The Education of Prospective Teachers: Important Issues for the education policy

Issue 16-17

“The Education of Prospective Teachers: Important Issues for the education policy”

Zoi Papanaoum



Τhe teacher is nowadays expected to play a complex and multiple role. Apart from teaching, which is a complex procedure, since it is formed by the context, in which it takes place, the teacher also has a role of social intervention. At the same time, the discussion and research on school effectiveness has shown that the contribution of the teacher and his/her work is of major importance towards the improvement of the school outcomes as well as in the introduction of innovation. In order to cope with this wider and demanding role, there is a need of qualifications which go beyond the simple knowledge of the subject that he/she teaches at school. The teacher needs to be able to make use of knowledge, teaching competencies and educational views on one side and, on the other, to have an inexhaustible supply of abilities, attitudes and devotion to the long-term advantages of his/her students in view of a better future.

The starting point of this paper is the view that, if the education of the prospective teachers meets certain conditions, it can substantially contribute to the acquirement of the necessary resources by the teachers and therefore to the improvement of school work.

In particular, the paper discusses two approaches in teacher education, from which one can derive conclusions in terms of practical applications. The first one is called ‘person-centered’, since it concentrates on the teacher as a person. According to this approach, teacher education constitutes just one phase of their professional development. Teachers develop professionally on a permanent basis through a continuing process of becoming, which interacts with other sides of their development, such as the psychological, the affective and the social. The second approach could be named ‘systemic’, since it transfers the issue to the policy concerning the teacher’s work as a profession. According to this approach, the holistic view of the work of teachers has influenced their education also on the systemic level, since it was considered as a means of upgrading of the specific profession, regarding both the qualifications as well as the work terms.

These two approaches are complementary with one another through their differences. Both have shown the width and the difficulty of the effort to provide the prospective teachers with the necessary competence for the profession. However, this can only happen, if the whole effort is considered as a desideratum of policy and not just a desideratum of administration or management. That is, first if there is agreement on what is the meaning of ‘excellence’ for the profession of teachers and then, if the agreement acts as guiding principle a) for the regulations of the state concerning the profession of the teacher and b) for the curriculum development on behalf of institutions of initial teacher education.

How is then the excellent teacher to be formed? Is it a lonely lifelong process, which the teacher goes through by making his/her own personal choices of education, training and self-education through experience? Or is this process subjected to a multilevel system of regulations on behalf of the state, which aim at providing the schools with high-level professionals? The paper suggests that both are the case.

The suggestions that are made in the international literature mainly on the curriculum development and evaluation emphasize the need for common guidelines to exist as well as the coherence among all curriculum elements, from the conditions of student entry to the evaluation. The conclusions from the view of the person-centered approach lead to proposals of application, mainly on the level of organization of the studies of the prospective students and of teaching methodology with an emphasis on flexibility. It is claimed that there is no standard model for the preparation of the prospective teachers, even in the context of accredited university curricula, but there is a need for flexibility and adaptability to the personal and differentiated needs. Finally, two needs are stressed: the need to extend teacher education on university level as well as the need for the state to include the regulations concerning the preparation of teachers in a unified policy for the specific profession.