Welcome to E U R O P E: Education systems

di Laura Di Masi

“Let’s focus on Teaching careers”

The quality of teaching is a very important factor for young people to be inspired in the classroom and reach their full potential. Good teachers make for good education systems, and both are essential to give to the youth the best preparation for adult life as active and productive members of society. The role of teachers is more and more important as Europe rises to meet its educational, social and economic challenges but the teaching profession is becoming less attractive as a career choice. Higher expectations in terms of student outcomes and greater pressures due to a more diverse student population combined with rapid technological innovation are having a strict impact on the teaching job. European leaders and national policy-makers have committed themselves as part of Education and Training 2020 to identify the challenges and go deep into the best ways to give effective support for teachers and raise their status.

Many countries have lack of teachers. In some cases these are linked to specific subjects or geographical areas, while in others they are due to the ageing teacher population, drop-out rates from the profession and its attractiveness.

The recent Communication from the European Commission on school development and excellent teaching (European Commission, 2017a) emphasises the need to make teaching careers more attractive and  change the paradigm of the profession from static to dynamic.

Teaching today involves lifelong career development, adapting to new challenges, collaborating with peers, using new technologies and being innovative. This calls for recognition that the teaching environment is constantly changing and teachers need the necessary policy reforms and support to be able to respond proactively to the new demands.

The Communication looks at a number of areas that can be acted upon to improve the working conditions and efficacy of teachers. Selection and recruitment of new teachers should take into account a broader set of attitudes in addition to academic merits; a bridged access to the profession should be provided for those from underrepresented groups and other professions; and conditions should be created which would provide for a better gender balance.

To enhance the attractiveness of the profession, a focus should be placed on the provision of good contractual and employment conditions which can compete with professions requiring equivalent education levels. Opportunities for salary and career progression should also be provided. More attention should be given to continuing professional development and its relevance to teachers’ professional needs; the ways in which it is delivered and the bodies and levels involved in deciding on what is relevant should be re-examined. Support in the early stages of a teacher’s career and throughout their professional life should be accessible to all.

Forms of collaboration with peers, team-work and peer-learning should be incentivised and become the norm across Europe.

The majority of European countries go on planning specifically for teacher supply and demand. Top-level education authorities carry out this task themselves in all the countries where it takes place. In addition, in five education systems local-level authorities also develop their own plans in this area (Belgium (Flemish Community), Austria, Sweden, the United Kingdom (Scotland) and Switzerland).While many education systems rely only on short-term planning, Seven education systems carry out only long-term planning – some of these for more than 10 years ahead (Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, and Norway).

In most European education systems, schools or local authorities are responsible for teachers recruiting. This decentralised approach is usually based on a system of open recruitment and means that vacancies are managed directly by schools or local authorities and teachers apply for specific vacant posts and the recruitment is based on  competitive examinations or candidate lists.

In the United Kingdom (Wales), regulations have been made to allow for the development and implementation of an individual level school workforce census. This will include individual identifying data items such as name, date of birth and national insurance number. Wales previously had no central data collection that gathered the level of workforce information needed to support more detailed workforce planning. Following a consultation which ended in March 2017, the Education (Supply of Information about the School Workforce) (Wales) Regulations 2017 came into force on 31 October 2017.

To be continued…

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