Continuing Education... Eric Hanushek on Education, Skills, and the Millenium Development Goals

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis
Eric Hanushek on the Education... Roger Berkowitz on Fish, Food,...

If a nation sends all its children to school, can it count on greater economic growth? Does putting bottoms in seats generate human capital? This week, Russ welcomed back the Hoover Institution's Eric Hanushek.

What did you think of this week's episode? What did it make you think more about? Share with us your thoughts and reactions, helping us make EconTalk ever better. As always, we learn from you and we love to hear from you.

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1. What additional question(s) would you have asked Hanushek?

2. Hanushek suggests a causal relationship between academic achievement and economic growth in a nation, What is the nature of Russ's concern about "reverse causation?" To what extent do you find Hanushek's claim plausible?

3. Hanushek suggests three different ways to look at the post-2015 Millennium Goals under consideration. What are these three ways, and which do you think ought to be the focus of the next round of goals? Explain.

4. Hanushek argues (in this as well as previous EconTalk episodes) that "better teachers" are the simplest answer to improving a nation's education and skill base. Both he and Russ also note that defining the characteristics of great teachers is difficult. Have you ever had a teacher you consider exceptional? How did that teacher influence your life (professional and/or personal)? How can a nation ensure more students would have a teacher like this one?

COMMENTS (1 to date)
Erik writes:

Great episode. Here in Germany, one of the constituencies against educational reformitis is the teachers who have had to implement over their careers several destabilizing and ultimately unconvincing transformations based more on trendy theories and ideological priorities than on a taboo-free quest for better outcomes.

It's great that now we have such broad agreement that good teachers are key, and that current ways of doing things hinder the multiplication of this goodness and prevent meaningful reduction in the ranks of bad teachers. Many people grappling with this problem from the conservative side seem fixated on the idea of getting rid of the worst teachers, while not enough people on the left have proposed credible plans to help the bad teachers get better.

The more I think about the Finnish model, the more I find it appealing, if I am remembering it correctly from a previous Econtalk: the teachers colleges are the most selective schools, future teachers must acquire a degree in a non teaching-related field, they are paid very well, they have much more say in the management of their schools and of the teachers' college.

The perception I have of the bureaucratic burden on teachers at pubic schools is definitely that it has been going up, and based on how much most people i know like paperwork, this can't be good for overall teachers' morale. I'm all for research and experimentation into alternatives that dispense with such often flawed mechanisms of accountability in favour of more human-centered means of evaluation and mutual support, but for that, parents, voters, teachers, and administrators well have to work out a new framework of trust and incentive.

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