In an interesting article The Economist compared several programmes to turn high-profile students to teaching. Teach for America (TfA) for example is only accepting one in six applicants and aims for “a stellar academic record and evidence of traits that distinguish the best teachers in tough schools.” The list of requirements is extensive.
Other programmes worldwide
‘Teach for America’ has a 25-year history and around 40,000 alumni. “Americans are no longer surprised that bright, ambitious graduates want the most demanding teaching posts,” The Economist writes. Other programmes modelled on TfA are therefore gaining ground in Europe, Latin America, Australia, China and India.
But does it live up to the expectations? So far, according to The Economist, there have been few rigorous evaluations. However, Britains ‘Teach First’ programme as well as TfA have shown to improve teaching and teacher quality in both countries.
One of the main obstacles for teachers is the lack of guidance in the first years of teaching. “New teachers, whatever their route into the classroom, struggle most in their first two years, even in the easiest schools.” In Chile and Malaysia, this lead to better guidance. “Recruits may even be overloaded with support,” says Dzameer Dzulkifi who runs the programme in Malaysia.
Governments taking note
As most programmes turn out to be quite expensive, it may not be feasible for it to go mainstream. In many countries though the programmes seem to push standards up. “Several schemes, including those in Bulgaria, India, Malaysia and Mexico, are doing better than the state at tracking teaching quality and student outcomes. Local and national governments are starting to take note.”
“In many countries teachers who have followed these kind of programmes become head teacher or later turn out to take leading positions in education or public administration. Fifteen of the 115 who have completed Peru’s programme now work in its education ministry. A team of alumni from Lithuania’s scheme recently helped draft its ten-year education strategy.”
Alumni of TfA and related programmes turn out to find their way in further helping education in their countries. Most useful, according to Brett Wigdortz, the founder of Teacher First, is the role of the schemes in “detoxifying the brand of teaching”. “Last year Teach First was runner-up in a national poll to find Britain’s most prestigious employer of graduates.”