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New Curriculum Reveals Gaps in Teachers’ Knowledge

teachers' knowledgeAccording to Girls’ School Association president Alice Phillips, recent changes in national curriculum have uncovered unpleasantly surprising gaps in the expertise of the majority of younger teachers. Since last year grammar and spelling are graded separately from each other in GCSEs, which turned out to be even more problematic for teachers than for their pupils.

It isn’t exactly their fault – if one has to allocate blame, it should be pinned to the very fact of changing educational standards without proper preparation. In 90s and 2000s, when teachers of the younger generation attended school, English grammar wasn’t taught as such. Not knowing all the rules doesn’t hinder them in communication in general, but when it comes to explaining to their students the more obscure elements of language they find themselves at sea.

Now, when educational standards have once again changed, this shortcoming may become a source of major problems – while teachers are supposed to coach their pupils in most aspects of proper usage, they generally have only a tentative grasp of them. If the new national curriculum is to be properly delivered the entire generation of teachers should undergo comprehensive training themselves.

This is not the only problem Alice Phillips tries to attract the society’s attention to – in her opinion, today we suffer from a severe shortage of qualified math teachers, which may become even more apparent in years to come.

Although she is much more satisfied with the average level of modern math teachers, there are simply not enough of them to cover the extra requirements imposed by the new curriculum. As a result, schools may have to resort to using student teachers without full degrees to cover this shortage, which may result, at least temporarily, in decreasing the quality of education nationwide.

According to Ms. Phillips, the most effective way out of this situation would be to create an incentive for new teachers – a reduction of university debt for those graduates who spend at least three years teaching in schools.

This may alleviate these problems in the short term, making the transition to the new curriculum less painful; to provide long-term incentives she suggests that for those who stay in the profession for at least 10 years all their fees should be waived.

As of now, students in postgraduate teaching courses are offered financial incentives, but these are generally considered to be insufficient to persuade the necessary amount of young teachers to enter the profession.

These incentives are, of course, different according to priority of every particular discipline, but even the bursaries for students with first-class degrees in mathematics, physics and chemistry (the most understaffed disciplines) don’t rise above £20,000.

All in all, national educational system seems to be not very well prepared to the drastic changes introduced by the new curriculum. At least for some years to come we may expect general decrease in the quality of schooling; although this situation opens up new possibilities for job hunting if you are inclined to work in this sphere.

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