Quality of teaching really matters

Photo UNICEF Mongolia

According to a study presented by Raj Chetty at the UN, quality teachers did not just improve test scores, they had long-term positive effects on the socioeconomic status of children 20 and 30 years down the line.The Second Committee of the 68th session of the General Assembly, which deals with economic and financial issues, began its work on 9 October. The General Debate was opened by a keynote address of Raj Chetty, Bloomberg Professor of Economics at Harvard University, who presented a study on the correlation between the quality of teachers and students’ future success.

Professor Raj Chetty gave a keynote address to the Committee. He emphasized that traditional analysis of economic and social policy is being transformed by new data and methods. “The collection of “big data” including school records, tax statistics, and health registries was sparking a paradigm shift from the traditional, theory-driven study of macro questions to the data-driven analysis of micro questions”.

According to the study, in addition to the long-term positive effects of quality teachers on socioeconomic status, students with effective teachers were less likely to become pregnant, more likely to gain admission to college and get higher-paying jobs.

The study looked at 2.5 million children and their 18 million test scores, comparing the scores of students in a specific class in the beginning of a semester with their scores at the end.  If their marks increased, that meant the teacher was of high-value and could increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000.  “Teacher quality mattered in developing countries,” Professor said, emphasizing the need to attract top talent there and noting that paying teachers based on performance significantly raised test scores.

Therefore, improving micro-level policy decisions on an economic and social policy level could have a great macro-level impact.  Harnessing big data could provide scientific evidence for designing policies.

Parental support is crucial

As the floor was opened for discussion, representatives of developing countries noticed that the data presented applied more for already developed countries, whereas in many regions, such factors as nutrition quality, healthcare, housing and the presence of family are still more important than teaching. “Teachers might be good but parental support is crucial.”  Moreover, even after succeeding in childhood and graduating from university, many young people from developing countries end up moving abroad in a pursuit of better life. Whereas many qualified teachers move abroad to teach in big universities.

However, according to Mr Chetty, it was a mistake to say that education did not matter there. For example, simply improving teachers’ attendance had large impact in India. Quality teachers not only generated improvements in income but also positively impacted social issues, such as teenage pregnancy and family stability. “On the issue of brain drain, reaping the benefits of education in all countries required that investment in infrastructure be geared towards providing quality jobs,” he said.

Post-2015 consensus must be “ambitious and bold, yet practical and achievable”

Opening the Committee’s general debate, Shamshad Akhtar, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development at UN DESA, emphasized the need for the Committee to shift its attention to new and emerging issues. “The post-2015 development agenda should be three-pronged”, she said: “focusing on Millennium Goals most off-track, countries facing special development challenges, and the rights of those most vulnerable”.

According to Abdou Salam Diallo, Committee Chair, the Second Committee must “break new ground” and forge the connection between globalization and sustainable development.

Representatives of states and communities pointed out that development assistance is needed to address new and emerging challenges. They also called for the international community and international financial institutions to adopt a more systematic approach in dealing with the needs of developing countries, especially those of landlocked countries.

Source: UN News/UN DESA

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