Parents in the bars are often complaining about the state of schools, especially State schools. But the Cavalry is on its way courtesy of Capitalism and the Entrepreneurial spirit.
Australian schools run by the State and 'funded' by the taxpayer lead the way in the reduction of literacy. Forty percent of Oz school-children no longer attend State schools, riven as those hotbeds of Unionists and lefty fellow travellers have become, and instead attend Private schools, funded by the same taxpayers twice over.
Teachers pretty well all over the anglosphere have declined in competence, in the eyes of many people, but demand ever increasing salaries. And they refuse point blank to have their 'performance' illuminated. No-one is allowed to criticise the increasingly female dominated 'profession'.
The result is a dumbing down of our society.
This has opened a door for entrepreneurial teachers. Teachers who relish the rewards of their efforts and skills. To such examples were sitting in the P&B discussing their approaches.
Kim Ki-hoon earns $4 million a year in South Korea, where he is known as a rock-star teacher—a combination of words not typically heard in the rest of the world.
Mr. Kim has been teaching for over 20 years, all of them in the country's private, after-school tutoring academies, known as hagwons. Unlike most teachers across the globe, he is paid according to the demand for his skills—and he is in high demand.
Mr. Kim works about 60 hours a week teaching English, although he spends only three of those hours giving lectures. His classes are recorded on video, and the Internet has turned them into commodities, available for purchase online at the rate of $4 an hour.
He spends most of his week responding to students' online requests for help, developing lesson plans and writing accompanying textbooks and workbooks (some 200 to date).
"The harder I work,
the more I make"
he says matter of factly. "I like that."
The bulk of Mr. Kim's earnings come from the 150,000 kids who watch his lectures online each year. (Most are high-school students looking to boost their scores on South Korea's version of the SAT.)
He is a brand name, with all the overhead that such prominence in the market entails. He employs 30 people to help him manage his teaching empire and runs a publishing company to produce his books.
The most radical difference between traditional schools and hagwons is that students sign up for specific teachers, so the
most respected teachers get the most students.
Mr. Kim has about 120 live, in-person students per lecture, but a typical teacher's hagwon classes are much smaller. The Korean private market has reduced education to the one in-school variable that matters most: the teacher.
It is about as close to a pure meritocracy as it can be, and just as ruthless. In hagwons, teachers are free agents. They don't need to be certified. They don't have benefits or even a guaranteed base salary; their pay is based on their performance, and most of them work long hours and earn less than public school teachers.
"Students are the customers," Ms. Lee says. To recruit students, hagwons advertise their results aggressively.
They post their graduates' test scores and university acceptance figures online and outside their entrances on giant posters. It was startling to see such openness; in the U.S. (and Oz) despite the fetish for standardized testing, the results remain confusing and hard to interpret for parents.
Once students enroll, the hagwon embeds itself in families' lives. Parents get text messages when their children arrive at the academies each afternoon; then they get another message relaying students' progress. Two to three times a month, teachers call home with feedback. Every few months, the head of the hagwon telephones, too. In South Korea, if parents aren't engaged, that is considered a failure of the educators, not the family.
If tutors get low survey marks or attract too few students, they generally get placed on probation. Each year, Ms. Lee fires about 10% of her instructors. (By comparison, U.S. schools dismiss about 2% of public school teachers annually for poor performance.)
Schools can also build trust by aggressively communicating with parents and students, the way businesses already do to great effect in the U.S. They could routinely survey students about their teachers—in ways designed to help teachers improve and not simply to demoralize them. Principals could make their results far more transparent, as hagwons do, and demand more rigorous work from students and parents at home in exchange. And teacher-training programs could become far more selective and serious, as they are in every high-performing education system in the world—
injecting trust and prestige into the profession before a teacher even enters the classroom.
No country has all the answers. But in an information-driven global economy, a few truths are becoming universal: Children need to know how to think critically in math, reading and science; they must be driven; and they must learn how to adapt, since they will be doing it all their lives. These demands require that schools change, too—or the free market may do it for them.
Then we have Salman Khan.
Many of us had a favorite teacher back in elementary or high school – someone who inspired us, who made learning fun and easy. Under the old brick school building model, that great teacher could only influence a relative handful of students at a time. Remember how lucky you felt having Mrs. Smith for sixth grade math, and how sorry you were for your best friend who was stuck in Mr. Jones’ class instead?
Today your Mrs. Smith could teach millions of kids at once. No complaining about crowded classrooms, because she can teach you and everyone else online in your own homes. She doesn’t even need a teaching degree, just a love of teaching and a firm grasp of the subject matter. In-person classroom teachers still have a role, but so much learning now can go on elsewhere that classrooms eventually may become the exception, rather than the educational norm.
Mrs. Smith currently goes by the name of Sal Khan.
Mr. Khan fell into education when he tutored his own cousin in mathematics over the Internet in 2004. Others saw those lessons and asked for his help, so eventually he quit his day job and started the non-profit Khan Academy* to teach children and adults through what have become thousands of lessons on multiple topics – all at no cost to the students.
Watching Mr. Khan teach, it’s not hard to envision many Sal Khans eventually inspiring new generations to learn in new, exciting, and inexpensive ways.
Adults as well as children.
The Khan Academy started with Khan remotely tutoring one of his cousins interactively using Yahoo Doodle images. Based on feedback from his cousin, additional cousins began to take advantage of the interactive, remote tutoring.
In order to make better use of his and their time, Khan transitioned to making YouTube video tutorials. Drawings are now made with a Wacom tablet and the free natural drawing application SmoothDraw, and recorded with screen capture software from Camtasia Studio.
All videos (hosted via YouTube) are available through Khan Academy's own website, which also contains many other features such as progress tracking, practice exercises, and a variety of tools for teachers in public schools.
Logging into the site can be done via a Google or a Facebook account for those who do not want to create a separate Khan Academy account. The material can also be accessed with the Khan Academy Modern UI application available free of charge from Windows Store.
Khan chose to avoid the standard format of a person standing by a whiteboard, deciding instead to present the learning concepts as if "popping out of a darkened universe and into one's mind with a voice out of nowhere" in a way akin to sitting next to someone and working out a problem on a sheet of paper:
"If you're watching a guy do a problem [while] thinking out loud, I think people find that more valuable and not as daunting".
Offline versions of the videos have been distributed by not-for-profit groups to rural areas in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. While the current content is mainly concerned with pre-college mathematics and physics, Khan's long-term goal is to provide "tens of thousands of videos in pretty much every subject" and to create "the world's first free, world-class virtual school where anyone can learn anything".
Khan Academy also provides a web-based exercise system that generates problems for students based on skill level and performance. The exercise software is available as open source under the MIT license.
Khan believes his academy points an opportunity to overhaul the traditional classroom by using software to create tests, grade assignments, highlight the challenges of certain students, and encourage those doing well to help struggling classmates.
The tutorials are touted as helpful because, among other factors, they can be paused by students, while a classroom lecture cannot be.
The success of his low-tech, conversational tutorials—
Khan's face never appears, and viewers see only his unadorned step-by-step doodles and diagrams on an electronic blackboard—
suggests an educational transformation that de-emphasizes lecture-based classroom interactions.