Interesting as Alan Smithers' argument is (TES, October 4), it seems to me that he misses the point in the distinction between education and training of teachers.
Apparently "we can talk quite happily about the training of surgeons I", but insist on education of teachers. Before I became an English teacher I worked as a theatre assistant in two hospitals, and I suggest that it is precisely this emphasis on training which needed - and probably still needs - rethinking; in one or two instances, expertly trained surgeons appeared ignorant of the humanity of their patients, preferring the image of an inert subject to the skills of the knife.
Involved as I now am in teacher education, I continue to believe that we should be concerned not simply with a narrow conception of the skills of teaching, nor with any predictable and measurable responses of pupils - whatever these may be - but with real people in all their complexity. Professor Smithers seems here to espouse one more simplistic response to the problems of our particular society, although there may well be much to learn from the Hungarian experience he values so highly.
I feel that teaching is more akin to an art than a science, but like all good artists, accomplished teachers are ready to learn from scientific evidence - including, perhaps, that from Hungary - in the context of a creative and holistic venture: education rather than training.
School of Education
University of Durham