Why not make college or university free for students who agree to become school teachers for a period of time?
January 4, 2004 1:47 AM   Subscribe

I was watching The West Wing, and they were talking about a solution to the lack of school teachers. [more inside]

Basically, you can get your university fees paid if you agree to spend some time in the military - why not do the same thing, but send people to teach (after a training period, of course). Anyway, is there a good reason countries don't do this?
posted by Orange Goblin to Law & Government (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some countries do - the UK government, in an attempt to encourage more people to enter teaching, made a policy decision to pay tuition fees and a UKP6,000 bursary for postgraduates who wish to switch careers.

posted by danhon at 2:09 AM on January 4, 2004

Response by poster: Well, there you go. You would have thought I would have known that, considering I applied this year...
posted by Orange Goblin at 2:13 AM on January 4, 2004

The simplest answer to your question is that we, as a society, don't really want everyone to have access to high quality education. That's why we make higher education scarce and expensive and that's why we don't pay teachers very well.
posted by rdr at 3:22 AM on January 4, 2004

"Send them to college". Good episode. The reason countries don't do it is, well, it's answered in that very episode.

Toby asks "Anybody know how we pay for it?"

It's the same reason governments don't do most other things they probably should. So it becomes a question of what you can do without instead, unless someone really does come up with an imaginative and fair way of generating the revenue.

Recently the Iraq War has often been used as the object of "well, you can afford this, so surely...". Only yesterday I saw Emma Thompson on television using this reasoning - not unfairly in my view - to question the West's failure to deal with Africa's AIDS epidemic. It wasn't her only point by any means.

Given that, in my view, a convincing case can be made to demonstrate that governments do waste vast sums of money (and no, I'm not talking about the war here), I think the simple answer to your question is no, assuming you're talking about wealthy countries.
posted by nthdegx at 3:41 AM on January 4, 2004

This idea scares me. In my opinion, we don't need more teachers, we need more teachers who are GOOD teachers. Schools are already full of people who aren't teaching because they WANT to teach; they're teaching because it's something to fall back on until they're "discovered." Generally, when people don't want to do something, they don't do it very well.

I've been teaching for over a decade, and I take it very seriously. If a student asks a question that I can't immediately answer, I spend hours of my own time trying to figure it out. I work really hard designing courses, etc. I don't do all this because I'm such a great guy; I do it because I consider myself a TEACHER. It's what I take pride in. I know many people who teach and suck at it, but they ARE really good at whatever it is they really WANT to do -- being a musician or whatever.

I guess you could say that a bad teacher is better than no teacher at all, but I would disagree. Bad teachers "teach" people to hate the subject of the class. Ther world is full of people who hate Shakespeare or Math because they were taught by bad teachers with terrible communication skills and no passion for teaching.
posted by grumblebee at 5:32 AM on January 4, 2004 [1 favorite]

There are currently programs that forgive your tuition if you teach in specified areas, usually the inner city, or all of Louisiana. Just kidding about Louisiana, I have to take a jab at the only state that pays less per pupil than Utah.

Sadly, I don't have the name of the program or know if it has survived the current administration.
posted by mecran01 at 6:59 AM on January 4, 2004

Two programs:

1. Teach for America, which takes recent college grads (in whatever non-education discipline... my friend that did it majored in utopian lit or something) and puts them in shite teaching locations. My friend was shipped off to Arkansas to teach. The problem is that the program is short duration - two or three years, and I'm not sure who pays for it (through Americorps maybe?).

2. New York City Teaching Fellows is NYC-specific, and takes business types and recent grads, again with non-ed backgrounds, and puts them in shite NYC teaching locations. My girlfriend taught for a year in Ozone Park, Queens, which isn't nearly as bad as most of the other neighborhoods they put people in (South Bronx, Brownsville, etc). Problems: only a two year program with a free Masters in Education, and only limited tuition remission via Americorps. Also, a high attrition rate; said girlfriend left to get her PhD in Art History simply because the children were on the whole terrible, of course with some exceptions, the administration was absolutely terrible to work with, and there was no compelling reason to stay (making a difference blah blah blah... it just isn't so much like that, though she still gets emails from a number of her 6th graders thanking her).

These two programs are only temporary solutions, and the real answer is to provide real prestige and monetary value to teachers: no more of the "If you can, do; if you can't, teach" mentality.
posted by The Michael The at 7:18 AM on January 4, 2004

In the US, at least, there isn't a substantial shortage of teachers -- I know several K-12 teachers who have been unable to land permanent gigs and who have been subbing on and off for years, and some who have been completely unemployed for quite a while -- but there's a profound shortage of money to pay for teachers.

In my state, the upper bound on class size was recently raised; in my local district most teachers received pink slips over the summer in anticipation of layoffs; most classrooms don't operate at all unless students, teachers, or parents donate supplies like pencils, paper, and chalk; classes in the arts and sciences have been cut or drastically reduced. The schools themselves, buildings which have been in disrepair since the 1960s, are falling apart; there are whole schools without heating. At my daughter's school -- one of the best funded in the district, garnering high marks from parents, educators, and students -- there isn't a night shift custodian, so teachers and students must do all the janitorial work of bagging and hauling garbage, vacuuming and mopping. A few hours of valuable class time are used up on this every week. Frequently the campuses are filled to every corner with "temporary" classrooms that have been in place since the 70s: essentially row after row of trailer homes designed with a useful lifespan of 10 or 15 years.

Even upper education is affected: university tuitions are raised well over 10% year after year yet fewer classes are provided, every lecture is a cattle call, campuses are in disrepair. From what I understand, this is the common state of things all across the country. Things were like this back when I was in school, but it's deteriorated even further since then.

There are plenty of teachers -- both good and bad -- to go around, but unfortunately there's no dough to pay for them. A program such as the one you propose would, perhaps, drive the market value of teachers down a bit (yet further below the already absurdly miserly pay they already get) which in turn might free up a little money within the school system. But for the most part I don't think it would be useful, and that's the most likely reason such a program isn't in place.

Think about that next time someone proposes to reduce your taxes.
posted by majick at 7:35 AM on January 4, 2004

In the 90's the Malaysian government sent quite a few students over to the UK to become teachers. Basically, students came over at 16, did their 'A' levels here then went into university for the standard 4 years, then were committed to teaching in Malaysia for the next 10 years. (Quite a commitment)
posted by biffa at 8:50 AM on January 4, 2004

In the US, at least, there isn't a substantial shortage of teachers -- I know several K-12 teachers who have been unable to land permanent gigs and who have been subbing on and off for years, and some who have been completely unemployed for quite a while -- but there's a profound shortage of money to pay for teachers.

My perception was that we don't have enough teachers, and furthermore, have decided not to pay the few that we have.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:42 PM on January 4, 2004

It's mostly a case of the second causing the first, I think.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 2:19 PM on January 4, 2004

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