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close this bookProfessionalism in Teaching (UNESCO, 2000, 11 p.)
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View the documentThe Paradoxical Profession: Teaching at the Turn of the Century
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentCatalysts and casualties
View the documentProfessional actions and cultures of teaching
View the documentThe papers
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Catalysts and casualties

Since the start of mass schooling and with its spread across the world, public education has been repeatedly burdened with the expectation that it can save society. Schools and their teachers have been expected to save children from poverty and destitution; to rebuild nationhood in the aftermath of war; to develop universal literacy as a platform for economic survival; to create skilled workers even when there is little demand for them; to develop tolerance amongst children in nations where adults are divided by religious and ethnic conflict; to cultivate democratic sentiments in societies that bear the scars of totalitarianism; to keep developed nations economically competitive and help developing ones to become so; and, as the United States' Goals 2000 for education proclaimed, the way educators prepare the generations of the future should eliminate drug dependency, end violence in schools and seemingly make restitution for all the sins of the present generation.

In the thirty years following the Second World War II, education in the world's leading economies was widely viewed as an investment in human capital, in scientific and technological development, in a commitment to progress (Halsey, Floyd & Anderson, 1961). Booming demographics in what Eric Hobsbawm (1995) calls 'the golden age of history' led to a call for more teachers, optimism about the power of education, and pride in being a professional as a young generation of teachers developed the bargaining power to raise their salaries, became an increasingly well qualified and more graduate-based profession, and were accorded greater status and sometimes flexibility and discretion in how they performed their work. This was what one of us has called the age of the autonomous professional (Hargreaves, 2000) when many teachers benefited from expanding populations, prosperous economies and benign governments.

Developing countries inherited rather different legacies, however, and had a disproportionately tiny share of the world's wealth with which to address them. Aid was directed largely at establishing and extending basic primary or elementary education and to creating the fundamental literacy levels that were regarded as essential for attaining economic 'lift off' and independence. But resources were limited, class sizes were (and often still are) overwhelming, technologies could be basic in the extreme (with stones for seats and sand for chalkboards in some cases), and teacher qualifications and expertise were poor. At the secondary level, smaller elites often learned the curricula of their colonial masters. They were taught it in ways that separated them from their experience and, as a result, drew them away from their own people (Willinsky, 1998). Teaching remained confined to what one of us has termed a pre-professional age (Hargreaves, 2000), where poorly paid and ill-prepared teachers had a restricted range of teaching strategies. These might have suited the immediate circumstances, but they also became ingrained in teachers' and other people's imaginations as the only possible way to teach.

The oil crisis of 1973 and the collapse of Keynesian economics brought an end to optimistic educational assumptions in many of the developed economies of the West. Education suddenly became the problem, not the solution. Welfare states began to collapse, and, with them, resources for education in debt-burdened economies. Western nations turned inward and many lost their confidence as they were cast into the shadows of the rising Asian economies. Meanwhile, demographics went into reverse, student populations shrank, teachers lost their market attraction and bargaining power, and the bulk of the remaining teaching force began to age.

In academic circles, pessimism about the power of education as an agent of social change defined the mood of the times. Christopher Jencks (1972) argued, on the basis of large quantitative data sets, that education did little to remedy social inequalities. Basil Bernstein's (1976) seemingly prophetic argument that 'education cannot compensate for society' began to strike many chords, and Popkewitz (1998) argued that history repeatedly assigned misplaced faith in schools as agents of social redemption.

Having once been the crucible of social optimism, education now became a target for purging, despair and panic. Where there had been little previous tradition of it, governments tried to link education more closely to business, work, science and technology. Structures were reorganized, resources slimmed down and policies of market choice and competition between schools began to proliferate. Curriculum control was often tightened and, in some places, linked to the explicit task of re-establishing pride in the nation. Change became ubiquitous and was implemented with an escalating sense of urgency. And teachers were blamed for everything by everybody-by governments, by media and by the newly instituted league tables of school performance that shamed the 'worst' of them (usually those who taught children in the poorest communities).

The result was extensive pressure on teachers whose average age in many OECD countries by the early 1990s was well into the 40s (OECD, 1998). Burnout, morale problems and stress levels all increased (Dinham & Scott, 1997; Vanden Berghe & Huberman, 1999)-even in countries like Japan where educational reform cycles started later (Fujita & Wang, 1997). Many teachers started to feel deprofessionalized as the effects of reform and restructuring began to bite (Jeffrey & Woods, 1996; Nias, 1991; Hargreaves & Goodson, 1996). Teachers experienced more work, more regulation of their work, and more distractions from what they regarded as being the core to their work (teaching children) by the bureaucratic and form-filling burdens of administrative decentralization (Hargreaves, 1994; Helsby, 1998).

