Teacher preparation in many countries has evolved in response to changing educational landscapes. A report on teacher preparation programs in Ireland (Department of Education and Skills, 2012), linking the prioritisation of national policy on teacher education with the emergence of high-performing education systems, also indicated that such systems have a number of common features. Teachers are educated in academic universities that combine both theory and practice, teacher education is research-based and, because the career is an attractive one, admission to teacher education is highly competitive. In many countries, policy relating to the preparation of teachers has tended to focus on primary and secondary teacher preparation i.e. the period of compulsory education, with little attention to the preparation of staff for early childhood, adult or higher education systems. Teacher preparation has evolved in response to changing educational landscapes. But has it evolved as one system with unifying principles and concepts at the heart of it, or as a group of systems that have grown in a more ad hoc manner?
This paper considers that question by using a systems theory framework to examine teacher preparation in three countries, Ireland, Finland and Singapore. All three countries have similar population sizes, have previously been ruled by another country and gained independence within the last 100 years. They all participate in PISA and were all significantly above the OECD average in all three domains in PISA 2012. Ireland, in common with countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States, has its roots in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. Teacher preparation in Finland represents a Northern model of education while Singapore represents the East-Asian model (Bulle, 2011).
Drawing primarily on the work of Banathy (1992), supported by Banathy and Jenlink (2003) and Bronfenbenner (1977), the chapter examines teacher preparation structures and processes for staff of Early Childhood Education (ECE), Primary, Secondary, University and Further Education in these three countries. It considers the admission criteria, the location of the teacher preparation programs, the staffing of such programs, the role of the State and other bodies in the certification and registration of staff in educational institutions. Banathy’s (1992) three lenses (systems/environment, functions/structure, process) provide the theoretical framework for the paper.
Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used
Multiple case study design (Stake, 2006) with literal replication was used to allow the similarities and differences in teacher preparation within each of the countries to be considered. A number of documents and reports were consulted in order to study the teacher preparation programs in the three countries, inter alia (Conway et al., 2009; Department of Education and Skills, 2012; OECD, 2011; Teaching Council, 2011; EURYDICE, 2016; Ministry of Education Singapore, 2016; Hyland, 2012; Ministry of Education and Culture, 2016).
The three teacher preparation systems were initially examined as individual case studies in order to establish common concepts and areas of divergence.
Teacher preparation for Early Childhood Education (ECE), Primary, Secondary, University and Further Education for each of the three countries was described under the headings below.
• Where does teacher preparation take place?
• Who applies?
• What is the admission process?
• What is the level of the award?
• How is it funded?
• Is there a Professional Recognition Body?
The country specific case studies were then analysed and summarised to illustrate the similarities and differences at country level. Banathy's three lenses provided a theoretical frame for this analysis.
The general principles and concepts arising from this analysis and synthesis are presented throughout the paper, in the form of a general application to teacher preparation, using country specific examples as appropriate for illustrative purposes.
Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or Findings
Analysis of the systems of teacher preparation within Ireland, Singapore and Finland show a variation along a spectrum of systems design. A synthesis of the three lenses highlights some interesting concepts in teacher preparation, including a change in the definition of the role of preparation programs, the location of such programs within HEIs, the locus of control of preparation programs, the effects of such programs on participants. Analysis shows that issues of control, freedom and ownership, in addition to the three systems lenses, need to be considered when viewing a system of teacher preparation.
The following overarching themes and questions emerged from the analysis.
Understanding the role of teacher preparation programs as part of a continuum.
The location of teacher preparation programs within HEIs confers a status to such programs but at times, the principles underpinning HEIs, most notably that of academic freedom, may be at odds with the impact of external regulatory bodies.
Transformative: For which version of the system is the student teacher is being prepared? Is it the current system or is it a more idealised version of that system?
Who is the system for? The modes of entry to teacher preparation programs, the sites where they are located, and the financial requirements for participation in the program are influencers in terms of who applies to such programs and therefore to the diversity, or lack thereof, within the profession.
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