You, too, can earn millions if you’re a teacher. That’s the message from Mark Steed, director of Dubai-based Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS), the Independent reports.
The secret is to use technology to beam lessons to pupils in the developing world, Steed told delegates at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), the annual get-together of affiliated headteachers.
Steed described how some teachers earned millions offering ‘global internet-based seminars’. He cited a Korean provider of ‘cramming’ who made $8m (£6m) in one year.
Cramming isn’t education. But when there’s money to be made such niceties can be ignored. BBC Four’s Why Poverty? investigated the cramming business in China in 2012. It interviewed Wang Zehsiang, a private college tutor specialising in cramming pupils for university entrance. His business was so profitable he had pop star status. I remember watching the programme (no longer available). Zehsiang was asked if he was profiting from failure. ‘Failure is good,’ he said. Failure meant he could keep selling the promise of a university education to struggling students.
Steed wasn’t suggesting HMC-affiliated schools set up crammers for impoverished Chinese pupils. His vision was for ‘top teachers and top institutions to share their lessons with people around the world’.
For top teachers and top institutions read HMC-affiliated schools (at least while Steed was speaking to the HMC Conference – the top institutions might change identity if Steed were addressing a different group).
Leave aside the finding by the OECD confirmed by the last round in 2015* that ‘students in public [state funded] schools score higher than students in private schools, after students’ and schools’ socio-economic profile is taken into account’.
Leave aside also questions about privacy of pupils in the streamed lessons, appropriateness of beaming lessons in UK schools to countries where the context and history is different and the assumption that pupils on the receiving end would be fluent English speakers. Steed is in no doubt that ‘top teachers’ in ‘top institutions’ can make millions out of posting lessons on-line to paying recipients.
The ‘for-profit school sector’ is capable of investing in the required technology, the Independent reports. Now there’s a surprise. But such investment isn’t altruistic – it’s an investment. And if the poorest pupils in the world don’t offer a return, well the children of the aspiring middle classes might.
But would individual UK teachers really become millionaires? It’s hardly likely. Who owns the copyright to lessons – is it the teacher who delivers them or the institution? And if the institution has charitable status could flogging lessons for a profit compromise this status?
Those hoping to make millions from teaching might have to wait some time yet. But there’s no doubt the for-profit sector smells a fortune.
*P39 PISA 2015 Results (Volume II): Policies and Practices for Successful Schools