Paepen began his career in fi nance with the Kredietbank, later the KBC, and 12 years ago moved to London to work for them there as a trader. Along the way, he became the in-house expert for VRT and for the Flemish daily De Morgen.
Now he’s returning to the house he bought seven years ago in Mol, Antwerp province. The idea has been rolling around in his head for some time, he told De Morgen. “I heard education minister Pascal Smet say that he wanted all students to take a course in economics from next year. I think that’s a great idea, because I myself never had an economics lesson until I was 18.”
Paepen, 44, also simply wanted a change: “At my age, your career can still take another direction. If I were to wait any longer, maybe I wouldn’t have that choice any more, and I’d be in danger of having to do the same thing for the rest of my life.”
Not only will Paepen have to obtain teaching qualifi cations – the GPB exists for people who come to teaching via a career in the outside world and is becoming increasingly popular – he’ll also have to accept a substantial cut in income.
“I’ve made a good living,” he admitted. “Here, that might make some people envious, but in the City, people would laugh at me! Every year I await bonus-day anxiously. If I get one, it’s about half to a whole year’s salary. That’s not exaggerated or decadent, like some other bonuses, but I’ve never complained.”
The decision will please the education authorities, who not only want to see more men teaching in schools but also more people with experience of the wider world. According to one former trainer interviewed in the teaching profession’s magazine Klasse, teachers who come in by the side door “bring the philosophy of corporate culture into schools. That has an enormously positive influence on group learning. They understand that teaching doesn’t stop at the classroom door”.