Tag Archives: teacher education

Singapore

Educators need to make primary school engaging for students: Heng Swee Keat

Channel News Asia (July 10, 2013)

Minister Heng Swee Keat

Minister Heng Swee Keat

In the continuation of efforts to deliver an engaging education to the young so as to fulfill the vision of a Student-Centric, Values-Driven Education, the Ministry of Education organsied the inaugural Primary School Education Seminar and Exhibition. About 2200 teachers attended the seminar during which the Minister of Education outlined the principles of primary school education – “to build strong fundamentals, to provide active, visible and interactive learning, to give feedback to support learning and to affirm the children’s efforts” – so as to lay a good foundation for life long learning for the young charges. The exhibition focused on the demonstration of teaching approaches that promote engaged learning and the holistic development of children.

For more information:

Minister’s speech

Teacher Education in Norway

In “Examining Features of Teacher Education in Norway,” recently published in the Scandinavian Journal of Education, Karen Hammerness, a Fulbright Grant recipient (2009-2010), describes the vision, coherence, and opportunities to learn she observed in teacher education programs in Norway.  In this post Hammerness and Kirsti Klette, Professor at the University of Oslo, Co-Directors of an ongoing study of comparative teacher education in Norway, Finland, the US, Chile, and Cuba, discuss recent teacher education reforms in Norway.

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Karen Hammerness, Inga Staal Jenset, and Kirsti Klette

At the beginning of this millennium, Norwegian educators and policy makers were surprised to find that Norwegian students had performed lower than the mean in comparison to other OECD countries (and in comparison to other Scandinavian countries) on international tests—a phenomenon that became known as “PISA shock.” In response, educators and policy makers in Norway took a number of steps to improve the quality of teaching, to boost recruitment into teaching, and to increase respect for the profession of teaching. For instance, in 2009, the Ministry of Education proposed new standards for teacher education curriculum and created new curricular guidelines. In addition, in recent years, the country has been investing substantial resources in teacher education, including supporting research grants intended to better understand and develop quality teaching and teacher education.

One of the key debates around teacher preparation today in Norway is one that we see in many of the other countries in our study as well—it revolves around the role that practice plays in teacher preparation. For example, the study described in “Examining Features of Teacher Education in Norway” revealed that the Norwegian teacher educators interviewed saw schools as the primary site where student-teachers should learn about practice: an assumption that learning about practice should be relegated specifically to school settings. They did not describe university courses as a site for novices to learn about teaching practice—reflecting a historical separation between theory and practice that has characterized the field of teacher education in many countries for years. This separation can make it difficult for student-teachers to see the relationship between what they learn in their university courses and their experiences in real schools.

However, some teacher educators in Norway are now embarking upon efforts to try to address these issues and bring the teaching of practice more directly into the teacher education curriculum. For instance, the teacher education program at the University of Oslo has redesigned its curriculum to focus upon core practices of teaching (such as observation of children; classroom management; and assessment of learning). Faculty report that the pilot program has been successful, in terms of student-teachers’ evaluations of their experiences and learning, so that initial plans to revise only the mathematics coursework have been extended to other subject areas.

These efforts in Norway build on work by educators like Deborah Ball and Pam Grossman in the U.S. who have been examining the teaching of “core” and “high leverage” practices to novice teachers. In our ongoing comparative  study of teacher education programs in five countries we are also seeing a number of different efforts to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Programs in Finland, for instance, have increased the use of videos that student teachers take of their own practice, so that student teachers have multiple opportunities to examine their own classroom teaching with expert teacher educators coaching them in their work.  In addition, the Oslo University program and a program in the US at Stanford University, provide student teachers with extensive opportunities to analyze pupil learning, drawing on samples of K-13 classroom work.  Meanwhile, student teachers at the University of Santa Barbara in the US and at the University in Havana in Cuba report that teacher educators explicitly model the kinds of practices discussed in class, such as how to give good feedback, orchestrate classroom discussions, and organize groupwork. All these examples reflect different ways that teacher education courses can make linkages between theory and practice. One of the challenges of this work, however—which we again see across many contexts—is that focusing upon teachings practice in university courses requires very different roles for teacher educators. This shift to practice demands teacher educators use many more materials and resources from real classrooms and requires them to shift their own teaching to provide more attentive and careful coaching around specific, targeted teaching practices.

