A lesson in outsourcing


internetI’m not sure how this story passed me by, but it is a rather fascinating development in how children are taught. For £12 per hour, Ashmount Primary in Islington is now outsourcing some of its teaching to the university town of Ludhiana in the Punjab.

The school is clearly happy with the service from BrightSpark, which allows for one-on-one tuition via videocalling over the internet. Assistant headteacher Rebecca Stacey said: “We were approached to do the pilot, and started very small with just a few pupils, but we quickly realised it was having a positive impact and so increased it so half of our Year 6 pupils are using it.” It just goes to show that, despite the lack of market incentives, some teaching professionals in the state sector are still willing to put children ahead of the teachers – something that should be commended.

Some of the comments from teachers on the TES website show how misguided the objections to this practice are:

Objection 1: “This idea stinks. It is all about a private sector company making money out of UK education.”

Answer: No – it is all about a private company offering a superior service at a cheaper cost. What matters is the result for children.

Objection 2: “I’m a fully qualified primary school teacher, with years of experience, who has specialised in Maths support and who was made redundant. I'm now considering relocating to New Zealand so I think you can imagine how I feel about this.”

Answer: The fact that people lose their jobs is never something to celebrate (politicians excepted), but the children, schools and parents should be free to improve their lot and not be sacrificed for the benefit of less efficient teachers and methods.

Objection 3: “The ethical issue is whether one can hire teachers for salaries and working conditions which would under no circumstances be unacceptable in UK. Ask yourself why you would have different standards for people in these two countries!”

Answer: This is profoundly naïve. These employees are freely choosing to work in what are in fact very good conditions relative to the majority of the population. To take it away and make their lives worse would be wrong.

The subversion of the power of vested interests that this move represents could, if it takes off, have a profound influence on quality of teaching in this country. When it comes to education, we have a lot learn from the rest of the world. India already has many private schools for the poor, while the cultural value that the people place in education could inspire a society disillusioned on the transformative power of education.