In our cities we often hear that we have “the best educated cab drivers of the world.” As a matter of fact, a while ago in Lima, a taxi driver who’s also a friend said mischievously: “But Doctor, you should know that taxi drivers here are more cultivated than a yogurt.”
The statistics confirm that our friend is right. In Peru, the National Household Survey (ENAHO for its acronym in Spanish) reveals that 25% of workers whose occupation is “motor vehicle driver” has a university degree. Is that a requirement to become a driver? Well, among drivers with tertiary education, one out of four studied mechanics. One could argue that, in this case, the field of study and the occupation are related. But what is the second most common profession among drivers with tertiary education? The answer to this question is precisely the topic of this blog entry, aimed at commemorating the Teachers’ International Day. One out of seven drivers of motor vehicles with tertiary education majored in Education.
We did not mention it explicitly, but the above paragraph refers only to male workers. What about females? The occupation “merchant” entails many skilled women workers in various fields, among them the most common is nursing. This somehow could be explained by the fact that many nurses work in drugstores. But what is the second most common profession among merchants with tertiary education? Again: teaching. Once more, one out of five merchandizers with tertiary education majored in Education.
Let’s look at this from another angle. Today, how many workers of both genders, who majored in Education have jobs outside of the education sector (teachers, principals, aides, etc.)? This finding is perhaps the most surprising: one out of two does.
But why would a person who majored in Education later decides to pursue a different career path? To find out the answer, we asked additional questions to the ENAHO. Is it because other occupations retrieve higher incomes? No, income is not higher, neither measured in a monthly basis nor per hour. Is it because other occupations offer better working conditions than teaching? No, pensions and bonuses are lower in other professional activities than in teaching.
ENAHO data also tell us that a significant number of workers who are 60 years and older falls within the group of people who majored in Education and who work in other occupations. It is likely that from this group of workers, some have already served as teachers and, after retirement, they are now pursuing other career paths. But another message that stems from the data is that this discrepancy between academic background and actual occupation is increasingly growing among the youth. The recent expansion of tertiary education has led to more and more people studying education, but not all of them end up working as teachers.
Many of those who went through tertiary education in pedagogy do not work in occupations related to their field of study. This affects us ALL, because as a society we are investing in providing higher education to a large amount of future teachers. In fact, the Higher Education Census 2010 reveals that more than 50,000 youth are majoring in Education. But unfortunately if the trend continues, half of them will not use their training and will continue to take other career paths. Is this the most cost-effective way of investing the resources? We cannot afford that luxury!
Now, what can be done?
• Raising admission standards. Education is one of the most popular careers among the youth. One of the reasons for that is that it is relatively easy to get into those programs (as opposed to medical or engineering schools). Thus, raising the admission standards may be a way towards the goal of retaining teachers in the profession.
• Providing better information to young people. In recent years, evidence has shown that young people make decisions about their future careers and occupations with very little information. Having appropriate information at the right time can be useful to everyone. Here’s a good example from a study by our IDB colleagues.
• Improving the academic offer of the Schools of Education. There must be something happening in the Schools of Education, if only half of those who enroll in education programs end up working as teachers. We are currently working on this topic. So, we’ll have more news soon.
But before that… Happy World Teachers’ Day and, especially, to many Latin American teachers who in spite of the circumstances stay committed to their mission of improving student learning! To all of you we extend our appreciation on behalf of the IDB’s team!