#teacheroath: Swearing not Pledging

Out-trending #xfactorresults last night was #teacheroath – a twitterstorm of response to a hashtag started by @teacherROAR. As someone said – who but teachers would give up part of their Sunday evening to take part in such an “event”? (Yes we know we were multitasking with work preparation/TV/emails/chores/etc at the time – when do we not?)

It’s difficult to know what Tristram Hunt, our shadow secretary of state for education, hoped to achieve with his proposal to introduce an oath or a pledge for teachers – similar to the Hippocratic oath that doctors are assumed to be bound by. He’s recently visited Singapore and has noticed that teachers there are expected to abide by the following pledge

We, the teachers of Singapore, pledge that:

We will be true to our mission to bring out the best in our students.
We will be exemplary in the discharge of our duties and responsibilities.
We will guide our students to be good and useful citizens of Singapore.
We will continue to learn and pass on the love of learning to our students.
We will win the trust, support and co-operation of parents and the community so as to enable us to achieve our mission.

There’s nothing here that most teachers could take exception to, but we need to ask – what is the point of making teachers sign this type of pledge? Isn’t all of this embedded or implicit in what teachers sign up for when they become teachers? How would anyone prove that the pledge was being broken? Isn’t any breach of duty or responsibility already dealt with through existing capability and disciplinary procedures?


Maybe Mr Hunt is trying to start a debate about the equivalence of medicine and education as self-regulating professions. Maybe he’s concerned about the broader responsibilities of teachers, or even more fundamentally about the broader aims of education. If so, we would welcome this: we’ve been blogging about such matters for some time, particularly “pass on the love of learning to our students”.  We’ve been dismayed and depressed by the way in which politicians have over time increasingly narrowed down the role of teachers to “driving up standards”, which translates as “raising scores in high stakes tests and examinations”.

Perhaps Mr Hunt has the best of intentions. Perhaps he’s sincere in wanting schools to be joyful places full of enthusiasm for learning for its own sake, full of creativity, providing for the holistic development of all children of every ability. If so, he should say so, clearly and explicitly. He could even state his support for Singapore’s “Teach Less, Learn More” strategy.

We’d like to suggest to Mr Hunt that he now turns his attention to a pledge that all politicians should sign. It’s based on Singapore’s pledge:

We, the politicians of England, pledge that:

We will be true to our mission to bring out the best in our teachers.
We will be exemplary in the discharge of our duties and responsibilities.
We will assist our teachers to guide our students to be good and useful citizens of England.
We will assist our teachers to continue to learn and pass on the love of learning to our students.
We will assist our teachers in every possible way to win the trust, support and co-operation of parents and the community so as to enable them to achieve their mission.

There’s lots more we could add to this pledge, and we’d like to invite others to contribute ideas – but this will do for now.

Every day we hear yet more pronouncements about what the government intends to do TO the teaching profession, NOT what it intends to do WITH or FOR the profession. The role of politicians should be like that of a school’s governing body – to agree overall budgets, to democratically agree on broad aims and objectives, and to ensure that education professionals are well supported in every possible way to achieve those things. It is NOT their job to continuously intervene in what happens in schools or within the profession, and neither is it to micromanage professional activity. Every profession has the right to manage its own affairs, with responsibility delegated downward through whatever professional bodies are set up to oversee the activities of the profession. (In our view Finland does this extremely well)

If Mr Hunt can sort out this politicians’ oath at Westminster then he can perhaps come back to the teaching profession at a later date and ASK us to consider a pledge for teachers. If and when that happens then no doubt we’ll have a good discussion about it.




Explaining the Finnish Miracle – In Teachers We Trust

The steering of all levels of education is based on clearly defined, common national objectives.

Instead of controlling and monitoring, the focus is on supporting and developing the work of schools and teachers.

There is neither an inspection system of schools in Finland nor national tests in learning outcomes during basic education on the basis of which schools could be placed in an order of superiority.

There are no ranking lists of schools.

Learning outcomes are assessed on the basis of national evaluations based on samples, and the information gathered from these evaluations is used in the development of education and in the training of teachers.

Mutual trust is an important prerequisite for the development of  Finnish education.

The national core curriculum and the local curricula are considered as constantly developing, living documents.

In-service training of teachers is based on working in networks which offers the opportunity to receive guidance from national experts and, above all, to share experiences and learn from the practices of other teachers and schools.

The level of education among teachers is high and the profession is respected.

The central objective of  Finnish education policy is currently to combine high standard teaching and good learning outcomes and well-being of students.

The Finnish steering system of education is characterised by its clear and non-bureaucratic structure, flexibility and interactiveness.

The administrative system does not include controlling elements such as inspecting schools. The central objective is giving support.

See also





About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/ or see our website at www.3diassociates.com.
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