By The Economist
From the article:
At kicoshep school in Kibera, a vast Nairobi slum, Grade 3 is learning English. The teacher, Jacinter Atieno, asks questions about a story on the exploitation of children as domestic servants. At the back of the class, a coach logs information about Mrs Atieno’s performance into a tablet. Halfway through the class, the coach summons three children and tests their reading. The scores go into the tablet, which then makes suggestions—that, say, Mrs Atieno might watch one of its instructional videos, or improve her English pronunciation with its letter-sound tool. The information is uploaded to the county office that runs the local schools, and can be reviewed by the teachers’ bosses there.
The big problem is teachers: often too few, too ignorant—or simply not there. Unannounced visits to classes across seven sub-Saharan African countries by the World Bank found that in nearly half of them, the teacher was absent. Many teachers who do turn up are startlingly underqualified. In Bihar in northern India, for instance, only 11% of government-school teachers could solve a three-digit by one-digit division problem, and show the steps by which to do it.
Paying teachers more is not likely to improve the situation. As research by Justin Sandefur of the Centre for Global Development shows, poor-country teachers tend to be remarkably well-paid, by local standards (see chart). And evidence from countries as diverse as Indonesia and Pakistan suggests that teachers’ pay levels have little impact on learning. Ideally, governments would invest in training teachers properly and promote or fire them on the basis of their performance. But the first of these ambitions requires levels of governance lacking in many developing countries, and a time-horizon beyond that of many elected governments. The second is often politically unrealistic: teachers’ unions can be exceedingly powerful outfits for a range of reasons—including that polling stations are often located in schools and run by teachers.
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