Are education systems enabling teachers to empower themselves and evolve in their career?

by Ani Zurashvili, Warettha Dumkaew, Anja Djordjevic & Capucine Huet

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Abstract

Education is undoubtedly shaping our lives. It’s quality is highly determined by the quality of teacher’s training, their appreciation by society and motivation. It is essential to celebrate, recognize and reward work of teachers.

Even though there is no society that is questioning the importance of teachers the question that pops up is: how far public policies in certain countries went regarding valorizing teachers in reality? Do they empower teachers’ skills and motivation through adequate pedagogical training, research in education and teachers’ profession reinforcement? What are the possibilities versus limitations for teachers’ professional development ? In this paper, teachers position in France, Georgia, Thailand and Serbia are examined through presentation of basic information regarding 3 main points — pedagogical training, links in between teaching and research and possibilities teacher have for their professional development.

Questions that this paper is striving to answer are therefore divided into 3 main groups:

  1. Pedagogical training — What is the level of degree as a requirement that one needs to have in order to be a teacher? Do teachers have the pedagogical training and if yes, what does it consist of? Do trainings cover the interdisciplinarity issues?
  2. Links to research — How accessible and possible in practice are pedagogical experimentations for teachers? How accessible the research is in their own disciplines? Do system stimulate teachers to involve in the research processes?
  3. Possibilities of teachers’ career development — How likely is it for teachers to make a career progress to higher level positions? What are the tools for teachers’ assessment? What is teacher’s salary comparing to an average one and quality of life standards in a specific country? How does the teachers’ recruitment process look like?
Introduction

If education system is shaping our future citizens…

School is a mirror of society on social organisation level, on living-together ways we develop and on future labour market. Making school evolve is inherently linked to a change of cultural paradigm. It’s our whole societal mechanism we have to question and improve for the greater good. Allowing future generations to live in a coherent society means working now more than ever on inequalities schemes perpetuation and school is one of the catalyzers. So how can we help and shape the education system to be fairer and worthy of our kids expectations, dreams, projects and therefore lives ?

Who is implicated in that thinking and acting process ? Education-related thinkers and actors ? Then, pretty much any member of the society. So let’s focus a bit more on daily basis actors: teachers, educators in a larger sense, learning mentors or managers if we’re aiming a more horizontal organisation and think of School as a learning space where anyone can have a personalized path and educative parkour.

One of the entrance is to empower adults within schools to accompany better kids growing through them. Facing numerous challenges everyday, teachers are on the front line of the education system, working directly with children, having to follow education policies, facing social responsibility toward parents and therefore the whole society in an anthropological way, as the humanity’s responsibility is universal.

…should our education systems consider & valorise more our current citizens ?

How could teachers status impact the education system ? What if teachers felt empowered and valorize in their functions ? What if they felt legitimate to act on the pedagogical freedom they are due ? What if the autonomy of each school regarding either pedagogical tools, budgets or team training (depending on the countries), could allow the teaching community to shape school regarding local issues to give the best coherent education possible in each context ?

From teaching to pedagogy: is a change of paradigm mandatory for the XXIst century ? Technologies, globalisation, knowledge accessibility, social ways of living and work market being re-shaped, we’re facing a turning point about the skills we’ll need tomorrow…not really knowing what they will be in 30 years from now or even 10…

It’s an open door to innovations, initiatives and collaborations to enlighten collective intelligence and critical thinking.

Teachers in public schools in Georgia

Demographics

According to the data of the National Statistics Office there are 65445 school teachers in Georgia (including primary, secondary and high school teachers). Around 86% of the teachers in general education are female and 91% of them work in public schools. Most of the teachers (53%) are between 41 and 60 years and an average age for them is 48 .

Pedagogical training?

Minimum academic requirement for starting work as a teacher at school in Georgia is Bachelor’s degree. However, there are some additional requirements that are defined based on the classification of the bachelor’s degree. More precisely, if a person has an academic degree in one of the disciplines from the national curriculum, he/she is asked to accomplish the one year additional program in teacher preparation provided by the higher education institutions. The program covers the main education practices and characteristics of teaching environment that helps teachers to integrate their knowledge in the specific discipline and pedagogy.

