When I quit Financial Times in 2017 to become a trainee teacher, I knew that my future life would contain less of two things. The first was money — which was a bit frightening even though I had slightly softened the impact by stockpiling whatever cash I could lay my hands on. The second loss was harder to prepare for. My old job came with an unreasonably high level of status. Over three decades I had become used to being eyed by people at dinner parties with slightly more interest once they discovered I was a columnist at the FT. By contrast, the status of teachers is unreasonably low. In most of the world, they are seen as only a little ahead of police officers and far behind doctors and engineers. Only in a few countries, including China and Indonesia, does society value the people who fill children’s minds as highly as those who fix their bodies. Everywhere else, the sneery old saying still gets wheeled out: those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. At one of the first recruitme...

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