Sunday, July 5, 2009

Old Boys Going Teaching

A few years ago Christchurch Boys’ High School had its 125th anniversary. I was asked to write a chapter on educational achievements of old boys as a contribution to a book to celebrate the event. I based it around a large number of interviews.

I had not been near the school since I left as a boy. One of my interviewees John Fletcher expressed a sentiment with which I now concurred. “I remember being impressed first and foremost by the look of the school. The appearance of the main block, looking out over a magnificent expanse of playing field, was – and thank heavens still is - a noble prospect. Thank heavens the old buildings were retained; both Nelson College and Wellington College have subsequently lost their main blocks because of earthquake strengthening requirements.” As a schoolboy I took that noble prospect for granted, I had nothing to compare with it.

I found that in the 25 years since the centennial 21 Old Boys had become principals of secondary schools. During my two days in the school I learnt that sadly, just as the number of Old Boys who have become primary teachers has nearly dried up completely, so the number going secondary teaching has reduced to a trickle. There will not be 21 Old Boys running secondary schools in the next 25 years. That is a shame. Their influence has shaped a system and a nation.

The change reflects a devaluation of the status of teachers, both in monetary terms and in community preceptions. This is a chicken and egg situation. Unless good people are attracted into the system then the traditions of scholarship and leadership valued by the school are at risk. So is the stream of students who have gone on to university to take science degrees and pursue doctorate studies.

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