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The Knowing and Caring Profession by Phil Lambert

Teaching has often struggled to affirm its identity. Is it a profession? A vocation? Something that people who can’t do anything else fall into (reminiscent of the often-quoted satirical wit George Bernard Shaw – ‘those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach).

Is it a safety net of a career? A walk in the park? All those holidays! Easy as! Something anyone can do, let’s face it, we all went to school.

Or is it a complex, challenging, somewhat maligned and misunderstood profession made up of exceptional and perhaps not so exceptional members but all sharing the same qualities so well defined in 1994 by the OECD as “the knowing and caring profession”.

The Knowing and Caring Profession takes the reader behind the rhetoric and rigmarole to explore the education profession through a variety of lenses. It is not a rose-coloured account of teaching – the many joys, benefits and opportunities are foregrounded but so too the challenges and complexities. Some of these are known to the public but most are not.

In penning the twelve chapters Phil Lambert draws on his varied experiences as a teacher, principal, inspector, bureaucrat and parent and provides a strong research-base to what is presented. Assumptions about the many issues in teaching such as the crowded curriculum, class sizes and school staffing are addressed with possibly some insights that will surprise some people on these and other matters. One of the chapters is named “Binaries’. In this the author outlines how education is bedevilled by the lumping of the profession into ideological camps most often through the media and presents both the ideological and research-basis (where it exists) for each and how, through the pragmatic nature of teachers, the best aspects of different theories and ideologies are drawn on by most teachers in the interest of their individual students.

It would be impossible to have authored a book in the last two years and not have a section on the pandemic. The chapter on COVID deals with the response in schools, the desire of some for the “new normal” to emerge from this and both the impact and opportunities arising from this time. An important revelation being, of course, that in terms of essential professions, teaching is right up there and for many good reasons.

The final chapter is called ‘A Legacy’. This emphasises the privilege of being a member of a profession that is characterised by a blending of academic rigour, wisdom and duty. Where there is commitment to human development and growth. A profession that has as its mission to nurture, guide, support and educate children and young people, equipping them so as to build and maintain a better world.

The Knowing and Caring Profession is published by London-based publisher Austin Macauley. It is available in paperback, hardcover and e-book versions at several bookstores and suppliers including:

In Australia



And Internationally

Barnes and Noble (USA)