TED Conversations

Student, Business Engineering, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium

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What do you think of merit-based pay for teachers?

I don't know if the question is still relevant, I haven't followed it until recently but I heard it was quiet a debate at the Presidential election and wanted to know what he TED community thought of this.
Is merit-based pay for teachers a good idea... There are a lot of pros and cons about the topic: Will it help the education of the students (the main goal of the would-be arrangement)? Will the amount of teachers have a positive boost? Will it make the teachers too competitive, lessening the cooperation between them?

Please write your ideas.

(English is not my first language so excuse the grammatical errors and easy language)


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  • Nov 30 2012: Well that's certainly an interesting method of approaching this.. I certainly didn't treat this as a "competition" as much as I did a "conversation". What I wanted to do was provide a part of a framework for the implications of applying a merit based system to an industry that is typically associated with appreciation and fulfillment, rather than solely monetary rewards.

    Keep in mind that money doesn't buy happiness, don't take it from me, take it from this (brief!) article - http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2019628,00.html - $75000 is the average amount of household income before "happiness" tapers off from income.

    My father worked as a clinical psychologist for 19 years, before making the transition to his current position. Despite the long hours and low pay, he found his work to be extremely SATISFYING and FULFILLING and often told me that when your job doesn't feel like a job, it's easy to go to "work" everyday.

    So with all of that in mind, along with my previous post, Im sure there's a place for merit based systems for teachers.. Im sure you can do that for a variety of industries.. but it's a fallacy to believe that providing monetary rewards for higher student grades, attendance, or good-behavior would only cure the bad and keep the good. Providing monetary rewards causes the receiver of those benefits to look only at short term goals as a means to an end and clouds the judgment of the individual. I am NOT supposing that these individuals are "bad" people, it's that our brains react differently from a neurological perspective when rewarded with these types of systems. As such, back to my original post, there are other pitfalls that can occur based on merit based systems.

    More Info:
    - http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100603/0311539672.shtml
    - http://www.go2cio.com/articles/index.php?id=3579
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      Nov 30 2012: You are right, of course, that many people forego some income to do work they find gratifying. It's like most choices in that way. The options we face present us with a combination of attributes, and people choose differently depending on the relative values they place on those attributes. A job has more attributes than only the income we derive from it.

      One of our TED speakers, a Law and Economics prof at Harvard named Yochai Benkler, has a paper that comes immediately to mind in which he puts forward an analytical model that captures this from the standpoint of the activities we choose to pursue. The paper is called Coase's Penguin, because it is based on seminal work by a well known economist named Coase. The paper is kind of a slog unless you enjoy reading economics, but if you do, it is interesting. He develops his models particularly out of an interest in understanding where volunteerism fits into to economic thinking.
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        Nov 30 2012: True story but the collective and collectively are 2 different things the prior being ants going around in a circle as most voters do.
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      Nov 30 2012: money does not buy happiness is the same statement as height does not make you a good basketball player. yet, we all agree that height is a major factor in basketball, though not the only one. and one can cite data all day long proving that height is not the only factor. it just does not make height any less important.

      money DO buy happiness, or at least many things we need, and we all know that. it needs some sort of global trance to deny that obvious fact. can we say that better health services does not grant happiness? or ability to work less? better school for our children? more comfortable housing? internet connectivity? these things all cost money. or we conclude that those listed things are not important? we should not aspire for better health services, better food, better accommodation and all? thanks, but no thanks. everyone is free to follow any set of values. my values contain these things. and i don't care how many studies someone puts forward, i don't want anyone to tell me what to value and what to want.

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