The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

Performance-based pay for teachers

Over at Thoughts on Freedom, amongst some cheap cliched dissing of how the teaching profession have it easy, there has been discussion of why teachers are paid peanuts and that performance-based pay is the solution.

Brendan Halfweeg  draws the parallel with ‘what happened in the trades under individual based contracts.’ However, I’m not convinced that education can be likened to a trade. We can judge the effectiveness of an automotive mechanic by how well he/she maintains our vehicle. The car needs to be maintained so that it can perform to the best of its ability, design and age. But you can’t determine that by benchmarking a Gogomobile against a Series 7 BMW based on performance criteria – other factors and limitations must be taken into account. And so it is with effective education.

I suspect that market forces work well with tradeable commodities, but I’m less convinced of their effectiveness with essential services such as education. Free market supporters promise more for everyone, but the reality is usually more for the privileged some and cost-cutting for the rest with the overall objective of lessening the tax burden, rather than improving outcomes. Halfweeg argues that performance-based pay will benefit everyone and teachers will be paid more.
Given that most public school families ‘only’ pay at most a few hundred dollars contribution per year it is hard to see where the extra money for higher teacher salaries under this market model will come from – unless it’s from governments investing more in education.

The constant whinge about standards of education will not be remedied by market driven redistribution of the same pool of money to the top 20 percent and impoverishing the rest. If the nation is serious about quality education more investment is needed. The Irish Republic is a good example of transforming a country through long term investment in education and training.

I still don’t know how you determine performance based pay for a brilliant teacher in the most dire of disadvantaged schools with challenged students. Simple measures like ENTER scores are inadequate, but it is these simplistic devices which are preferred by politicians, tertiary institutions, economists and journalists.

It is in our interests that all students are well-educated, not just those with academic gifts and wealthy parents – unless we’re intentionally aiming for a two-tiered society of the wealthy and a poor, unskilled underclass. Sadly, there are those who think this would be a good idea – the markets will sort it out. For some, what is wealth and privilege without a corresponding poor and disadvantage?

Filed under: Economics, Education

One Response

  1. edarrell says:

    Not even the best teachers can work without books, paper, pencils, chalk boards, computers, projectors and other electronic media.

    And, who is the idiot who came up with the present policy of holding teacher pay down until we get only the best and the brightest? In any real market-driven system, higher pay would be used to attract the best, earlier in the process.

    One of the interesting questions is this: Were education truly market driven, could it be done half so cheaply as it is now?

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The Dog’s Bollocks

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