For more information:

Coherence and Assignment Study in Teacher Education (CATE) at the University of Oslo

Scan of news: Teachers

Scotland: Susan Quinn, Union president, highlighted members' concerns.

Scotland: Susan Quinn, Union president, highlighted members’ concerns.

Over the past month, reports from various countries have shown both the concerns of teachers and concern about teachers. For example, reports of teacher concerns include India and Argentina, where teachers are looking for reliable salary payments, decent facilities, and quality education for allFinland, where teachers are concerned about a sharp increase in violent student behavior in the classroom; and Greece, where teachers are fighting for the right to protest in the midst of austerity measures that threaten the country’s education system itself. Additionally, in Scotland teachers are protesting a new curriculum and an unmanageable workload.

Reports of concerns about teachers include Lithuania, where students recently outperformed teachers on an exam created by the European Union; Israel, where teachers’ lack of expertise in mathematics has been blamed for student difficulties with the subject; and Malaysia, where the Education Ministry plans to conduct diagnostic exercises to benchmark Science teachers in terms of their content knowledge and pedagogical skills in the field.

Scan of Ed News: University Rankings, Curriculum, and Teacher Training

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Beyond the issues of protests, unions, and funding, which were highlighted in the first part of this monthly scan, part II brings together links to a number of recent articles and reports that touch on the kinds of issues raised by the latest Academic Reputation Survey.

Academic Reputation Survey

Each year, Times Higher Education and Thomson Reuters sends an email to thousands of academics worldwide inviting them to participate in the annual Academic Reputation Survey, which aims to gain insight on the reputations of academic institutions within the academic community. While this method of ranking has been controversial, education news reports show that many countries take these rankings very seriously, making improvements to their education systems that they hope will elevate their national reputation on a global scale.

In their effort to produce the most college-ready students in the world, many countries are focused inward on issues such as language and curriculum, teacher training and evaluation, and school accountability, while also paying close attention to competitive outward measures.

Language Requirements in Higher Education

Of the top 20 schools, the only one from a non-English-speaking country is Japan’s University of Tokyo; all other schools are located in the US, the UK, Australia or Canada. Since 2006, Prime Minister Abe’s has focused on fostering “global talent to reverse the nation’s declining competitiveness on the world stage,” an effort that has led him to target English-language studies as an area of improvement. His plan would mandate that people reach certain scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to gain college admission, graduation, and to qualify for government jobs.

Seen in Beijing, a T-shirt mocking poorly spoken English. Photo: AFP

Seen in Beijing, a T-shirt mocking poorly spoken English. Photo: AFP

Meanwhile, in China, a 2010 survey showed 80% of people polled agreed that there is a language crisis. “Because students devote more effort into passing English tests, they spend less time studying for courses for their major, dealing a ‘heavy blow’ to overall education,” said Zhang Shuhua, head of the Intelligence Research Academy. In March, some of China’s top universities dropped the requirement of an English test as part of their recruitment exams, yet over 40,000 Chinese students poured into Hong Kong to take the SAT exam, and the best are opting to study at foreign universities. This “brain drain” is a trend the leadership is seeking to reverse.

Similarly, Russia will begin testing foreign migrants in the Russian language and establish a “universal history textbook,” a fact that has many concerned. Education Minister Livanov said, “A history manual must not interpret events, but list a sequence of historical facts,” and indicated that it will be the teacher’s job to assess the facts and the logic behind them.

