Education Quandary: Will making teachers study for a Masters degree really improve the quality of teaching?

Hilary's advice

It might. I am convinced that improving teacher training is the single most important thing we can do to make better schools. But I have doubts about whether the Masters degree in teaching and learning, about to be piloted among some newly qualified teachers, is the right way to go about it.

These centre around whether a standardised qualification can ever be flexible enough to meet individual teachers' needs, and whether asking new teachers to undertake research, as part of this qualification, is the best use of their time and energy. I'm also concerned that the level of funding falls between two stools.

On the one hand, it doesn't come anywhere near that for top-quality Masters programmes, so to talk about "MBAs for teachers", as the Government has done, is disingenuous. On the other, the £30m allocated to the programme so far could have gone a long way towards providing a much-improved, flexible and targeted professional development programme for all teachers. I'm also worried that, yet again, this is an idea we've snitched from sainted Finland, in the belief that it will somehow give us the same kind of good schools that they have there, even though all kinds of other things are different about that country's education system.

But maybe I'm wrong on all counts. If the ultimate goal of an all-Masters profession gives teachers the status they deserve, and imbues them with improved professional skills then that will be very good news for all schoolchildren.

Readers' advice

I teach at a university and some of my younger colleagues have spent their whole lives in school and university. They hold PhDs (having gained a Masters along the way) and spend most of their time writing academic papers that are hardly read. They have no practical experience and nobody has taught them how to control a class.

Worse, they cannot bring themselves down to the level of the average undergraduate, so teaching and communication is a problem. Far from improving the quality of teaching, insisting that all teachers hold a Masters will completely destroy it.

Malcolm Howard


Maybe some secondary teachers would benefit from a Masters, but if the Government is expecting nursery and primary teachers to study for one, too, they will quickly lose some of the best people from the profession. Teachers of younger children need completely different kinds of skills. To put them in an academic straitjacket will mean many of them leave.

Sylvia Pryke


I studied for an educational Masters, specialising in curriculum and instruction. After 10 years in the profession, it reinvigorated my teaching and increased my confidence. But I studied for it online, and I don't understand how practising teachers can undertake campus-based postgraduate courses. Pupils will suffer if teachers are always out of school, unless classes are scheduled at night, which is tough for those with family and other personal commitments.

Karen Cavanagh

Philadelphia, USA

My son is expected to get AAAA* in his A-levels, but has been rejected by medical schools at Cambridge, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and St Andrews. Is this an anti-English issue? If so, he would have applied to other English universities. Ironically, although we live in Essex, we are Scottish.

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at They can be searched by topic.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Reach Volunteering: Would you like to volunteer your expertise as Chair of Governors for Livability?

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses are reimbursable: Reach Volunteering...

Ashdown Group: Payroll Administrator - Buckinghamshire - £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + substantial benefits: Ashdown Group: Finance Admin...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine