Teacher Training Reform By Colin Cramer and Marcelo Parreira do Amaral

Teacher education traditionally falls under the responsibility of national or regional educational governance and legislation. There are no centralized political requirements, guidelines, or competences on a law giving sense at the European or global level. Nonetheless, currently one may observe international trends in reforming teacher education globally and within Europe across the different national teacher education systems. A starting point to understanding this may be seen in the fact that all European countries have provisions of compulsory schooling. It implies the necessity of educational policy and research to be engaged in reflecting, evaluating and reforming teacher education, thus providing the basis for a successful education system. The increasing competition among nations in providing their labour markets with highly educated and qualified professionals leads to an increased political attention to reforming teacher education. In general, a close link between school quality and teacher training is assumed. However, there are many controversies over whether and if then how teacher training has a direct impact on the quality of instruction and on student outcomes.

Also, it is important noting that globalization and the knowledge society are important contexts for the current discourse on reforming teacher education worldwide. These contexts have been influencing how on-going reform processes are discussed and implemented on the national level, but also the reason for many similar debates, ideas, and policies across the countries. A commonly held assumption undergirding the international discourse on teacher education reform is that teacher education is key to quality education and, in turn, to a successful society in terms of an effective and efficient economy. As such, it is part of a globalization process that affects almost every area of modern societies – such as policy, economy, culture or religious pluralism. This is why the reform of teacher education within a specific country may also be seen as a case of reforming teacher training worldwide. Apart from common beliefs and knowledge about teacher education, reform pressure result from the activities of international organisations such as the OECD, the World Bank, and not least the European Union. For instance, the TALIS project (the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey) provides a range of structural and statistical Information regarding teacher training all over the world. Periodic reports such as the ‘Education at a Glance’ series also by the OECD supply the system with additional information on teacher education. Further, the report ‘Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers’ provides a comprehensive, international analysis of trends and developments in the teacher workforce. The World Bank is a key disseminator of ‘evidence’ about teacher education reforms all over the world. Moreover, the European Commission also supports ‘peer learning’ on teacher education; a group of experts from EU Member States and other European countries meets regularly to examine specific aspects of teacher education, discuss common challenges and exchange good practice.

From a bird’s-eye view, teacher education in Europe might look as a straightforward system, not least as an effect of the extensive European activity on the education & training sector. Actually, every European member state has its own way of educating future teachers – in some countries there are even multiple and completely separated training systems within one and the same country. This goes back to the responsibility of the single federal states (16 of them in Germany) or countries (England, Scotland and Wales in the United Kingdom) that account for the education system in a sovereign way. On closer consideration, European teacher education proves to be highly diversified on account of different linguistic, cultural, and historical traditions.

In its conclusions of the Lisbon European Council of March 2000, which emphasised that investing in people was crucial to Europe's place in the knowledge economy, the European Commission called upon Member States to ‘take steps to remove obstacles to teachers' mobility and to attract high-quality teachers’ (Lisbon Declaration). By 2010 the Directorate General for Education and Culture issued a handbook for policymakers titled ‘Developing coherent and system-wide induction programmes for beginning teachers: a handbook for policymakers’. The handbook aims at presenting ‘practical information for policymakers on developing structured induction programmes for all new teachers, together with examples of measures that can be taken to implement or improve such programmes’.

As what regards European educational research, the most visible activities are initiated by the Association for Teacher Education in Europe (ATEE). ATEE is a non-profit organization that aims to enhance the quality of teacher education and the professional competences of teachers during initial, induction and in-service phases of their careers. The exchange of research and practice is facilitated by the publication of the European Journal of Teacher Education and by the organization of conferences. Furthermore, the information system Eurydice provides statistical information about teacher training in Europe. In 2008, the European Trade Unit Committee for Education (ETUCE) also published a policy paper on ‘Teacher Education in Europe’ that offers interesting information on several aspects of European teacher training, its challenges and prospective direction.

The most relevant documents for coordinating and harmonizing teacher education in Europe were prepared by the Council of the European Commission. The latest position regarding teacher education is the paper Council conclusions on the professional development of teachers and school leaders. The council (EU 2010, 11) invites the EU member states: (1) to ensure that teacher candidates are of the highest calibre, and that teachers receive sufficient preparation and support; (2) to offer both professional and personal support during their first years in a teaching post; (3) to reviews of teachers’ individual professional development needs on the basis of evaluation, and make available sufficient opportunities for continuous professional development; (4) to offer teachers exchange and mobility at both national and international level; (5) to support school leaders with a view to lightening their administrative workload so that they focus on shaping the overall teaching and learning environment; (6) to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes required by both prospective and practising teachers.

These conclusions go along with the Council conclusions of 12 May 2009 on a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training, the so called ET 2020. The paper emphasises that (1) education and training have a crucial role in meeting the socio-economic, demographic, environmental and technological challenges and that efficient investment in human capital through education and (2) training systems are essential to deliver the high levels of sustainable, knowledge-based growth and jobs and to promote personal fulfilment, social cohesion and active citizenship. Improving the quality and efficiency of education and training (strategy objective 2) requires professional development of teachers and trainers. The focus should be on a high quality of initial training and support for new teachers as well as on increasing the quality of continuing professional development.

The policy statements regarding the reform of teacher education in Europe mentioned above show that there are lively debates and discussions on reforming teacher education. However, since there are no binding legislation that force member states to reform their teacher training systems in a specific way, research on European teacher education reform tends to be very superficial. There is no in-depth analysis that compares relevant elements of the single teacher training systems or programs in a range of European countries. GOETE takes on the challenge of researching and comparing teacher education in eight European countries (Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and United Kingdom), and focuses on the in-depth structure of the different systems as well as on a content dimension. Regarding contents the emphasis is on clarifying if and how teacher training prepares teacher students to handle educational disadvantage in schools. Document analyses and expert interviews are used to tackle these questions. A questionnaire was used to gather background information from the involved partners in the project. That offered the possibility to produce relevant knowledge for researchers and policymakers, and to suggest major reforms in teacher education.

Further Readings:
Council of the European Union (2009): Council conclusions of 12 May 2009 on a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (‘ET 2020’). In: Official Journal of the European Union 2009/C 119/02.
Council of the European Union (2010): Council conclusions on the professional development of teachers and school leaders. Document 15098/09 EDUC 166 SOC 631.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2000): Teacher Quality and Student Achievement. A Review of State Policy Evidence. In: Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8 (1). Online at: >>http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v8n1/<<  
OECD (2005): The report Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers. Online at: >>http://www.oecd.org/edu/teacherpolicy<<
OECD (2008): Teaching and Learning International Survey. Online at: >>http://www.oecd.org/edu/talis<<
European Commission (2010): Developing coherent and system-wide induction programmes for beginning teachers: a handbook for policymakers. European Commission Staff Working Document SEC 538 final. Online at: >>http://ec.europa.eu/education/school-education/doc/handbook0410_en.pdf<<