[OPE-L] The waning popularity of the teaching profession

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Tue Oct 10 2006 - 14:46:17 EDT


I was interested in this trend since I did a Master's in Education once,
spending some time on labour market issues and the reproduction of the
labour force, quantitatively considered. I had this ideal of being a teacher
at that time, but I've stayed a learner mostly.

The first thing to realise I guess is that if the total amount of teachers
available is stagnating or dropping absolutely, the amount of the drop must
be seen in the context of rising population growth.

With rising population growth and a relatively young demographic structure
in the third world, you need more and more teachers. So even a small
absolute drop in the total amount of teachers available is actually quite
significant, if compared to the growing school-age cohort in the population.
But in even many "greying" OECD countries, the supply of teachers is
stagnating to the point of shortages. I think this has partly to do with the
growing stress levels involved in teaching (among other things, more and
more, you can get physically attacked in the classroom), and partly with
relative pay scales. In Holland, with a competitive market for qualified
staff, we had a teacher shortage some years back, but it was largely
overcome through additional investments and recruitment drives. But in many
poorer countries this is probably not possible. The schools, for better or
worse, express the ideals a society has for its future. If there is a
shortage of teachers, this does not say much for the society's ideals about

In general, of course, the average educational level of the world working
class is rising in aggregate, but there is certainly a world stratification
of educational levels. You can see this e.g. if you read the UNESCO report
to which I referred. There is also a considerable "brain drain" to the
wealthy countries.

Seeing the value of education and investing in it, is also strongly
associated with the formation of an educated "new middle class", which is
concerned with the improvement of society. Many development theorists these
days pin their hopes on this class, as an emancipatory force. For
economists, of course, this class is also the conduit for capital
accumulation and a "property-owning democracy".

In this regard, I also chance on this interesting clip:

"There was a fascinating report recently from the [British] Office for
National Statistics on the subject of class. (Oh, stop it. The Office for
National Statistics may not sound like a crucible of racy narrative, but it's
precisely because the report came from that sober counting-house that its
findings are so striking.) On studying the Government's Labour Force Survey
of the working lives of 72,000 people, the statisticians came to the
intriguing conclusion that the working population of this country is more
middle-class than not. One third of people of working age apparently fall
into one of two "middle-class" categories, for which the ONS devised the
clunking monikers of "lower" or "higher managerial or professional". Non
middle-class workers, classified as "routine", "semi-routine",
 "intermediate" (a rather glam category including airline cabin crew,
firemen and photographers), "lower-supervisory" and the Poujadist rump of
the self-employed, a wayward band of shopkeepers, hairdressers and
fishermen, altogether made up only 31.4 per cent of the working-age
population (the rest, since you ask, are not working for various reasons).
Which looks like belated vindication of Tony Blair's claim, before the 1997
election, that "we are all middle-class now" and a refutation of Jules
Renard's epigram that "les bourgeois, ce sont les autres".

The idea is that workingclass jobs are "routine", and middleclass jobs
aren't. But in reality many people with tertiary qualifications are
nevertheless doing "routine" jobs, and many workingclass jobs are not

The Time Higher Education Supplement has just released world data on the
apex of the system, i.e. the universities:
http://www.thes.co.uk/worldrankings/ Little do we realise that some of our
friends are at the very summit of the WORLD education system!!!


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