A good school is essentially made of two things: good students and good teachers. An American study cited on the Economist shows how a good teacher impacts the results students achieve much more than you might think. According to the study, in a single year’s teaching the top 10% of teachers impart three times as much learning to their pupils as the worst 10% do. Another suggests that, if black pupils were taught by the best quarter of teachers, the gap between their achievement and that of white pupils would disappear.
The problem is the common belief that good teachers are born, not made. This premise, however, is false and determines as a consequence that the educational paths of teachers are in many cases inadequate.
What teachers fail to learn in universities and teacher-training colleges they rarely pick up on the job, as they are more focused on the mere “pouring” of notions than on their own education. Two-fifths of teachers across the OECD countries say they have never had the chance to listen to another teacher’s class, nor have they been asked to give feedback on their peers.
The salary issue is not relevant when discussing how to improve teaching. The best teachers in Finland, one of the most efficient educational systems in the world, earn about the OECD average.
Teachers’ education should be more rigorous and learning-oriented, of the teacher himself first. Learning how to follow the world’s evolutions is a matter of being trained to change, which is not necessarily bad.
Training teachers to change, shifting the focus of their mission from the information exchange to the ability of honing students with the tools they need to interpret the present and build the future. So could school – and university as a result – become the educational gym it should be.