THE BLOG
10/05/2013 05:28 pm ET Updated Dec 05, 2013

Teachers Do Matter -- of That, There Can Be No Doubt

No class, school, or education system can be better than the quality of the teaching within it. Most adults can easily remember the teachers that have mattered in their lives, while all children understand this concept with the fierce immediacy of going to school tomorrow with either a heavy heart or one filled with the joy of great learning.

Dozens of academic studies have shown what many of us already know: that great teachers can work magic, taking concepts that many of us might think are fixed -- a child's intelligence, dreams, their place in the world -- and transforming them into things that can bend and grow and be shaped into new possibilities.

This is nothing new. Even two thousand years ago in ancient Rome, Cicero mused on "What nobler employment, or more valuable to the state than that of the person who instructs the rising generation."

However, as a recent study by Varkey GEMS has shown, we don't necessarily want our children to become those teachers.

In this survey, the UK ranked 10th out of 21 countries in the status given to teachers, higher than France and Spain, but far below China and Singapore. Only 25 percent of us would encourage our children to become teachers.

This is misguided, but sadly, unsurprising. In 2002, when I started Teach First, I travelled to some of Britain's most prestigious universities, asking heads of career services if they thought we could get their students to go on to teach children in schools in disadvantaged communities. With some notable exceptions, they laughed at my naivety, "Graduates from this university have much better options than to teach in an inner city comprehensive" sniffed one. "I doubt you'll get more than a handful."

Luckily, his graduates have proven him wrong. Almost immediately, many of them understood that this actually was their greatest option. The raw importance, the innate prestige, the leadership responsibility of working with young people, won them over.

Ten years later, Teach First is the largest graduate recruiter in the UK, with thousands of the most talented university graduates and career changers in the country applying to teach in schools in disadvantaged communities, including 5 percent of all Russell Group and 10 percent of all Oxbridge final years. This year, in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers survey, 18,000 university students voted Teach First the 3rd most respected place to work in the country -- higher than any of the legal, financial or other fields that their parents held in higher esteem in the GEMS survey.

These facts are extremely encouraging.

Recent England Teaching Agency surveys have shown that the image of teaching has been going up year on year so it is only a matter of time before this national view meets the views of today's graduates.

There is no single more important role than a teacher. There is no more powerful leader than one who can open minds and literally help to change a young person's future. The Chinese understand this. Bright British university students understand this. It's only a matter of time before the rest of Britain catches up.

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