Journal Issue: Excellence in the Classroom Volume 17 Number 1 Spring 2007
Teacher Preparation, Including Qualifications and Induction Programs
Though expectations about relative salaries are important to the decision to become or remain a teacher, the expected monetary rewards for teaching must be traded off against other costs or benefits of entering the profession. The main costs are two: training and the possibility of having a poor experience in the early years of teaching.
Teachers are almost always required to have a university degree. Some countries, including the United States, require an additional teaching credential. OECD countries differ not only in how many years of education they require, but also in whether they require a pre-service exam and practical classroom teaching experience. The wide variation across countries suggests a lack of consensus about how best to prepare teachers.
Length of Education Programs
As in the United States, the typical postsecondary education program for teachers is uniformly four years in Australia, Canada (Quebec), England, and Korea. In many other countries, the length differs for teachers at the primary and secondary levels, but programs tend to be longer than in the United States, particularly for high school teachers. The average across the OECD countries is 3.9 years for primary school teachers, 4.4 years for lower secondary school teachers, and 4.9 years for upper secondary teachers.40 The general OECD trend has been to lengthen teacher education programs and to raise standards, for example by requiring graduate training for secondary school teachers.41
In Europe, Germany has one of the longest, most rigorous, and most inflexible programs of teacher preparation. Initial teacher education takes five years for primary teachers and at least six years for secondary teachers.42 The first phase of the training, which lasts three to four years, takes place in universities and ends with a thesis and written and oral examinations. Upon successful completion of these examinations, students are eligible to move to the second, or preparatory service, phase, which lasts between one and a half and two years. In this phase, students work at schools at a reduced salary and participate in training seminars run by various ministries of education countrywide. Immediate enrollment in the second phase is not guaranteed, because it is subject to the availability of vacancies at the relevant training institute. At the end of this phase, candidates take another state examination, which consists of another written thesis, an oral examination, and an evaluation of classroom teaching.
Only then are graduates able to enter the profession as probationary teachers. At the end of a two-year probation period, they are appointed for life, provided they are at least twenty-seven years old. Because of the long training program, the average age of teachers entering tenured employment was thirty-two in 1998. And because the training is oriented toward particular levels of schooling (primary, lower secondary, or upper secondary) and types of schools (general or vocational), teachers are not easily able to transfer from one type of teaching position to another.43 Although reasonable people may disagree about the appropriate length and form of teacher preparation programs, one thing is quite clear. Potential teachers are likely to be willing to make such an investment only if the payoffs in terms of future salary make the effort worthwhile. Thus it is not surprising to find that the long and rigorous teacher preparation program in Germany is associated with high initial salaries.
Practical Field Experience
The general trend across OECD countries is to increase opportunities for practical classroom experience, to start the practical training earlier in the education program, to connect teacher education institutions more closely with the schools where their graduates will teach, and to broaden the scope of the experience beyond classroom teaching.44 These changes come in response to growing dissatisfaction with having prospective teachers do their practice teaching only at the end of their education.
Teacher education in Sweden, for example, now includes a twenty- to thirty-week program in which a student works with a teacher team within a school on a wide range of professional skills and pursues a research project linked to his or her academic program. Student teachers then stay in touch with “their school” throughout their teacher education.45 In Ireland, practical experience at the secondary level no longer focuses just on teaching but now extends to planning, supervision, and extracurricular activities. In Israel, practical field experiences now account for 15 percent of the total program time. Also, much of the fourth year of college work is devoted to work in school as regular teachers, combined with reflection with a mentor at the school and with a tutor in the college.
The lessons emerging from the OECD countries are that practicum experience works best when there is close cooperation between the teacher training program and the schools, including some shared training of teacher educators and supervising teachers; when trainees are given opportunities to conduct research in the classroom; and when the course-based and fieldwork components are integrated.46
Certification of New Teachers
Some countries, such as Finland, impose no requirements on prospective teachers beyond completion of a teacher education program. Finland can afford such a simple approach because its teacher education programs are standardized, the demand for teaching education opportunities is high, and connections between training institutions and the education profession are close. About half the OECD countries, however, have additional requirements in the form of competitive examinations and mandatory teaching experience or both, as criteria for entrance to the teaching profession.47
Competitive examinations are used in France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico (in some states), and Spain. In some cases the exam scores determine whether one gets a teaching license; in others, scores determine who gets positions in particular schools. Both Italy and Spain also require one year of teaching. Interestingly, only one in three OECD countries, including the United States, requires teaching experience in order to receive a regular teaching license. Further, the typical U.S. three-year teaching requirement is longer than that in all other countries. Several other countries, though, call for a probationary period before a teacher can get tenure in the form of a permanent teaching post.48
Alternative Routes into Teaching
Faced with teacher shortages in some areas, many countries now provide alternative routes into teaching. Of twenty-five OECD countries for which information is available, seventeen make it possible for side entrants— that is, people who have pursued nonteaching careers—to enter the teaching profession. These programs last from one to three years and vary in form. The most common form, used in twelve countries, provides special programs in traditional teacher training institutions, but some offer adult education or distance learning programs. In most countries, side entrants are permitted to start teaching before they are fully qualified.
An interesting version of this program, which resembles the Teach for America Program in the United States, is England’s Teach First program, which specifically addresses teacher shortages in London. A two-year program for graduates who had intended to pursue business careers, it provides intensive employment- based teacher training during the summer after graduation and additional support and training during the first year of teaching, culminating with a teaching qualification.
Among the countries that provide no alternative routes into teaching are Japan, Korea, and Scotland, all of which have relatively high teacher salaries.49 Germany appears to be a counterexample, in that even though it pays high salaries it does have a side entrant program. But the program is quite limited, with only 3 percent of new appointees entering through that route in 2003. Moreover, though some side entrants in Germany teach in shortage areas in the general education system, such as physics and mathematics, most work in vocational areas.
Not much information is available on the extent to which these programs are used in various countries or on how successful they are at attracting and retaining teachers. In general, the side entrant programs appear to be more a response to the need for teachers than a general movement toward greater flexibility in the teaching profession.
Induction and Mentoring Programs
Beginning teachers in all countries tend to be overwhelmed and to struggle with classroom management and other problems.50 Increasingly, developed countries have been using formal induction or mentoring programs as a way to improve beginning teachers’ chances of success and thereby to reduce the rate of teacher attrition. This trend is consistent with research literature that shows positive benefits not only for the novice teachers but also for the mentors.51
Nonetheless not all countries have such programs. Of the OECD countries listed in table 2, ten have national mandatory induction programs, the majority of which last a year. Six countries have such programs in some schools or, in the case of the United States, some districts. In the United States only twenty-three states require some form of mentorship or induction program, and those programs are generally designed and controlled at the local level.52 Eight countries have no formal induction program. Note, though, that while Germany is included in this group, it does include an induction program in its basic teacher preparation program.
Scotland appears to have one of the more generous induction programs. It guarantees a one-year teaching post to any eligible student who has graduated with a teaching qualification from a Scottish institution of higher education and sets a maximum teaching load of 70 percent, with the rest of the time set aside for personal development. When new teachers apply for a teaching position, they are asked to rank the five local authorities in which they would most like to work. If they are assigned to and accept a position outside their top five authorities, they are eligible for a location bonus of £6,000. Thus, the program is being used not only to make beginning teachers more successful but also to reduce teacher shortages.53 Beginning in 1999, England introduced a statutory induction period of one year for newly qualified teachers. In contrast to the Scottish program, however, the English program frees up only 10 percent of the teaching time for personal development.