A school teacher committed suicide last week, which, like bullying, is not a new phenomenon. I recall that a high school teacher of mine also committed suicide. And I remember we, the students, making fun of him (something I am not proud of), despite his sweetness and educational effort. I was in a school where the student population was diverse, with a high rate of students from disadvantageous neighborhoods with family-related violence problems. Since that time, I have wondered why public schools in Portugal are not involved in the hiring of teachers.
Schools are assigned teachers according to the schools’ needs in their fields of studies. But the uniqueness of a school comes not only from its infrastructure and curriculum but from the uniqueness of the communities and neighborhoods they serve, and consequently the background and ability of their students. Therefore, a “good teacher” is in part school-specific. Apart from formal qualifications, on-the-job future training and personality traits are extremely important and left out of the centralized school-teacher matching.
Moreover, a centralized matching system ignores not only non-formal education, but does not guarantee that schools get qualified teachers (in a formal sense) either. This is the case when individuals’ heterogeneity on ability is high and the diffusion of higher education has increased, as it is the case in Portugal as well as in many other developed countries.
The flow of college graduates entering the labor market is more diverse in terms of their ability. In other words, the candidates’ overall skills has declined and as such many graduates cannot reach the required graduation skill level (often assessed by firms during job interviews and hiring tests). This leads candidates to consider a teaching position even if their character, intrinsic motivation, and formal education falls short of what is (or should be) required by schools.
With a centralized matching-process, a large number of graduates with no personality capability and intrinsic motivation for teaching will be hired. Many, who are in the tail of the distribution of skills and could not find another job for their “diploma degree”, will be actually undereducated for teaching. If the centralized teacher-school matching remains unchanged, one thing we can be sure about is that part of public schools’ success will keep on driven by luck.