Kids need teachers because teachers are essential to education

Kids need teachers, right? So do adult learners, right? Well… what if they didn’t…

In New Zealand, current budget reforms mean that schools and training providers are facing tough times due to reduced funding. That means some schools will lose teachers and will need to have larger classes.

And the teachers are revolting. I mean, don’t get me wrong – there are some wonderful teachers who really care about what they do. But there are some that ought to pack it up and go home.

But regardless of the budget cuts and austerity measures faced by schools and education providers there are some other questions we should be asking as well.

For example:

  • Do we actually need the teachers?
  • Or the schools for that matter?

Regardless of what you or I actually think, education is due for major disruption about now. The received wisdom goes something like this:

Teachers are essential, and in fact, indispensable to education. Kids and adults can’t possibly learn without teachers.

Right… Now consider these timeless words of wisdom (a paraphrase):

  • People want to read books printed on paper. No one wants to read books on a device, especially not a phone or a cold slab of steel and glass.
  • No one will buy something they haven’t seen from a company they don’t know thousands of miles away by credit card. It’s just another fad.
  • You can’t beat vinyl for sound quality. Or… DVDs are here to stay. And people will always have to pay for the music they want to listen to.

It’s an assumption that schools and training providers will always look and operate the same as they always have. Just because we currently have a system where one teacher stands in front of 25 or 30 kids all day does’t automatically mean that this is what we will always have.

It’s also an assumption that education requires teachers to teach people – kids or adults. Most of us learned stuff in spite of the education system rather than because of it.

20 years ago no one would have imagined a world of digital print (e.g. Kindle), online retail (e.g. Amazon, Shopify), and essentially free online music (Spotify), let alone such innovations created by companies like Apple and Google among many others.

What we have at the moment is an example of “lock in”. Governments and schools are locked in to a particular way of doing education. It’s inconceivable for them to start again with a blank sheet of paper. Yet this is what needs to happen.

Imagine a world where the industries of retail, print, and music were government funded. Imagine then what would happen when the inevitable budget cuts roll around. All the shop assistants; magazine, newspaper, and textbook publishers; and record labels would be out on the streets protesting.

Meanwhile, they blinked. And software ate their jobs.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

2 thoughts

  1. I’m meant to be working but here I am looking through old postings. Teaching is dead. Long live learning??? Teachers (cringe…) are not doing the business. Perhaps what we need is access to information (with winning structural design) and mentors. Teachers have blinked, they are certainly not mentors (some inspire, but it is rare) and they have not proved that their educational training actually makes a speck of difference for the outcomes of learners.

  2. I quite like the robot teacher actually, although I am far more likely to meet the deadlines the terminator sets.

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