AS THE Government introduces measures to weed out incompetent teachers and create "super-teachers" in their desperate attempt to improve the education system, I can't help comparingmy experiences as a modern language teacher in the Scottish education system with those in the Hungarian system where I am now employed.
The most striking feature is the difference in ethos. In Hungary, teachers are still held in high esteem and their skills respected. The assessment and teaching of students are, by and large, at the professional discretion of teachers. Therefore teaching establishments do not have the continual disruption of external verifiers visiting.
Nor do they have the pressure to come into line with businesses with the perpetual belief that teachers should work longer hours and have shorter holidays. It still seems recognised in Hungary that successful teaching and learning need a high level of concentration and timetabling and class contact hours respect that.
Teachers moreover need only be in school for their class contact, as is common in many parts of Europe. Formal meetings are kept to a minimum, though nobody is too busy to talk, as is paperwork. Paper is in short supply and cannot be wasted on endless form filling. Teachers thus have the energy to concentrate on preparation, teaching and marking homework.
Furthermore, Hungarians appear to have greater insight into human behaviour. A calm management team that supports and shows its staff appreciation produces calm, happy and efficient teachers and a secure learning environment, rather than teachers fearful of job loss, suffering from constant pressure and criticism.
Students are responsible for their own learning, and teachers direct and help them to fulfil their potential. In Scotland, the teacher is there to serve and wait upon students who place the onus of their lack of success on teachers who are pressurised further by the establishment to pass students irrespective of their ability.
The difference in values and attitudes between Eastern Europe and Scotland to education was summed up this spring. Here the press was discussing Chris Woodhead's sexual exploits of 23 years ago. There eminent educationists came together to debate the importance of language teaching in their countries' future prosperity, with the expectation that their citizens will be competent in three languages.