- 2002 - 50,084
- 2003 - 50,016
- 2004 - 50,215
- 2005 - 50,704
- 2006 - 51,385
- 2004 - 56,161
- 2005 - 57,184
- 2006 - 58,528
- 2007 - 59,225
- 2004 - 69,757
- 2005 - 71,310
- 2006 - 74,450
- 2007 - 75,821
Although the years do not match exactly, these three tables exhibit a common characteristic - as time goes by, the number goes up.
I am now going to give you some additionals sets of numbers.
- 2000 - 761,836
- 2001 - 756,740
- 2002 - 754,800
- 2003 - na
- 2004 - 745,507
- 2005 - 741,578
- 2006 - 740,415
- 2007 - 738,636
- 2003 - 8,213
- 2004 - 9,088
- 2005 - 9,248
- 2006 - 9,944
- 2003 - 10,555
- 2004 - 11,675
- 2005 - 11,905
- 2006 - 12,423
All these numbers are from the NSW Department of Education annual reports. They are statistics from the state school system.
Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are different measures of teacher headcount. I'm not sure which table is most accurate, but they are supposed to show the number of teachers and support staff at our state schools. Whichever table you choose, there has been growth in the numbers.
Number 4 shows the number of pupils enrolled in the NSW state school system. It has been steadily declining for years. I think it peaked around 800,000 some years back, and has dropped by over 50,000 from its peak. But note that as student numbers have fallen, teacher numbers have grown.
Numbers 5 and 6 are supposed to be the cost per full time equivalent (FTE) student. Note that the cost per student has gone up markedly over that period as well. I have no idea how this number is calculated.
Think for a moment about productivity. In almost every facet of economic endeavour, we aim to do more with less. We replaced a horde of shovel wielding navvies with a bulldozer and one driver. Computers have replaced acres of clerks. McDonalds led the way in cooking more burgers, faster with fewer staff. Car manufacturers are constantly looking at ways to cut the number of man hours that it takes to build a car. Even plumbing fittings have been rethought so that they can be installed by fewer people with less effort. No matter what we do, we are always trying to think of a way of doing it faster, cheaper, easier and more productively and efficiently.
Except for teaching.
It is the one area where a massive fall in productivity is seen as a good thing.
When I was a wee lad, there were 30 of us to a class. Now the norm is closer to 20, and in the state system, there is one support person for every 3 teachers. Don't ask me what the support people do - maybe they teach special classes to the special kids that the special teachers are unable to teach properly.
Take these easy to digest numbers.
When I was at school, with a class size of 30 and no support staff, you would require 10 teachers to stuff knowledge into the heads of 300 ignorant, befuddled, spotty youth (that was us).
In the time since I was at school, the development of the microchip has spawned generations of labour saving devices. Whilst it might have taken 100 man-hours to build an XA Falcon when I was leaving school, it probably takes 30 to build the current Falcon. Human operated plug-type switchboards will still in operation when I was getting hard-ons in maths. Seen any of them in use lately?
For that same group of 300 spotty little ferals, we would now require up to 15 teachers, and those 15 teachers would be supported by a further 5 support staff - making a total of 20 teaching staff.
Are kids being taught astrophysics in Grade 3 these days? I think not. I helped Junior with his maths homework this year, and it is not beyond me yet. Here are some examples of the sums that he was completely unable to do a week ago, and he can now do thanks to my tutoring:
Have they introduced some really far-out subjects into the curriculum? I'm not talking about golf and windsurfing - are they now teaching Latin for instance? Dad did Latin at school, and he always said it was a right bastard of a subject.
I think the answer to most of these questions is "no". The coursework does not appear to be tougher. The students are not stupider. There are some whacky subjects that you can do, but not many kids are studying them.
If that is the case, why then do we need more teachers when we have fewer students?
I can only surmise that the teachers have gotten thicker since I was having dusters thrown at my head for failing to concentrate in maths.