On another hand, if a person has an academic degree in teaching a discipline from the national curriculum, there is no need to accomplish the additional one year program. However, they are asked to prove their competence in the discipline by passing the subject-based exam.

Moreover, the new integrated master’s program in Teacher Preparation will be launched by 2018–2019 academic year. The five year program will consist of no less than 300 ECTS and will cover the teaching modules in the discipline, teacher preparation, research of school practices, etc.

Also the National Centre for Teachers Professional Development offers the limited numbers of additional trainings for teachers and principals’ professional development.

Evaluation

With regard to the teachers’ evaluation, there are two following methods: 1) external evaluation that includes an external observation and a proof of the professional competences and the discipline-appropriate knowledge; 2) internal evaluation that covers the teacher’s self-evaluation and the work of the teachers’ evaluation group.

A teacher does a self-evaluation based on the self-evaluation questionnaire. After analyzing a self-evaluation questionnaire he/she identifies the professional needs and makes an individual plan for development. In the end of the year he/she presents an implementation of an individual plan for professional development to the teachers’ evaluation group. According to the representatives of the National Center for Teacher’s Professional Development, teachers’ self-assessment questionnaire is a part of the developmental assessment and helps them to track their own progress, however, some teachers oppose that this questionnaire is a representation of the bureaucracy, when the system tends to concentrate just on papers.

Possibilities to evolve in their career?

According to the teachers’ professional development scheme there are four main categories of the status for the school teachers in Georgia. Generally, in the beginning of the career a teacher has a status of a practitioner.

In order to get the status of a senior teacher, which is a following step in the teachers’ career, a teacher-practitioner should collect some amount of points. There are several ways for getting points including proving professional competences and the knowledge in the discipline or a participation in the related trainings, preparing the students for the competitions, applying information and communication technologies in the teaching process, etc. Moreover, as minimal academic requirement for the teachers is a bachelor’s degree, getting higher academic degree such as Master’s degree or PhD, leads teachers to a higher status.

For getting the status of a lead teacher or mentor teacher, a senior teacher should do a research in pedagogical practices and share the results with colleagues, conduct model lessons, participate in conferences, create the teaching resources and training-modules, etc. Therefore, national scheme for teachers development encourages teachers to evolve, cooperate and involve in research. However, it’s worthy to note that the percentage of the teachers who has the status of a leader or mentor is less than 1% of the whole number of school teachers in Georgia. This could be explained by the irrelevance between the high standards of the national scheme and lacking skills and motivation of the current teachers.

Salaries

The salary of a teacher is directly linked with his/her status. However, according to the National Statistics Office, in 2016 the average salary for the teachers working in public schools was approximately 190 EUR, which is considerably lower than the average salary in Georgia that amounted to approximately 315 EUR for the same year. The fact, that teacher’s job is among the least paid jobs in Georgia, could be considered as one of the important explanations why teacher’s career fails to be popular among young generation. Therefore, just 40% of the teachers believe that their profession is valued in society.

Recruitment, Unions

In Georgia each school hires the teachers by itself based on the needs and budget defined by the Ministry of Education and Science. As for the teachers union, there are several discipline-based networks such as the association for the history teachers, English language teachers, etc. and an online journal for teachers mostly concentrated on the education practices, resources and research.

Links to research ?

As I have mentioned above, conducting a research is one of the possibilities to increase a status and a salary of the teacher. Also the research component is included in the integrated master’s program in Teacher Preparation that will be launched from the following year. According to the teachers’ development scheme the new program will include no less than 60 ECTS for research.

Teachers in public schools in Thailand

Thailand education system is facing various problems such as Teacher training criteria; Retirement rate is higher than recruiting rates, small schools in rural areas, quality of teachers and education. Thailand goal is to move beyond middle income trap. One of the projects that Thailand’s government tries to do is Education Reform. For the past ten years, the government has been increasing salary rates for teachers to motivate new generations to become public school teachers. Nowadays salaries and benefits are acceptable and higher than before.

