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Next entry: Michael J. Lewis on fetters and stern taskmasters
Previous entry: On the sociology of obnoxious-but-nice middle class teenagers
Tuesday April 29 2008

This by Matthew Ladner, is interesting:

South Korea in fact engages in remarkably different education practices when compared to the United States. South Korea spends less per pupil, but pays their teachers more. This feat is accomplished through larger average class sizes - which are approximately twice as large in South Korea than in the United States.

Korean teachers however are paid much better and enjoy greater professional prestige than their American counterparts. The McKinsey report cites data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showing that a 15 year veteran teachers in South Korea is paid an average of 2.5 times GDP per capita. In America, the average is a little more than 1 times GDP per capita.

Higher pay and prestige allows South Korea to recruit teachers from those in the top 5 percent of their university graduating classes. Korean schools have many applicants for every teaching job. Meanwhile, in the United States, the low upper cap on the pay fails to attract many of our brightest and most ambitious students. American schools on average recruit teachers from the bottom third of American university graduates.

Additionally, American schools once had a near monopoly on employing bright university educated women. That monopoly has since retired to the dustbin of history and will not be returning. Our national preoccupation with lowering average class size has also impacted lowered the average effectiveness of the teachers we’ve hired. The average class size in American schools has plummeted since the baby-boomers went through the system, but our test scores have remained flat.

Americans have been obsessed with lowering class size, while Korea has emphasized getting the brightest students possible into the classroom while thinking nothing of packing 40 or more children in a classroom. Who made the right choice?

My only worry with this kind of thing is the assumption that test scores necessarily measure educational success.  But then again, if you measure educational quality by real world outcomes (my preferred method), South Korea scores well with that also.

That niggle aside, like I say, very interesting.  Joanne Jacobs found it first, to whom thanks.

The French Lyçée system, which has been mutating to become more British, was similar to South Korea.

Our French teachers at the London French Lyçée were paid a lot more than the English teachers paid local unionized rates (the gossip suggested about double, but there was the allowance for working abroad in an expensive country to take into account). We also had a no strike agreement in the 1970s (for the English, not the French) with a teacher actually dismissed for going on strike when the English schools did so. The deal was that the English would be paid whatever rates the strikers eventually forced the UK government into awarding.

French staff were more likely to drive nice cars and the English rode bicycles or took public transport. The French were generally more qualified (they were called “profs” which must be telling about status), did not enforce discipline (there was a separate group of people whose job was “surveillant” or “pion” [pawn] under the authority of three surveillants généraux and the “Censeur” [I think the title was a Roman affectation, not literally the modern “censor"] acting as the assistant headmaster in charge of discipline and I think, the performance of teachers and pupils [even some of the teachers appeared to fear M. Pichon]).

My average class size was 28-32. In fact, the Terminale C, which was the élite (Mathematics specialists) had the biggest class size of all in my six-form year. There was no noticeable relationship between class size and results. But there most emphatically was between having the better Maths or French teachers through secondary school.

I was fairly lucky, I thought we had mostly good teachers in the final year of the Baccalauréat, with Maths probably the weakest (the average class score was terrible, ranging from 5% to 80% with probably a clear majority under 40%). And this is for a class of economics students not the poets in Terminale A2 or A5.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 03 May 2008

There was no noticeable relationship between class size and results. But there most emphatically was between having the better Maths or French teachers through secondary school.

Posted by Procerin Reviews on 18 November 2009

I think the main purpose of Americans in lowering their class size is to be able to give enough attention to all their students per class.  In this way, teachers could easily attend to each student need. South Korea’s standard of hiring their teachers is absolutely the best strategy to improve their students’ learning.

Posted by Kim Ramsey on 21 November 2009
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