Quality of teaching really matters

Teaching really matters

Raj Chetty, Bloomberg Professor of Economics at Harvard University, gave a keynote address to the Second Committee of the 68th session of the General Assembly on 9 October. He presented a study on the correlation between the quality of teachers and students’ future success , according to which, quality teachers not just improved test scores, but had long-term positive effects on the socioeconomic status of children 20 and 30 years down the line.

Professor Raj Chetty  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”.

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.

Raj Chetty website: http://www.rajchetty.com/