Worlds of Education

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Young teachers

Photo: Kyo Azuma / Unsplash
Photo: Kyo Azuma / Unsplash

#youngteachers “To teach, is to commit”, by Khalid El Mahroug (SLFP, Belgium).

published 12 October 2019 updated 15 October 2019
written by:

Teaching is just like life: always full of surprises. Too often, however, these surprises give rise to frustration, disappointment and demotivation. But why, you might ask? It’s simple: education is one of society’s essential foundations and we all know that we must invest in it through well thought out and supportive reforms but also with actual resources. Each year, despite our politicians’ promises, school life gets worse: schools in ruins, education seen as nonsense by our pupils, teachers powerless and parents overwhelmed…

And the education authorities at the heart of it all? The more you look into the competent authority, the more paper pushers you see demonstrating obvious incompetence: “It’s not me, it’s him” or “we’re doing what’s needed for… ” but nothing changes.

And when a school finds itself with 40 teachers absent on the same day, or when pupils are taking classes in classrooms without windows or with a piece of the wall collapsed on the floor, or when pupils are playing football with a deflated ball, or the principal decides to convert a library into their office, I find myself wondering whether the moral inertia of education-sector stakeholders (teachers, parents and the education authorities) is intentional or not. Have we willingly chosen to live under an illusion because the truth is so hard to stomach? Yes, education is on life-support! And it’s only just being kept alive… All of the departmental heads acknowledge that it’s “off”, using round about language, but will never say so directly as this would cause a psychological break with the public.

My readers might be wondering what I’m still doing here. And the answer is, of course, resistance. I remain convinced that we can change the course of events, starting by reporting the facts and raising awareness at every level. We must be prepared to step out of this waking dream and accept the naked truth. It’s only by doing this that we will be able to establish new foundations so that education comes to be akin to oxygen for our pupils: unconsciously necessary!

Yes, there is hope and it’s represented by the unions. While some teachers might have accepted their sorry plight, others hope for change but fear the consequences of their actions. For many, the union is the last opposing force with a forum in which they can express themselves freely. And they’re right to believe it: we have to!

Based on the existing legislation, we can make those in charge, whoever they are, face up to their obligations. We can turn the situation around but this will also require overwhelming mobilisation, which will go down in history by virtue of the scope of its actions.

It would mean I would no longer have to listen to pupils complaining about teachers – completely demotivated – who show them films all year long, nor have to wear two jackets in winter because there’s no heating anywhere in the school.

These days, in my eyes, teaching is no longer the best career in the world. It’s more about being prepared to get into our society’s source code in order to make the changes to it that will ensure our survival as citizens with all the potential obstacles… Yes, any change has its naysayers from all backgrounds.

To teach is to commit. Are we ready to accept this evidence or will we continue to live in denial?


The theme of World Teachers’ Day 2019 is “Young Teachers: The Future of the Profession.” To mark the occasion, we are launching a mini-series of blogs featuring the voices and experiences of young teachers and Education Support Personnel. This is an opportunity to hear directly from young education professionals and young unionists and discover their stories: what drew them to the profession, the challenges they face and their plans for the future.

If you are a young teacher or Education Support Personnel, or if you recently joined the profession, do not hesitate to contribute to the series and have your voice heard. Please get in touch with Sonia at Sonia.grigt@ei-ie.org.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.