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The Crisis in Teacher Education: A European Concern

reviewed by Geoff Whitty - 1996

coverTitle: The Crisis in Teacher Education: A European Concern
Author(s): Anthony Adams, Witold Tulzasiewicz
Publisher: Falmer Press, London
ISBN: 0750702850, Pages: , Year: 1995
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Most teachers in England are trained either through a three- or four-year course of concurrent subject study and professional preparation or through a one-year course of professional preparation after a three- or four-year degree course in one or more specialist subjects. Until recently, the responsibility for the professional preparation, as well as subject study, elements of both routes has been vested in universities or other institutions of higher education.

For the past ten years all pre-service courses have been subjected to accreditation against central government criteria. Since 1990, the government has also tried to challenge the higher education monopoly of teacher education by opening up new modes of training. Most of these have involved trainees’ spending more time in schools and giving schoolteachers a more prominent role in the training process. In the most radical schemes, schools rather than universities receive funding for teacher training and it is entirely up to them whether they involve higher education. Even the vast majority of courses that are still based in higher education now have to be run in a version of “partnership,” which the authors of this book believe places higher education staff in a distinctly marginal role.

Adams and Tulasiewicz suggest that, behind the rhetoric of enhancing the quality of the teaching force, the British government may be seeking to transfer teacher education out of higher education in order to incorporate teachers into its own ideological project. They deplore the increasing use of an “apprenticeship” mode of teacher training and regard it as turning teachers into technicians rather than the flexible reflective professionals needed in the contemporary world.

This analysis is shared by many academic and professional commentators and is one with which I broadly concur. However, the attempt to characterize the English context, which takes up the first four chapters of the book, is rather disjointed and often too inward-looking and cryptic to be useful to a readership not already well versed in recent English education policy.

This is somewhat ironic as the next three chapters seek to adopt a comparative perspective on teacher education, even if the declared purpose of this is to “achieve a better understanding of British practice rather than propose educational policy borrowing” (p. 55). Furthermore, the comments on practice elsewhere (mainly France, Germany, and Poland) are snippets of interesting information rather than a basis for sustained comparative analysis. The main points to be taken are that there are a variety of possible ways of training teachers and that English teachers may not be accepted in Europe if higher education is not centrally involved in their professional preparation.

Interestingly, for all their references to European practice, the authors actually display an underlying preference for what they regard as the Anglo-American tradition in teacher education. The one example of current practice enthusiastically endorsed in the book is the sort of partnership involved in Professional Development Schools as advocated by the Holmes Group in the United States. By contrast, the traditional strengths of the English system have been damaged by the government’s refusal to give all stakeholders a proper role in decision making.

Yet, rather than pursuing the implications of this for the future of teacher professionalism, the final section of the book turns to a much more specific interest of the authors—their concern that English teacher education has hitherto paid insufficient attention to the need to educate children, and hence their teachers, for Britain’s future as part of Europe. The relationship of much of this material to the earlier parts of the book is frankly obscure.

Indeed, without any hint of irony, this section concludes by telling us that one of the few teacher education courses to recognize the importance of a European dimension is “the 100 per cent school-based training scheme at Bromley” (p. 132). Nothing could better demonstrate the disjunction between the different parts of this book. Each represents a passionate interest of the authors, but there is no overall theoretical framework to hold them together. The cursory two-and-a-half-page conclusion certainly does not provide one.

Overall, this book is not only disjointed, it is oddly Anglocentric in view of the authors’ interest in European affairs. Indeed, there are times when the book is parochial even in English terms, revealing little knowledge of developments in other institutions and occasionally lapsing into point-scoring against David Hargreaves, a colleague in the authors’ own department at Cambridge.

American teacher educators are themselves often rather parochial in their outlook and could probably benefit from a comparative perspective on teacher education. Regrettably, this is not a book that is likely to prove particularly useful in that respect.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 97 Number 3, 1996, p. 486-488
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 1428, Date Accessed: 12/7/2021 9:35:40 AM

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