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2017-09-25 17:03
By Walt Gardner



The boycott by students at teachers colleges across the country demanding guaranteed employment upon completion of their studies is evidence of their naivety. No such assurance can be given in any other profession.

If the demonstrators had done their homework, they would know that teaching is highly sensitive to the law of supply and demand because of the unique nature of the work.  Hiring is directly tied to the number of students who are officially enrolled.  With signs of a decreasing student population caused by the low birthrate in Korea widely reported by the media, it’s hard to understand how demonstrating students could be unaware.

Protesting students also must certainly have known beforehand that it is impossible for any governmental body to predict with total accuracy the number of students who will attend classes.  That’s because nothing prevents parents from moving from one city to another, or enrolling their children in private schools.

 Unlike private and religious schools that have far more control over their enrollment, public schools are required by law to enroll virtually all students who show up at their door at any time.  Since that is the case, protesting students would be better advised to apply for teaching positions there.

It’s also public knowledge that more than 3,500 qualified teachers who have already passed the certification exam have been unable to find a teaching position.  These students have priority in hiring.  As a result, protestors will likely find little popular support. 

In an ideal world, of course, there would be an exact match between the number of certified teachers and the number of teaching openings. A better case can be made for those boycotting teachers who expect to receive their licenses in science, technology, engineering and math.  Teachers in these subject fields are in high demand by schools because of competition from corporations that pay far better salaries. 

The situation in the U.S. serves as a useful case study.  Although all states and Washington D.C. have reported shortages since 2015, the truth is that the shortage is “specific to subjects or locales,” according to a report released by the National Council on Teacher Quality on Aug. 30.  It is the result of “local conditions, issues, and choices.”

Nevertheless, several states are lowering the bar for permanent licensing or issuing provisional licenses.  Whether the strategy will succeed in recruiting more college graduates is problematic. There are too many other factors besides the licensing hurdles that discourage the best and the brightest from opting for a teaching career.

Yet despite the uneven hiring picture in the U.S. and the uncertainties that go along with it, students there do not assume they are guaranteed a teaching job once they are licensed.  And they do not blame their training institutions for not limiting the number of candidates in order to increase their own chances of finding a teaching position.  It’s here that they differ most dramatically with their colleagues in Korea.

 

Walt Gardner (walt.gard376@gmail.com) writes the Reality Check blog for Education Week in the U.S. Write to.

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