What is Teacher Education?

Socially, politically and economically the world is changing at a dramatic rate. Hence, it is certainly not possible to foresee any slowing in the pace over the next decade. As the world has changed, so has the school, and so has what we mean by teaching and by learning.  The teacher-student relationship is far more complex and demanding than ever before.  The implication of this more diversified role for the teacher is what impelled a new view of the process of teacher education and training.  Thus, teacher education is seen as a continuous process, beginning with a phase of initial training and continuing throughout the teacher’s professional life throughout regular and sustained periods of in-service training.  Maintaining the view that a teacher must remain a learner during the scope of their service is mandatory.

Teacher Education Institution

According to UNESCO (2005), teacher education “addresses environmental, social, and economic contexts to create locally relevant and culturally appropriate teacher education programmes for both pre-service and in-service teachers.”

Teacher education generally includes four elements: improving the general educational background of the trainee teachers; increasing their knowledge and understanding of the subjects they are to teach; pedagogy and understanding of children and learning; and the development of practical skills and competences. The balance between these four elements varies widely (Perraton, 2010).

Also, Teacher Education Institutions have the potential to bring changes within educational systems that will shape the knowledge and skills of future generations. Teacher education institutions serve as key change agents in transforming education and society, so such a future is possible. Teacher education institutions:

      • educate new teachers
      • provide professional development for practicing in-service teachers by updating their knowledge and skills
      • create teacher education curricula
      • carry out research
      • contribute to textbooks
      • provide expert advice to local schools upon request
      • provide expert opinion to provincial and national ministries of education
      • educate and certify headmasters, principals, and other school administrators

above taken from UNESCO’s Website

“Institutions of teacher education fulfill vital roles in the global education community; they have the potential to bring changes within educational systems that will shape the knowledge and skills of future generations. Often, education is described as the great hope for creating a more sustainable future; teacher-education institutions serve as key change agents in transforming education and society, so such a future is possible. Not only do teacher-education institutions educate new teachers, they update the knowledge and skills of in-service teachers, create teacher-education curriculum, provide professional development for practicing teachers, contribute to textbooks, consult with local schools, and often provide expert opinion to regional and national ministries of education. Institutions of teacher education also perform similar services for school principals who have significant impact on what occurs in schools. Because of this broad influence in curriculum design and implementation, as well as policy setting within educational institutions, faculty members of teacher-education institutions are perfectly poised to promote education for sustainable development (ESD). By working with the administrations and faculties of teacher education institutions, governments can bring about systematic, economically effective change.” (UNESCO, 2005)

Limitations of Teacher Education

Emerging in the world is a great discrepancy in the educational experiences between developed and developing countries.  While developing countries have made much progress in the last decade, the gaps in education will only serve to limit the global competitiveness of the undeveloped world.  The obstacles facing the underdeveloped countries in the area of teacher education are vast.

First, inadequate access to education is seriously limiting the student’s opportunity in this very competitive “knowledge economy.”  In some contexts there are strong cultural, economic, and political obstacles specifically to women’s access to education (Education, 2011).

Secondly, the student/teacher ratios in both primary and secondary education is disproportionate when compared to their developing counterpart.  The most underdeveloped parts of the rural world are suffering the greatest because of this disparity (Moon, 2010).

Thirdly, the teacher quality is an issue in most countries especially those with limited access to education.  Many teachers in these countries  are untrained or under-qualified or teaching subjects in which they are neither qualified or trained for (Perraton, Creed and Robinson, 2002).

Fourthly, the attention given to teacher education and their continuing professional development has in many cases lagged behind that given to other parts of the education system. Some countries lack a policy for it, though the importance of teachers is emphasized in many international reports.

Lastly, further research needs to be conduced on the success and limitations of teacher education programs.  There is a continuing shortage of good research; all too few studies have looked at the costs and the outcomes of various approaches to teacher education; few have asked the tough questions about how teachers’ work in the classroom has changed as a result of their training (Perraton, Creed and Robinson, 2002).

Although there is wide recognition that teacher education, training and professional development need to be integrated, in ways that operationalize lifelong learning for teachers, the resources allocated to it are usually inadequate and the opportunities too few.  On average, countries spend around one per cent of their annual education expenditure on the continuing professional development of teachers (business and industry typically spend 6 per cent on staff development) (Perraton, Creed and Robinson, 2002).  Serious priority and attention needs to be given to teacher education and training in order to facilitate the development of human capital worldwide.

In Conclusion

All of this creates new challenges for teacher education and continuing professional development: the need to find ways of using existing resources differently, of expanding access to learning opportunities at affordable cost, of providing alternative pathways to initial teacher training, of drawing on new constituencies of the population to work as teachers, of using technologies appropriately to enrich a teacher’s context and support practice, of stimulating and supporting teachers’ active learning and of re-conceptualizing the traditional organization of initial teacher education and continuing development” (Perraton, Creed and Robinson, 2002).

The future teachers-in-training will influence the shape of society well into the 21st century.  However, although a teacher must serve certain universal needs of the individual, the school also has a responsibility to reflect cultural, economic and political goals for each society they represent.  Moreover, the crisis around the supply and retention of teachers is complex; equally so their training. But one thing is clear: there is absolutely no way the “bricks and mortar” institutions of teacher training created in the last century will be adequate for 21st century needs (Moon, 2000).

Further Information :

On the Current State of Education click here or here 

List of Teacher Training Resources click here


Education. (2011). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved fromhttp://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/179408/education

Moon, B. (2010) Time for Radical Change in Teacher Education Connections February, Vol. 15, No. 1

Perraton, H. (2007) Teacher Education: the Role of Open and Distance Learning, London: Routledge.

Perraton, H., Creed, C. and Robinson, B. (2002) Teacher education guidelines: Using open and distance learning, Paris: UNESCO

UNESCO. (2002). Teacher education guidelines: using open and distance learning – technology, curriculum, cost, evaluation. Paris: UNESCO

UNESCO. (2005). Guidelines and Recommendations for Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability.  Retrieved from unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001433/143370e.pdfPicture Link

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