Pedagogical training ?

Training

Kindergarten, primary school, Middle and high school

In training and requirement, for Thailand now the controversy surrounding the issue. For the past, The law allows to become a teacher without a degree in Education but do have to pass the Nation test. Now, they acknowledge that if a teacher gets the Graduate Diploma in Teacher Profession (one-year training) and passes the Nation test. But, the controversy surrounding this topic. Supanutt, senior researcher from Thailand development and research, said that Ministry of Education should improve the pedagogy course in the university also required to focus on integrating major subjects (Sciences, Mathematics) to pedagogy. The requirement should be five years bachelor in education (including teaching training in the school). Comparing with France, the requirement to be enrolled in MA in Teaching program. The rule is more strict than Thailand. And both countries have the same order to obtain one-year long internship (under the mentor’s supervision).

University teaching

The prerequisites in France and Thailand for becoming an academic teacher are being a PhD candidate for the Professor’s Assistant and having a PhD degree for professors. But in Thailand if teaching bachelor degree enable to have Master’s degree in that fields to teach and no official pedagogical training is required for teachers on this level in both countries.

Recruitment

The dissimilarity between France and Thailand is the number of acceptance in Thailand made by the Ministry of Education, but the test is conducted by each area. The highest score in each area can choose the school (and this process always involve corruption), and the ratio is 15/100: there are still not enough teachers in the education system.
Thailand separates schools in 76 provinces to 42 Educational Service Areas under the Office of the Basic Education Commission. Due to this organization, most of the decisions will come from the Ministry of Education and not from the school or Educational Service Areas, thus this centralized structure caused problems in the school, including teacher rates. Each area is authorized to recruit teachers but the Educational Service Areas will have possible numbers that giving from the Office of the Basic education commission.

Gender

Because the population in Thailand have more Women than Men also,The ratio teacher in school system is 1 Male teacher for 3.96 Female teachers (Government Strategic Information Center, 2015). While in the university the ratio of professor male for female is 0.9:1(OHEC,2016). This show in higher education Thailand has more male teacher than female.

Possibilities to evolve in their career ?

Career and evaluation

In France exists the points program which allows K12 teachers to increase their salary, choose the school and access other EN exams to be a teacher trainer or a director for example. Pay increases with years of experience. In Thailand, have five different part of the salary. For increasing wage each year the assessment is done by Principal and head of the department in the school (Teaching performance, the other duty in school dedication). If a teacher earns more experiences and wants to move to higher salary path, the requirement is research, develop the class pedagogy and approved by the juristic from the Ministry of Education, area education office, and the school. (5 different paths)

Unions

While in France there are 14 big syndicate unions, in Thailand for public school teachers each province have their own union but they don’t have any political power. They mostly are for savings cooperative and beneficial.

Links to research ?

As the assessment for a teacher to increasing higher position, one of the requirements is to do research in classrooms. Thus, the opportunities to do research are open to the teachers in Thailand. Moreover, the Thailand Research Fund is giving funds depending on the importance of the topic and Education is one of the topics.

Teachers in public schools in Serbia

Pedagogical training?

Kindergarten and elementary school

On kindergarten & primary school level recruitment requirements related to the teachers training are the same. The Serbian law that regulates basis of the educational system states that having a MA degree in Pedagogy is the prerequisite for being a teacher. Still in the same law it is written that the teacher could exceptionally be one with BA education only (3 or 4 years). The law is not mentioning the criteria for such exceptions.

Being a kindergarten and elementary school teacher with a long term contract in Serbia is also conditioned with obtaining the teaching license. Upon finishing studies, a person needs to have 1 year long internship (under the mentor’s supervision) in order to fulfil the criteria for passing the license exam.

The license exam consists of a written and oral part.

The written part includes examining teacher’s skills regarding class preparation and activities preparation for a kindergarten respectively essays presentation for a primary school teacher.

