What Bill Gates is talking about is how important great teachers are. As he says in his Annual Letter on US Education 2009 "it is actually more important to get him [the student] assigned to a great teacher than to a great school." It is the role of schools and school leaders to develop good teachers and that is why we should be focussing on really supporting schools - financially and through strong professional learning. He emphasises the importance of building a strong school culture, of having high expectations of staff and students and providing challenging work. The schools that are making the biggest difference are those that focus on supporting teachers to be effective in the classroom. And that is the role of leadership. He comments:
...we believe improving education is the key to retaining our position of world leadership in all areas, including starting great businesses and doing innovative research.In other words education is fundamentally important, especially as we move through difficult times. We must replicate what works best (which implies a need to analyse what does work best first!), and find innovative ways of leading staff in their own learning. Bureaucratic rules that get in the way of effective teaching need to be removed. Compliance deadens creativity. Even unions can get in the way of change. And poor principal development can stymy the growth of powerful learning communities.
Technology, the easy access of information and the greater ability to collaborate have helped leaders and teachers to learn from each other and to teach in creative ways. This networked environment is crucial in moving schools forward...in order to move teachers forward. It is interesting to note, in the NZ context, that the Ministry of Education seem to be placing less emphasis on the use of technology or the future focus of student needs. Currently teachers are provided with laptops and free license agreements to use key software. If the NZ Ministry of Education, as is rumoured, withdraws these supports we will be taking a step into the dark ages and the whole idea of preparing students for the future will have another barrier put in its way. What does that say about building our position in world leadership?
And if you want to see Bill Gates TEDTalk - here it is hot off the press!