Oops, I think that is the wrong answer. The teaching establishment would have us think that more teachers will produce better results for Master Johnny Thickchild. More teachers equals better grades.
Well, I trawled through reams and reams and reams of statistics about this on the Department's website, and I couldn't see any evidence of that. None. OK, there might have been a tiny improvement here and there, but you have to ask this question:
Is the cost worth it?
In 2003, the average cost per high school student was $10,555. In 2006, that had grown to $12,423 - an increase of 18% (yes, you can discount that somewhat for inflation blah-blah-blah). Let's say the after-inflation growth was 10%. What did that buy us? A 10% improvement in grades? A 10% improvement in literacy and numeracy? 10% less truancy and violence against teachers?
I believe the following:
A smart, motivated kid will learn an enormous amount in a class of 100.
An unmotivated bonehead will learn nothing with one-on-one tutoring.
I have read most of Junior's textbooks - they are far easier to read than anything I ever had. Classrooms are better equipped today than they were 20 years ago. Teachers supposedly have better training than at any time in history. We have more gadgets, aids and programs to support learning than.....I don't know, than a dog has fleas. Smart people have produced untold numbers of gizmos and online training tools and robots and distance learning aids and all that crap - all of it should make a teacher more productive. A teacher, properly equipped with all these fandangled doo-dads should be able to teach a class of 50 by now to the same standard as a teacher of 20 years ago had with a class of 30.
And yet.... class sizes have fallen rather than grown. All that technology, all that investment in support systems and aids - it has all been for nothing. If anything, it has so cluttered and confused the modern classroom that teachers are unable to cope with trying to stuff knowledge into the heads of 20 brats.
How is it that we have been brainwashed by the education establishment into thinking that a decline in teacher productivity is a good thing? It has led to an escalation in labour costs that has choked off capital investment in schools, reduced our ability to pay good teachers a good salary, and ensured that only chicken feed is left in the budget to pay for incidentals for kids.
I know that this idea will upset some people. More teachers is a good thing - right? That is not a position that you can fault, apparently. More teachers must produce better outcomes.... think of the children.
Providing more teachers is only a good thing if the quality of the additional teachers is as good or better than the existing crowd. There is little point in having 100 good teachers and adding 50 moronic drones to their ranks. Diluting the quality of anything never improves it.
There just aren't that many people out there that are cut out to be good or great teachers. The supply is very, very finite - but bureaucrats, policy makers, teacher's unions and politicians seem to think that it is infinite. In their drive for quantity, quality has been ignored.
Saying that we might be better off with fewer teachers will send most special interest groups ballisitic. The thing that amazes me is that teachers, who are supposed to be educated, fail to understand that resources are finite. The government budget is only so big. Yes, it can grow each year as the general economy grows, but the money is just not there to massively increase salaries. In every other walk of life, if you want to be paid more, you have to lift your productivity. If teachers are to be paid say $120,000 instead of $80,000, then the easiest way to do that is to lift their productivity by 50%. You want that money, get used to the idea of a class of 30 instead of 20.
Have a think about this comment as well:
A paltry $76.62 for each child for the whole year is the budget for one NSW public primary school a principal revealed this week.
According to the education department, it costs $9,944 per primary student this year. A school of 500 kids should therefor have a budget of 9944x500 = $4.9 million.
$76.62 per child is 0.7% of the amount spent per child (on average) in state primary schools. How can the budget be so screwed up that so little can be allocated to this line item? Who is in charge of school budgets? Do principals really have $9,944 per student to play with, or does the department control most of the spending, allowing the schools have only a smll portion of that to actually work with?
Does the $9,944 include all the overhead of the bureaucracy, or is this the amount that is actually spent at the front line on teaching? It is no good saying that the average spend per kid is $9,944 if $5,000 of that is absorbed in cushy offices in town by bureaucrats, and only $4,944 reaches the school for spending on maintenance, salaries and so on.