Will your job get moved to India?

James Miller doen’t think in half measures. He proposes to move teaching jobs to India, having Indian teachers interacting with students in the West by by video connection (via Stephen).

First question: how do you feel about this? Incredulous? Threatened? Or inspired by the socialist vision of global redistribution of wealth?

Personally, I’m intrigued. How much of this could work? Some, not all, I suspect.

We’ve seen classes by video link in SciFi movies, but there’s evidence that video link isn’t such a powerful medium as you might think. About a year ago, Harvard Business Review ran a survey of globally-distributed development teams (the corporate world’s equivalent of a class full of adolescents). Teams given access to all the sexy high-technology they wanted tended to plump for plain old email and simple web-based messaging tools, plus ordinary one-to-one phone calls. Video is a great broadcast medium, but for two-way communication it leaves much to be desired.

Miller also suggests hiring Indian teachers to mark essays. We actually explored the idea of setting up a service to do this three years ago, using Paperless School as the transport medium. Technically, it’s entirely practical, but we hit two insurmountable hurdles. First, marking an essay is one of the tools you use to understand your students. On most occasions, it can’t or shouldn’t be separated out from the feedback session afterwards. Second, to mark an essay well, you need to know a lot about the context in which it was set. Although we’re doing a lot of interesting development work with essay marking, we’ve not pursued the Indian connection for these reasons.

His third idea is 1:1 tuition. This is the interesting one to me, and it’s worth thinking through the ramifications. Check my logic, please…

  1. 1:1 or very-small-group tuition at a distance doesn’t suffer the problems I’ve enumerated above. Provided the student is reasonably self-disciplined, it’s entirely practical.
  2. There’s no budget in British schools for tuition, but up to half of parents are already willing to pay for some extra tuition for their children at some point in their school career.
  3. An Indian teacher with access to the internet could easily give excellent attention to a distributed class of 3-5 students, each working in his or her own bedroom.
  4. A qualified teacher in India could live very well off consistent earnings of £3/hr, so a cost to the parent of £1/hr/child is feasible.
  5. So if you’re a parent, you might wondering why you’ve stopped at private tuition, when for £6/day (£900/year) you can buy your child an entire private education.
  6. Therefore, a significant proportion of parents might well opt their children wholly or partially out of the school system altogether.
  7. More children in private tuition = fewer children in school = less need for teachers in Britain.

So there you have it. Indian Teachers will Take Away My Job: Discuss. When finished, send your essay to Poona for marking.

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