5 reasons not to go into education

First published June 2015. Updated February 2017.

When we first speak to people interested in doing good with their careers, they often say they want to get involved in education in the US or the UK. This could mean donating to a school, doing education policy work, or becoming a teacher.

However, we haven’t prioritised careers in education at 80,000 Hours. We don’t dispute that education is a highly important problem – a more educated population could enable us to solve many other global challenges, as well as yield major economic benefits. The problem is that it doesn’t seem to be very easy to solve or neglected (important elements of our problem framework). So, it looks harder to have a large impact in education compared to many other areas. In the rest of this post, we’ll give five reasons why.

The following isn’t the result of in-depth research; it’s just meant to explain why we’ve deprioritised education so far. Our views could easily change. Note that in this post we’re not discussing education in the developing world.

1. It’s harder to help people in the US or UK

Everyone in the US or UK is rich by global standards: the poorest 5% of Americans are richer than the richest 5% of Indians (and that’s adjusted for the difference in purchasing power, see an explanation and the full data).

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Why apply to Teach First?: An interview with the UK’s largest graduate recruiter

Teach First

Teach First is a two year program that places talented graduates in schools in challenging circumstances as teachers after a rapidly accelerated six week training program. It aims to offer rapid personal development while also contributing to an important social cause. It’s similar to Teach for America in the US.

Founded in 2002, it’s now the UK’s largest graduate recruiter, hiring over 1,500 graduates in 2014, so we’re curious to learn more.

We were approached by the Teach First recruiter at Oxford, Tom Cole, and we offered to do an interview as a first step towards learning more. Teach First’s popularity is equally strong in Oxford as the rest of the country: secondary school teaching one of Oxford’s most common graduate destinations, with about 10% of the class becoming teachers, and a significant fraction of these graduates enter Teach First.

Overall, we don’t yet have firm views on the option; but my initial impression is that it’s a strong, if challenging, option for learning, building career capital and keeping your options open, which makes it an option worth considering early career if you have good personal fit, though it’s probably possible to have more immediate impact earning to give.

In the interview, we focus on the career capital benefits, which we’ve been told are often overlooked by people considering the programme.

The interview was conducted via email, but we met in person with Tom Cole to discuss the content.

The interview begins below:

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