The oral part of the exam consists of a test examining:

1. Teacher’s ability to independently pursue educational activities and class preparation;

2. Teacher’’s ability to solve specific pedagogical situations

3. Knowledge of regulations in the field of education and upbringing

Middle and high school

In Serbia, teachers need to have MA in their discipline but law again states that exceptionally it can be a person with BA education. Also, 30 ECTS* in pedagogy, psychology or methodic disciplines are required and 6 ECTS of internship. If they didn’t have it in their regular BA or MA training they will be additionally examined on the licence exam for these subjects.

University teaching

The prerequisites in Serbia for becoming an academic teacher are:

  1. PhD candidate for status the Professor’s Assistants
  2. PhD degree for professors.

No pedagogical training is required for teachers on this level in Serbia

Possibilities to evolve in their career ?

Recruitment

In Serbia, teachers’ job announcements are made by each institution depending on their needs and municipality or state budget approval. In reality, there is a lot of hiring over personal or political connection, nepotism, in advance made decisions despite the official job announcement etc.

Salaries

An average net salary in Serbia in september 2017 was 396.2 euros, while an average salary in education sector was 355 euros. Still, work in the grey and black market is widely present in Serbia even in the education sector. Many middle and high school teachers are giving individual tuition classes next to their regular work in school.

If we consider that the Purchasing Power Index in Serbia is 34.57 which is considered as *very low* according to numbeo.com, salary and an argument that in fact many teachers do not have a maximum amount of classes (so the salaries are in reality much lower) the listed number is still not enough for a decent life.

Teacher’s salary increases for min 0,4% annually. However, the career path for teachers in Serbia is not regulated (for example, school director should not necessarily be a former teacher). Furthermore, there is an obligatory evaluation made by students for teachers but this doesn’t influence their career progress.

For the university level professors, the career progression of the university level depends on internal academic procedures inside the university and their research success in publishing papers in relevant scientific journals.

Unions

In Serbia there are 2 main unions of syndicates. Strikes of K12 level teachers are frequent and usually happen in the beginning of the school year.

Links to research ?

Despite the obligatory methodology courses teachers of all levels have during their bachelor and master education training, they are not encouraged to use research at their work places. Exceptions are university level teachers who are on the other side dealing with lack of time for teaching activities preparation, as they are under pressure of chasing points in order to stay in the academic community and keep their status and work positions.

In primary, middle and secondary schools, labs either do not exist or are not properly equipped and supplied and experimentations are rarely supported by school management. Teachers at this levels do not have much of liberty in performing teaching activities as they are shaped by the national plan and curriculum.

Teachers in public schools in France

Since the transformation of the training system for teachers and the creation of ESPE, “Ecole Supérieure du Professorat et de l’Education” (Professoring and Education Superior School) in 2013, within the improvement of the law on “Refondation de l’école” (Rebuilding school), french teachers training has been remodeled.

What’s at stake ? Reinforce a common culture feeling within the teaching community and support them on their lifelong learning journey !

Pedagogical training ?

The new ESPE are supposed to be held on three major principles:

  • participation to research in education insuring diffusion, development and promotion of innovative pedagogical methodologies to emphasize transfer process between research and professional practices,
  • teachers training must allow them to get real and deep experiences on the field all their training long to be not only expert in their fields but also pedagogical practitioners with empirical experience before being tenured,
  • digital use and techniques should be part of teachers training on one hand, and ESPE should participate in international cooperation actions on the other hand, in order to take part of universal educative and social issues and being active stakeholders in tomorrow’s educative systems.

Possibilities to evolve in their careers ?

First of all, there is a point system that allows you to keep tracks of years and places when and where teachers have worked and get scored for it. Your points permit you then to ask for a specific area, school or grade you want to teach. With it, goes up your salary throughout your career.

Then, as soon as you are a state servant in France there are always possibilities to go through internal exams to train and/or change your professional parkour. But in facts, according to the “Livret Vert sur L’évolution du Métier d’Enseignant”, there is not even 1% of teachers who manage to evolve significantly in their career.

