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March 11, 2003
Eastern European non-saviours

Following on directly from the posting immediately below, about the low quality of the people now trying to enter Britain's teaching profession, I expect the following two things (among all kinds of other things) to happen to British teacher recruitment over the next few years.

First, thanks to European Union labour mobility laws (which Britain, unlike many EU countries, takes seriously), I expect a flood of Eastern Europeans to flood (since that's what floods do) into British teaching.

But, second, I expect most of these Eastern Europeans to recoil in horror from their new jobs, and to end up doing only as much British teaching as they have to do, until they can find other jobs that are less stressful, like working as drug dealers or table dancers or perhaps as actual, officially recognised Prison Officers, in jobs where it is clearly understood by all concerned that prisons are indeed prisons, and you can't expect to run them like holiday camps. The lucky few will get jobs in the British educational private sector.

The idea that the British teaching profession can be made wonderful simply by attracting wonderful people into it is false. It doesn't matter how wonderful a person is if what he has to do is impossible. It is not possible to imprison the proletarians of Britain without the use either of physical force or the threat of expulsion, and without any disruption to the minority of pupils who would quite like to make use of their prison time to do some learning. This simply cannot be done, no matter how wonderful you are.

It doesn't matter how successfully you may previously have taught in another school system, where you had the means to do your job to hand. In Britain, you won't be able to do what the government wants of you, because no one could.

You can be a combination of Maria Montessori, Plato, Carol Vorderman and the leader of the England rugby scrum. You still won't make this system work, because no one could.

Faced with this impasse, the government only makes matters worse by piling in with yet more demands and restrictions and bureaucratic oversights, as if the government threatening reality with the big stick of the law can somehow alter reality. They thus make a job which is already impossible, even more impossible.

But none of this will stop the politicians from persisting in the delusion that "better people" will somehow solve the problem. Thus the Eastern Europeans. For a few short years, they'll be presented to us as the saviours of British education.

Very few indeed of these Eastern Europeans will make a long term success of teaching in British schools. But that won't stop them being used as temporary political wallpaper for a few years, to wallpaper (since that's what wallpaper does) over the cracks in the system. But they will be revealed as no more capable of making the British state education system work than Brit teachers are.

The only good thing that will come out of this episode will be that it will show that the existing mess wasn't the fault of the average failing Brit teacher.

If the average failing Brit teacher had got a job in Eastern Europe, he or she might have done it quite well. Which is why many Brit teachers will actually migrate to Eastern Europe, to teach English to people who want to learn it.

There is another way to make use of Eastern Europe for British educational purposes, but I'll save that for a later posting.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 04:48 PM
Category: The reality of teaching
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