Do you need to be taught to teach?

I've always wondered why it was so difficult to become a teacher. Do you really need a school for teachers, where teachers teach students to teach? Are the licensing requirements to teach students, really that useful? Is there that much value to restricting the supply of teachers through regulation and compulsory education. And above all, isn't teaching something that is inherently human?

Let's first take a long hard look at how teachers learn to teach. An aspiring teacher has a set of hurdles to overcome before they can even teach professionally. The biggest, is a teacher training program, in Singapore this is primarily done through the BABSc diploma.

The Bachelor of Arts (Education) and Bachelor of Science (Education), also known as BABSc (Ed), is a 4-year sponsored undergraduate programme. It equips you with an academic degree in arts or science-based subjects, with a teaching qualification to teach in primary or secondary schools.

If they don't pursue this diploma, they can also do a standard degree in any science or arts field. Post to that, they have to obtain a PGDE (Post Graduate Diploma in Education) which earns them the teaching certificate. This certificate is what allows teachers to teach professionally.

When observing this process, there is a clear divergence between studying to become a professional in your field, and studying to teach. Teaching is assumed to require an entirely different set of skills and knowledge compared to actually practicing a craft in the field. And this wouldn't be a bad assumption, to teach effectively, one needs to be keenly aware of various concepts in psychology, human behavior and learning strategies.

The issue arises when you notice that none of your teachers are actually experienced in the craft they are trying to teach you. Your physics teacher has never been a physicist, your biology teacher has never visited exotic islands to explore their animal life. Even in university, albeit the effect is reduced for academic professions, your engineering professors probably have never worked in professional engineering jobs. They're researchers not practical engineers.

Now I pose some simple questions. How do you expect someone to teach you something, that they don't have deep relevant practice doing? When a CS professor hasn't build complex distributed systems at the scale of Google or Uber, how would they know what things to include in your curriculum? How would a high school physics teacher be able to tell you about the bleeding edge of physics research, when they were only really trained in what they needed to teach?

The answer is, you can't expect that. When there is a system, where teachers and students are trapped in an echo-chamber with the absence of professional craft experience, there is a situation where anything goes. Anything the professor decides to include in the curriculum, now suddenly becomes important for the student to know regardless of whether the final job requires that knowledge. Because the job market at the end of the day, looks at the signaling from your certificate, which is unfortunately issued by people who only know to teach, but not to do.

This makes me wonder about whether we really need entire programs to teach people to teach. Couldn't some casual banter with a lead engineer at a startup, give you guidance and direction about how to learn programming, and also provide insights and knowledge that is directly applicable to your craft. To me, this seems like a more direct way to approach education, let experts teach students their craft. The middleman hand-waving of educational expertise, looks to me as an inefficiency in the system which just results in lost time, productivity and money.

Any skills required to teach effectively, could be taught in a bootcamp format if necessary. I'm sure the skills to teach can be taught in 6 months if the skills to be a competent programmer can be taught in 3. And this is probably giving it a wide berth.

Without the unnecessary overhead of teaching regulation and certification, availability of quality teachers and mentors will shoot up, creating more accessible and open education than ever before. This heralds a return to a time like Plato's, where open discussion, collaboration and mentorship was the source of ever greater knowledge.

Axiom wants to imagine this decentralized, expert focused ideal to education. One that is exempt from standardization, certification and any other regulatory inefficiencies. We want an open, accessible and direct way to learn anything and build the best version of yourself.