At last, ESPE have the responsibility to support teachers on a lifelong learning and training process to ensure the possibilities to get to a reflexive posture and be able to share, improve, collaborate with other educative actors. Training spaces seem to be struggling with this challenge and not a lot seems to have change, according to the report of the “Inspection Générale de l’Education Nationale” (National Education General Inspection) of September 2016.

Marcel Pochard : Livre vert sur l’évolution du métier d’enseignant, éd. La Documentation française, février 2008.

Links to research ?

Teachers and researchers have no facilities to work together in France. Educative system is culturally a closed environment where it is very complicated to create bridges or enter to collaborate. The three main active circles, parents, teachers, and researchers have been socially segmented for years. We can acknowledge there several causes such as:

  • temporality: psychology, children development study, human and social sciences are, on a societal scale, still very recent.:
  • hierarchy: “knowledge is power” has been interpreted by school system as a hard skills set competition and therefore has created an elite who has access to educative tools such as simply understand and apprehend school environment. Therefore the scientific community at the highest education level is a bit disconnected from the general public. It also explains the importance of curriculum over pedagogical aspects especially on soft skills matter.
  • politics: the last century has been swinging from one party to another, each one advocating for educative changes as a voting argument and therefore implementing every 5 to 7 years new rules within schools that are more and more destabilizing classrooms, teachers communities and school management.

Today’s explosion of technological innovations can be considered as the greatest opportunity to make a change as the whole societal organisation is going to be re-shaped. Politics, economics, labour market, skills and competences, social groups, family definition, among others, are part of our educational responsibility and school is one of the tools we can and we have to use to think tomorrow’s landscape with coherence and social fairness.

Some recent initiatives are promising, if we manage to enable rapidly access to the public debate. Open data, open knowledge and open source tools can be considered as a new way to engage people in public policies and so educative policies.

For example, new committees as the “Institut Carnot de l’Education” are being considered as local spaces allowing new links between scholar structures and scientific research. Sharing, dialoguing and building projects would be the pillars of such institutes, for the pupils, around pedagogical practises and from field actors questions. The aim is twofold: giving teachers direct access to research and impulsing a new way for researchers to listen carefully to teachers daily difficulties.

On the same path, last week was announced the creation of the “Conseil Scientifique de l’Education Nationale” (National Education Scientific Committee). This board of interdisciplinary scientific team will be expected to be thorough and work on school/research links to better foresee social and societal needs.

https://ice-grandest.sciencesconf.org/

Conclusion & perspectives

Educative systems are trying more and more to give better means to teachers in order to empower them within their daily basis work and lifelong commitment. But we have to acknowledge that it’s not sufficient enough.

A century ago, the New Education movement was thriving, gathering teachers, researchers, intellectuals, all survivors of the first World War, coming from all around and believing that together, they could make a difference. Freeing and empowering kids would let to better adults, equipped to think and live in a war-free society.

Crushed by WW2, the movement is though at the basis of the human values our schools are spreading. Paradoxically, since the 50’s, scholar conditions for all haven’t stopped getting better but running toward capitalism and so competition, school as well as society, is evolving on two paces at the time. Maybe the reason of some rigidities ?

2017, and some controversies stuck to our social and political systems, therefore to educative initiatives and innovations. Pedagogical training, career evolution and links to research appear as a threesome accountable as a whole to improve teachers status and a lot is still to do. As well, collaboration between teachers, learners and policy makers is a step forward to better understanding, crossing point of view and allowing diverse horizons to be collectively invented.

The same systematic way of thinking could apply to pretty much every topic or problematic we’re facing as humans, citizens, families and individuals. Lots of bridges are still to invent to allow collective intelligence to answer better our needs and desires. Education revolution takes time but is possible.

From these 4 places in the world, Thaïland, Serbia, France and Georgia we can acknowledge political will, cultural tension points and decisive initiatives. We, as four students from these four countries, gathering and working together as part of the same learning space and sharing this year the same adventure, we are illustrating what education is about today, as a universal matter where nationalities, age, sexe or academic backgrounds shouldn’t be a barrel anymore but our strongest advantage to think and change the world as a process, acting on it, thinking it and documenting it.

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