Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 15 Apr 2010

Will making teachers study for a masters degree really improve the quality of teaching?

Hillary's Advice

It might. I am convinced that improving teacher training is the single most important thing we can do to get better schools. But I have doubts about whether the masters degree in teaching and learning (MTL), about to be piloted among some newly qualified teachers, is the right way to go about it.

These centre around whether a standardised qualification can ever be flexible enough to meet individual teachersí needs, and whether asking new teachers to undertake research, as part of this qualification, is the best use of their time and energy. Iím also concerned that the level of funding falls between two stools. On the one hand, it doesnít come anywhere near that for top-quality masters programmes, so to talk about ĎMBAs for teachersí, as the Government has done, is disingenuous. On the other, the £30m allocated to the programme so far could have gone a long way towards providing a much improved, flexible and targeted professional development programme for all teachers. Iím also worried that, yet again, this is an idea weíve snitched from sainted Finland, in the belief that it will somehow give us the same kind of good schools that they have there, even though all kinds of other things are different about that countryís education system.

But maybe Iím wrong on all counts. If the ultimate goal of an all-masters profession gives teachers the status they deserve, and imbues them with improved professional skills then that will be very good news for all schoolchildren.