In response to Mickey McGuire’s column, “U.S. must be competitive in recruiting teachers,” (June 10 Tracy Press), I must say that as much as I admire McKinsey & Co., I am not sure if I can agree with the firm’s finding that classroom teachers are the most effective controllable factors in impacting the education system.
Although, without understanding the details of the variables, including the factors that are controllable and non-controllable, it’s difficult to pinpoint the defect in the study conducted by McKinsey. It is, nonetheless, important to look into the following items.
The three country examples McGuire gives are South Korea, Finland and Singapore. They all have other controllable variables in common, such as a two-track education system and longer studying hours in and outside the classroom, which I believe have a bigger impact on the overall outcome of their achievement than teachers.
In the South Korean education system, 62 percent of the high school students go through the traditional education track, while 38 percent follow the vocational school path. Were these variables isolated from the statistical data by McKinsey? I think not! I am doubtful about their findings.
Although I am not minimizing the teacher’s role in shaping children’s education, I am only arguing that their influence is only limited to the effectiveness of the overall education system, inclusive of many controllable variables.
It’s no coincidence that the several European countries also known to produce higher education standards, such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland, also happen to follow the multi-track education system. You may recall those examples and my argument supporting the education paradigm changes in my column “Education system needs complete overhaul,” published in the Tracy Press several years ago.
I think teachers are a convenient target for the people who are seeking a simple solution to the education problem. However, the educational issue is neither simple nor single-dimensional, controllable or otherwise.