Attracting and Preparing Young People to Become Teachers

The first steps in building a high-quality teacher workforce are to attract talented young people to the profession and to train them well. According to the OECD’s 2005 Teachers Matter report, ensuring that “motivated people with high-level knowledge and skills choose to become teachers” is a “fundamental requirement for providing quality teaching in schools” (p. 40). After these young people have chosen to enter the teaching profession, they must receive uniformly high-quality training that is relevant to the teaching contexts where they will work. South Korea has often been cited as an example of an education system that combines these key steps to ensure quality and equity in the teacher labor force. Due to high status of the teaching profession and relatively high salaries, many Korean young people aspire to become teachers. Education officials select new teachers from a population of motivated and talented young people and the education system provides prospective teachers with high-quality training. Together, these steps ensure a uniformly skilled Korean teacher workforce (Kang & Hong, 2008). There is also some evidence that more qualified teachers work with less advantaged students in Korea (Akiba, LeTendre, & Scribner, 2007; Luschei et al., 2013).

Unfortunately, in many developing countries the landscape for attracting and preparing teachers is quite distinct from the Korean example. Many of these countries face serious teacher shortages and must often lower quality standards to meet the demand for teachers. While this solution may address immediate needs, it can have a negative effect on the attractiveness and status of teaching as a profession (OECD, 2005). Additionally, studies in developing countries have found teacher preparation and education to be of low quality and centered on theory and lecturing, with little supervised and practical training (Hardman, Ackers,

Abrishamian, & O’Sullivan, 2011; Tarvin & Faraj, 1990). In cases where low attractiveness of the teaching profession interacts with poor initial preparation, teacher quality suffers considerably—especially for marginalized children, who are often taught by the least prepared teachers.

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