Ask A Hundred different teachers to explain the nature of their job in just a few sentences and you would get 100 different explanations. Teaching is a job like any other and teachers receive specific training to do it, like a plumber or a bus driver. But our 100 different teachers will all do their job in 100 different ways. There might be only one way to mend a leaking tap, but there are hundreds of ways of teaching. Mrs Lintott is a traditional history teacher and she sees her job as primarily passing on facts in an organised and undramatic way. She teaches history, not histrionics. Mrs Lintott achieves outstanding examination results. Mr Hector's teaching methods do not follow any set path and are never concerned with the mere presentation of facts. Mr Hector has no interest in teaching towards exams which he regards as a waste of time. He wants to teach his students about experience and emotion, and he has his own unique way of doing this. Mrs Lintott thinks that Mr Hector allows his personality to intrude too much into his teaching. Young Mr Irwin is enthusiastic and dynamic and believes that teaching should be all about entertainment and show. He teaches his students to question facts, not just to sit back and accept them. Mr Irwin believes that argument and analysis are an essential part of teaching. Nothing should be taken for granted and a teacher must make his students take an active role in what they are supposed to be learning. Mrs Lintott, Mr Hector and Mr Irwin are all key characters in English playwright Alan Bennett's brilliant stage play, The History Boys, which has just enjoyed a two-year, sell-out run at Britain's National Theatre in London. The History Boys is a funny, thoughtful and moving play about education and the relationships that develop between students and teachers. Any classroom is a tennis court, a battleground and a fact factory all at the same time and anything can happen within its four walls. Bennett's classroom is in a secondary school in the north of England in the late 1980s. Hovering over this classroom is a headmaster who is concerned only with exam results. He has no concerns at all for the students in his charge. He is only interested in making his school look good and getting the best results in the area. The history boys themselves are a friendly bunch of intelligent, amusing sixth-form students in pursuit of sex, experience and a place at one of England's top universities, Oxford or Cambridge. Dakin is top dog in the classroom because he is clever, good-looking and confident. Scripps has just discovered Christianity and is trying to get all the questions buzzing around in his head into some sort of order. Posner thinks he might be gay and needs someone to understand him. Everyone thinks Rudge is the dimmest of the group but he is determined to prove them wrong. Timms is always ready with a witty remark and Lockwood is shrewd and wants to become a politician. As with many of Bennett's plays, the themes in The History Boys are wide-ranging. Bennett throws up questions about the roles history, poetry, literature and teaching play in a student's life. But everything in the play springs from the shifting relationships within the four walls of the classroom. On one side of the fence are four educators all doing the same but different jobs. An eccentric, experienced teacher at odds with a keen, young teacher with new ideas. A headmaster obsessed with exam results and an old-fashioned teacher who knows a fool when she sees one. On the other side, there is a group of bright young men trying to find their way through life. Let battle commence. The History Boys is classy theatre at its best. One of the biggest successes of English theatre of the past decade, this dazzling play is first-rate entertainment and quality food for thought. Should teaching be a process of drawing out or putting in? Perhaps The History Boys will help you make up your mind on that one. FOOD FOR THOUGHT 1. Which of the three teachers in The History Boys is a good teacher? Is the headmaster correct to put so much emphasis on good exam results? 2. How much of a part should a student play in his own education? 3. If you see The History Boys, write a short review commenting mainly on the acting. Why do you think the play has been such a great success? Why have audiences enjoyed it so much? The History Boys is playing at the Lyric Theatre, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, from February 14 to 18. Visit www.hk.artsfestival.org for more information. Please note that there is some strong language and verbal references of a sexual nature throughout the play.