The economic miracle of the 'Asian Tigers' of Hong Kong, Singapore, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan, along with the rising sun of Japan, led Western policymakers to oversimplify the contributions of these societies' education systems to their economic success. International test results in math and science provoked sufficient public anxiety and provided necessary ammunition for Western governments to reform their education systems. This often led to greater standardization (and accompanying deprofessionalization), whereas the emerging information economies actually called for greater flexibility-as the unexpected economic downturns in and collapses of Asian currencies in the mid-to-late 1990s belatedly led them to recognize (Shimahara, 1997).

Meanwhile, all the educational downsizing and restructuring seemed to be no more helpful for reversing or ameliorating educational and social inequality than the movement of deckchairs might have been for saving the Titanic. Rates of child poverty expanded and exploded in the United Kingdom, the United States and elsewhere (Castells, 1996). There was no sign that restructuring measures narrowed the learning gap between schools in rich and poor communities (Wylie, 1994). And in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South America especially, what Castells (1998) calls a Fourth World began to emerge. This is a world of absolute destitution; a succession of famines, epidemics and other ecological disasters; and inter-tribal genocide as the postcolonial era gave rise to (usually Western-supported) political dictatorships whose corrupt regimes divided their nations, marginalized their poor and personally sequestered most of the educational and other resources that economic aid agencies tried to give them. If the project of teacher professionalism was sometimes a cause for disappointment in developed nations, elsewhere it was all too often an unattainable dream.

Such have been the dubious educational legacies of the dying industrial and imperial era of modernization in the final quarter of the twentieth century. But, at the century's turn, a new economy and society, emerging from the ashes of old industrialism, has begun to take shape-what Castells (1996) calls the informational society. It is in this society that hopes for educational and social reconstruction are being widely invested in developed and developing countries-and schools and their teachers are vital to its core mission. As one of us argued in Changing teachers, changing times (Hargreaves, 1994), teaching is changing and must change in the post-modern age of information.

The informational economy and society is rooted in and driven by the development, expansion and circulation of globalized electronic, computer-based and digital information and entertainment.

In the industrial mode of development, the main source of productivity lies in the introduction of new energy sources, and in the ability to decentralize the use of energy throughout the production and circulation processes. In the new informational mode of development, the source of productivity lies in the technology of knowledge generation, information processing and symbolic communication. [...] What is specific to the informational mode of development is the action of knowledge upon knowledge itself as the main source of productivity [...] in a virtuous circle of interaction. [...] Industrialism is oriented toward economic growth, [...] towards maximizing output; informationalism is oriented towards technological development [...] towards the accumulation of knowledge (Castells, 1996, p.16-17).

It is not just that knowledge matters as a basis for scientific and technological expertise and control, as Daniel Bell (1973) imagined in his classic text on The coming of post-industrial society. Rather, in the constantly changing, self-creating informational society, knowledge is a flexible, fluid, ever-expanding and ever-shifting resource. It is not just a support for work and production, but the key form of work and production itself. These new ways of generating, processing and circulating knowledge are absolutely central to what many experts now call the learning society or knowledge society. And the role of education and teaching in such a society is absolutely vital.

Robert Reich (1992), President Clinton's former Secretary for Labour, described how the new shapers and drivers of the knowledge society would be the 'symbolic analysts' who would be able to solve and identify problems, think strategically, and communicate as well as work with others effectively. Such symbolic analysts, Reich argued, require forms of educational preparation that would enable them to be highly skilled in working with symbolic abstractions, in systems thinking (seeing how parts and whole, cause and effect are interrelated), creativity and experimentation, and collaboration (p.229-33). Schools and teachers, he argued, have served students and society poorly in failing to prepare many of them, especially the most disadvantaged, with these capacities.

Manuel Castells, an adviser on high-level expert 'Think Tanks' on social reform in Eastern Europe and the developing world, argues that becoming switched on to the informational society is just as important a priority in developing countries-if not more so. In the last decade or so, he notes, those countries most excluded from the informational economy, or who have been the latest starters with informational technology, have fared least well economically. Indeed, failure to invest in informational technology and to spread its access (with accompanying free flows of information) beyond the military to civil society, was one of the prime causes of the collapse of Soviet communism. Nations that do not participate in the informational society, he shows, will become increasingly marginalized by it. Teachers again, are central to developing the informational society everywhere.

Education is the key quality of labour; the new producers of informational capitalism are those knowledge generators and information processors whose contribution is most valuable to the firm, the region and the national economy (Castells, 1998, p. 345).

As catalysts of successful informational societies, teachers must therefore be able to build a special kind of professionalism-a new professionalism, where they can learn to teach in ways that they were not taught themselves (Talbert & McLaughlin, 1994); where they can develop classroom strategies that will enhance the new goals of learning required of a symbolic analyst; where they can commit themselves to their own lifelong learning going far beyond the point of initial qualification; where they can work effectively with and be eager to learn from other teachers in their own schools and elsewhere; where they see parents and communities as sources of learning and support and not simply as sets of obstacles; and where they can become their own skilled change agents responding swiftly and effectively to the social and educational changes swirling all around them. These are some of the directions that a new professionalism in teaching needs to be taking.

