch of good teachers. Once there are clearly better students coming out of XYZ school, the system will catch on.
the bigger problem, imo, is the examination system. It encourages little thinking and more mugging, which further encourages faltu teaching. A better thought-through exam system (including entrances) might be a quicker fix.
yes, utopic, i know.
“India suffers from what I call the “official’s wife bug”. In the 60s and 70s, the teaching profession got flooded by women who weren’t really looking to make much money, but more to just pass some time and use their bachelor’s degrees rather than being housewives. This has fostered a culture of low schoolteachers’ salaries in India. People who weren’t looking to make money out of teaching crowded out those who found the opportunity cost of the low salaries in teaching too high.”
It’s actually backwards. The women, ‘housewives’, as you called them, entered the profession because the salaries were low and there was no risk of them ending up earning more than their husbands. They were always pretty motivated to work hard, and they did – the low pay never affected quality of individual output, neither did it decrease the quality (using qualifications as proxy) of people coming into the job.
And as women entered the profession, the employers felt no need to increase salaries & compensation, because women are usually underpaid for the exact same work since society does not view them as main income earners. Also, women are socially conditioned to not negotiate well, especially when it comes to marketing their own skills, so they end up being doubly underpaid. This is the famous ‘pink ghetto’ phenomenon.
For all that the Indian education system is derided, our system suffers because of access issues and distribution issues (i.e. 11 million Indian children do not go to school) rather than quality of education for the few that recieve it from ‘good schools’. These ‘good’ schools, almost always private schools, decided on their own models of teacher compensation as opposed to the state-mandated pay scale set up in government funded schools.
If not for the ‘housewives’ entering teaching, we’d’ve had random men who’d barely graduated high school teaching all of us in school, the way it was in several middle-eastern countries. We all have benefited from the low wages paid to the school teachers and the high quality output we got from them.
presuming Quality per unit cost ratio is the metric
http://www.gyanshala.org/ – free to draw your own judgements & conclusions
I think the problem is schools have way too many lectures and therefore a greater requirement of teachers per batch of students….schools should reduce the number of sessions and leave it to the students to learn on their own (during school hours, no one likes homework). I think students (irrespective of intelligence level) would be more than happy with that.
Since you have already identified the problem( and saved me a lot of writing in making the case),here is what I believe should be the overall strategy ( thought we need to work the specifics).
I think to create monetary incentives in education sector, the compensation and pay for teachers and lectures( yes even in colleges) over time should be tied to how well their students actually perform in life( monetarily speaking). To tie this together, the fee for schools should be high but it should be payable in people future income bonds. Of course there can be cases of default- in which case people should not be forced to pay the money they don’t have. But overall I believe that it can create the right incentives to work in a sector where your only job is to successfully groom people.
This is not so different from the concept of V.C. investment in a growth asset( company ). I don’t see why human capital can’t be viewed the same way.
Culturally too this is viable and acceptable in India as we already have the concept of “guru dakshana” and it’s okay to feel indebted to your teachers. All we are suggesting here is to put a number on how much exactly are you indebted to them.
What’s say ?