I think we need a way to better reward good teachers. Right now, there’s a sort of secondary market where the best teachers are getting paid really well privately tutoring wealthy students. That’s not fair because the energy and attention of the teacher is usually reserved for the evening and not during class time. I think we can come up with a better way to solve this imbalance.
There is a sweeping change going through the American public school system with many arguing that merit pay (rewarding good teachers with better pay) is the best option. The challenge is to come up with a way to quantify how good a teacher really is. Do you just look at test scores? How about differences in parent involvement and family background? It is a very complicated issue, but its clear that treating all teachers the same and rewarding seniority has failed. We have a very similar system in Kuwait and there is no way to reward talented and creative teachers.
There is also a lack of variety in the choices of schools in Kuwait. I want to see more experimental schools and more distinctly different options that I can choose from based on my values and concerns.
- Creative, energetic and talented teachers are handsomely rewarded without having to resort to private tutoring
- Parents can choose from a wide variety of different schools each with their own pedagogical philosophy and structure
- Terrible and unimaginative teachers are retrained or promptly fired
The idea is to create a competitive environment between schools to attract the best teachers. We can achieve this by slowly handing over control of public schools and turning them into ‘charter schools’. These are schools that have a charter, or an agreement with the government, which dictates what it is they’re trying to achieve and what the goals and milestones are for the school in order to remain active. As long as those rules are met, the school remains open, but the inner workings of the school is completely independent and without interference from the government. How can we achieve this?
- Create a large team of Teacher Auditors. This team would systematically sit in classes and quietly observe all the teachers in Kuwait and grade them based on their teaching skills. Slowly begin to install webcams inside all classrooms to observe remotely and record infringements and misbehavior (on the part of students and teachers).
- Renegotiate teacher contracts and reward the highest scoring teachers with hefty bonuses and fire the lowest scoring teachers.
- During every summer, all teachers are to attend mandatory teacher training programs and will not be allowed to resume teaching until they pass an exam at the end of the summer.
- Install a web based teacher evaluation program, where students can evaluate teacher effectiveness. This will be monitored by the Teacher Auditors and used to guide their audits and examinations and which classes to observe via webcam.
- Make it absolutely illegal with strict penalties for full time teachers to teach privately. They can work overtime at the school and be paid by the school to teach students privately, or in small groups. The students do not pay the teacher and as a result, wealthy students do not gain an unfair advantage over others.
- Instead of making public schools free for all, we offer vouchers to students that are valid to use as tuition for any school. This will lower the entrance fee to private schools and give an incentive for independent public schools (charter schools) to be better than the rest.
- Every school will be required by law to provide free tuition for a certain percentage of students based on need and merit. Poor but worthy students will be guaranteed entry into the best schools.
The idea is that by the end of this process, the line between public schools and private ones is blurred to the point where there isn’t a distinction. There would be a fierce marketplace between the schools with each of them fighting to survive and attract the best teachers and students. Failing schools will have their charters revoked and a new management will invest in and take over the school.
The free market is a powerful force for change and progress. We can use it to energize our school system. We don’t know which teachers are good and which are bad. We have to devise a way to know this information and then use that to create a marketplace that can attract the best talent in Kuwait. I want the job of a teacher to be a very financially rewarding profession. All we need is more transparency, agressive training and ruthlessness in dealing with incompetence.