Teacher Training and Evaluation

REPORT CARD: While most schools have adequate numbers of classrooms, separate toilet facilities for girls and boys, the availability of playground, school ramp, kitchen shed and boundary wall remains a major challenge in many States. Photo: K.R. Deepak

REPORT CARD: While most schools have adequate numbers of classrooms, separate toilet facilities for girls and boys, the availability of playground, school ramp, kitchen shed and boundary wall remains a major challenge in many States. Photo: K.R. Deepak

In India, low test scores on basic math and literacy assessments have led to calls for a higher standard for teacher training. Yet, private schools, which many feel provide a superior education, do not offer their teachers the same level of training. According to child rights activist Vasudev Sharma, the disparity in teacher training “is one of the major differences between private and government schools,” yet parents continue to rely on the reputation of private schools.

In a similar move to raise the bar for teachers, Australia will require all future teachers to score in the top 30% of a literacy and numeracy test, and Scotland will require that teachers become content area specialists as well as pedagogues. Yet, as we have seen in Guatemala, efforts to enforce higher standards for teachers leads to concerns about exclusion. Ireland is pushing back against this notion. According to Education Minister Quinn, “a diverse society needs a diversity of teachers, not a ‘one size fits all’ approach which ‘streamlines a particular cohort into teaching’.” At the International Summit on the Teaching ProfessionJohn Bangs went a step further, stating that “a national teacher appraisal scheme is not essential to an education system’s success…. For appraisal to work, therefore, it must be valued by teachers and be seen as a welcome addition to their professional lives.” We have seen further examples of this notion in recent research conducted in Korea, Mexico, and India.

Data Manipulation

Phil Baty, Times Higher Education

Phil Baty, Times Higher Education

While teachers might struggle to see evaluations as essential to an educational system’s success, universities seem to have accepted the importance of the international ranking systems – so much so that they will go to extreme lengths. In response to the University of Cork’s recent attempt to manipulate the data, Phil Baty, editor of the international rankings of Times Higher Education, explained, “Global university rankings have become phenomenally influential in recent years – not only helping students to decide where to invest many thousands of dollars in tuition fees, but also in helping university leaders shape strategies and in helping governments to make multimillion-dollar funding decisions in some parts of the world.” Additionally, as seen in another recent example of educators manipulating data in the US, intense pressure to be successful within systems that value strict measures of evaluation can also lead to unintended outcomes.

Ireland

Ruairí Quinn calls for “inclusive debate” on education in Ireland

Donal Walsh, SchoolDays.ie (December 18, 2012)

Ireland: Google Images

In response to the recently released TIMSS and PIRLS scores, Ruairí Quinn, Ireland’s Education Minister, wants to reassess the amount of time students spend studying each subject. While Irish students performed at an above average level, the students of Northern Ireland achieved better results in mathematics. Quinn believes that the solution is to ensure a higher standard of knowledge amongst primary school teachers, and to increase the amount of time the students spend studying math and science. He said: “I have asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to review the recommended time allocations for all subjects in the primary school.”

For more information:

What will happen in education in 2013?

Singapore

New Model for Teachers’ Professional Development
Keat, H.S. Ministry of Education (31 May 2012)

Minister of Education Heng Swee Keat launched a new Teacher Growth Model (TGM), one which aims at encouraging Singaporean teachers to engage in continual learning and take ownership of their professional growth and personal well-being. The TGM recognizes that Singaporean teachers in the 21st century will pursue diverse modes of learning, similar to how they would design such opportunities for their own students. To reflect on the multifaceted nature of their work and their learning, the TGM presents a holistic portrait of the 21st century Singapore teacher with five desired outcomes: 1) creating ethical educators; 2) creating “competent professional who continues to develop new knowledge, skills and dispositions to lead, care, and inspire”; 3) creating “collaborative learner[s] who actively engages in professional conversations to learn from his peers and from experts”; 4) creating transformational leaders; and 5) creating “community builder who [understand] Singapore’s unique context and appreciates local and global issues.”

The Netherlands

Scholarships for teachers (in Dutch)
Ministry of Education (30 May 2012)

The Department of Education is providing scholarships to primary and secondary school teachers to undertake an undergraduate or graduate degree. Teachers can apply for a scholarship of €7,000/year to improve their level of education.  The Ministry of Education believes this will also improve the quality of teaching in the Netherlands.