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Education is the key

Some young friends of mine were privileged to visit the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. They were taken on a long trek high into the mountains to see a school for Tibetan children. It was run by teachers and families who had walked over the border from Tibet to escape the Chinese imposed regime. The single-room school had hardly anything, a few books, little with which to write. But it had cheerful generous teachers who had stayed with their pupils even though they could have gone on and used their qualifications to make new lives in other parts of world.

Those teachers had no equipment, no published strategies, no curriculum advisers. They knew beyond all doubt, though, that education was the most important thing in their children's lives, and that they were the ones equipped to provide it. In the developing world, the fact that school is the key to freedom and growth has a simple clarity.

It's important to realise that it's the same in our more affluent and cynical society. To carry responsibility for the development of young lives - awakening potential, opening up choices for them - is surely the most important job that anyone can do, anywhere on the planet.

That's my reaction to the many gloomy responses that are appearing on The TES online staffroom in response to the question: "If you had your time again, would you become a teacher?" The complaints are recognisable, and justified - rude kids, paperwork, poor management. It's disappointing that so far only one post makes the crucial point.

"There are a lot of positives about teaching, the main one being that if you are at all effective you make a difference to all our lives." (Not just the children's lives, you'll notice, but all our lives. There's someone who's got it.) Of course, if you're working in a filthy building, with violent kids and ineffective management, as some of the website contributors are, you don't want a lecture on idealism. There are excellent, well run schools in every social setting, with strong and understanding leaders and good humoured children who respond positively to being protected, understood and well taught. When it's time to move on, seek them out, talk to people, make visits. Do the website therapy, but don't leave it at that. Make something happen in your professional life.

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