At the same time, educators, through their professionalism, are expected to ameliorate the worst effects of the new informational society: the widening gaps between rich and poor; the immersion of young people in a culture of 'real virtuality' (Castells, 1997); the tendency for people to consume globalized lifestyles as individuals, rather than produce society together for a common good (Touraine, 1995); and the risks of conflict and violence posed by cultural diversity and the defensive postures resulting from ethnic, religious and nationalistic rivalry.

New professionalism therefore carries social and emotional as well as technical and intellectual components-to establish emotional bonds with and among children, to lay down the building blocks of empathy, tolerance and commitment to the public good (Hargreaves, 1998). Of course, caring for children has always been a salient quality of people's most memorable teachers. But even more is needed of teachers now than Albert Camus wrote - in The first man - of his own teacher during his poor Algerian childhood: a man whose method 'consisted of strict control on behaviour while at the same time making his teaching lively and entertaining, which would win out even over the flies' (Camus, 1994, p.112). More is needed even than the caring that women primary teachers have shown their children for decades, or than the emotional bonding which Japanese teachers forge paternalistically or maternalistically with their dependent students (Shimizu, 1992). Indeed, caring in this restricted sense can sometimes place poor children in a welfarist trap, giving them refuge from poverty without the skills and the standards that provide the opportunities to escape from it. When learners are more diverse and demanding, caring must become less controlling, more responsive to students' varied cultures, more inclusive of their own ideas, perceptions and learning requirements, more ready to involve and not just compensate for the families and communities from which students come in their quest to lift their learning to higher levels. This is the social and emotional mandate for teacher professionalism today.

While education certainly cannot end economic inequality or fully compensate for society, writers of all political persuasions point to its increasingly strategic role for stimulating and also ameliorating the effects of the new informational society. Anthony Giddens, the leading 'guru' of Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, reasserts that today 'improved education and skills training' are essential, 'particularly as far as poorer groups are concerned'. 'Investment in education,' he continues, 'is an imperative of government today, a key basis of the redistribution of possibilities' (Giddens, 1998, p.109).

Yet, here is the dilemma. While teachers and schools are the catalysts of change in the informational society, they are also its casualties-casualties of the weakening of the welfare safety net, casualties of reduced expenditure on the public good, casualties of students' families caught in social upheaval, casualties of the widespread decommitment to public life. In many ways, the forces of deprofessionalization listed earlier - of declining support, limited pay, restricted opportunities to learn from colleagues, work overload and standardization - have continued to intensify for teachers. The very supports that teachers need to meet the goals and demands of the informational society are being withheld and withdrawn from them, hobbling them in their efforts to make great leaps forward in their effectiveness and professionalism. Teachers in many developing economies, for example, must undertake two or three jobs just in order to make ends meet-virtually eliminating any chance of engaging in professional learning from other colleagues. This is the fundamental paradox of professionalism in teaching today.

Yet, not everything on the educational horizon for student performance or teacher professionalism is dark and dismal. Most governments now have a high commitment to improving education. Bill Clinton has been accorded the epithet of 'The Education President'. Tony Blair's three governmental priorities were 'education, education, education!' Commitments to debt reduction are opening up opportunities for reinvesting in the social good, including education-if commitment to the public good can be put before the private benefits of tax reduction.

Teacher demographics are also shifting in many nations, with more malleable and energetic younger teachers entering the profession in increasing numbers. At the same time, the recruitment crises arising from these demographic shifts are heralding a climate of greater public and political generosity towards teachers and their professionalism. The reconstruction of the 'Asian Tiger' economies towards the aim of creating knowledge as well as applying it is also spurring moves towards greater flexibility in Japan, 'pleasurable learning' in Hong Kong, and 'thinking schools for a learning society' in Singapore. As a result, this is changing the kinds of skills and sophistication required from teachers in these societies.

Amid all this, one of the benefits of decentralization and increasing school based management, has been the promotion of individual school improvement and, with it, an increasingly pervasive and persuasive base of research knowledge about the kinds of sophisticated teaching and levels of support for teaching that are required in order to create truly high-performing schools. Newmann and Wehlage (1995), for example, have demonstrated that successful school improvement liable to make a difference to student achievement depends on improvement efforts focusing clearly on teaching and learning, on teachers working within a strong professional community, on effective links being made with the community beyond the school in order to support its efforts, and on teachers willingly taking responsibility to analyse, act on and be accountable for student achievement data (Hargreaves & Fullan, 1998).

In the coming years, if the kind of public support called for in Andy Hargreaves' paper can be secured, there are real opportunities for the forces of deprofessionalization in teaching to be rolled back, and for teachers to be accorded-and develop for themselves-the kinds of new professionalism that are essential in an informational society. The papers in this collection explore the dilemmas and struggles of teachers and others to evolve such a new professionalism in a range of different settings.