A funding crisis in British education, how technology can affect students and the need for 69 million more teachers worldwide
A Unesco study into global education has revealed a teacher shortage far beyond what was feared, with sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia suffering the most. The Unesco report claims there are around 263 million children across the world without access to a primary or secondary school, including 25 million who will never enter a school of any kind. Almost 69 million teachers would need to be recruited and trained by 2030 for the UN to achieve its global education targets, which would represent a ‘seismic shift’ from the current situation. In related news, another report has detailed that spending huge sums of money on computers, textbooks and online learning for children in developing countries is not necessarily the best solution to this global education crisis. Criticisms of the current system include that the money allotted is not being spent effectively, with the best results coming from programs that are adjusted for their local context, with money being spent on materials, training teachers and developing curricula.
Another UN report details how universities across the world – including in Britain, America, Japan, China, South Africa and Brazil – are failing to give enough of the top jobs to women, even though they make up approximately 50% of lecturers. Only 24% of professors in the UK are women, while the figure falls to 18% for principals and vice chancellors. Elizabeth Nyamayaro, a senior adviser to UN Women, has said there needs to be a wide-ranging, proactive and possibly quota-driven attempt to rectify this inequality, or it may never happen. Conversely, Teach First is encouraging more men to become teachers in the UK after Department for Education statistics reveal male teachers make up only 26% of the current crop. Brett Wigdortz, the founder of Teach First, believes men are being put off by numerous misconceptions about teaching, and wants to encourage more talented males to pursue it as a career, to provide students with a greater breadth of role models.
The Institute of Fiscal Studies has detailed how British schools, despite having their funding protected, are still being forced to make cutbacks and redundancies, due to rises in costs and pupil numbers, and a failure of the government funding to keep up with inflation. The problem is particularly bad outside London, which has the best education funding in the country. Indeed, head teachers at every school in west Sussex have written a letter requesting an extra £20 million in emergency government funding to keep them open until April. Having made every cutback possible, they have been forced to consider a four-day school week due to ‘crippling underfunding’, the letter details. The Department for Education has said it is increasing its funding for schools and introduce a ‘national funding formula’ that will ensure greater financial fairness across the board. This formula was meant to be introduced next year, but has been delayed due to the Brexit vote. Schools are waiting in limbo for this to come into play, and have been for several years, being forced to cut costs at every corner in the meantime. However, more young people than ever before are taking advantage of apprenticeships and traineeships, according to recent figures from the Department for Education, with over 3 million opportunities created since 2010.
Politics professor David Runciman has argued, in the wake of Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, that a growing education gap is now the greatest divide along political lines, and political allegiances are likely to be strongly influenced by how many years one spent in education. Although factors such as race, gender, religion, income and location are still significant, differences in voting habits between those with and without a university degree are marked, especially in the UK and USA.
A poll carried out by Digital Awareness UK, in conjunction with the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, has reported that 45% of young people check their phone after they have gone to bed. One in ten admitted to checking their phone for notifications as many as ten times a night, with social media the main culprit, followed by streaming music and films. 68% of respondents say using phones at night affects their schoolwork, while a quarter reported lacking energy and concentration during the day due to phone usage at night. To combat these issues, experts recommend an occasional ‘digital detox’, not using technology for 90 minutes before bed and trying not to check your phone when unprompted. The report did not mention how many adults and parents suffer from similarly addictive smartphone usage.
And finally… the Department for Education faced ridicule when a speech from Schools Minister Nick Gibb, detailing recent improvements in results in the nationwide phonics test taken by five and six year olds, was shown to include spelling errors in the subtitles.
For more information:
Computers not the answer to worldwide education crisis – Independent
David Runciman on the education gap in politics – Guardian (long read)
Sussex schools forced to consider four-day weeks – Independent
Funding for many British schools in crisis – Guardian
By David Bard
David is a Minerva Pro Tutor who specialises in humanities subjects at A Level and is a trained expert in the 7 + and 11 + exams. Outside of tutoring, David writes blogs about creative writing and everything that’s trending in education.