Research is the key

February 16, 2007

Lee Harvey (Letters, February 9) is right to scorn williseemytutor.com. The site is absurd, crude and illiterate. But he makes a poor point in relation to postgraduates and their teaching.

Postgraduate research students are research-active individuals, professionally engaged in scholarship and the advancement of their subject.

Being taught by such people is the point of going to university. But that is simply not always true of lecturers at ex-polytechnics, who are often too loaded with teaching duties to engage in in-depth scholarship. The key is to achieve a balance that means as much teaching as possible is done by active scholars, whatever their employment status.

Harvey also strikes a false note in referring to postgraduate certificates in education, which cannot make a good teacher. At best, a PGCE can stop someone from being disastrously inept; at worst, it can lead people who might have been perfectly good educators into catastrophic nonsense, as we have seen in schools with "real books", "look and say", "child-centred learning" and "positive marking".

Richard Austen-Baker.
Lancaster University

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