Reflected glory;Leading article

15th January 1999 at 00:00
It is little wonder that Singapore is known as the "Intelligent Island". A recent international study showed its children lead the world in maths and science. As a result, the status of teaching has risen to the extent that even lawyers and accountants want to retrain as teachers (International, page 23).

This may be a short-lived phenomenon that partly reflects Asia's current economic woes. Nevertheless, it is a remarkable development. Could it happen here?

Anthea Millett, chief executive of the Teacher Training Agency, thinks so, judging by her upbeat assessment of last month's Green Paper on the future of the profession (Career Development, Friday magazine, page 20). But (as the education historian Richard Aldrich points out on page 24 of the same section) our teachers have bemoaned their inferior status since 1581. Such deep-rooted perceptions cannot be eradicated overnight.

British teachers may have been reclassified recently as "higher professionals"; unhappily, their new status is not yet reflected in their salary slips - or in societal attitudes. But as the continuing improvements in pupil achievement seep into the public consciousness, and initiatives such as the Teaching Awards gather pace, we could see a commensurate rise in public respect for the profession.

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