School and teacher development
Teachers are a critical factor in education reforms but their role is all too often overlooked.
Modern vocational education and training has shifted from preparing people for a narrowly defined job for life to broader preparation for life in a volatile labour market. This has dramatically changed the role of teachers from being instructors passing on professional traditions to becoming facilitators and even counsellors helping students to develop key competences so they can adjust more flexibly to changing demands.
This has huge implications for tens of thousands of teachers who often chose their profession because they were attracted to very different tasks from those they now face in their daily work. Unless these teachers can be motivated and provided with the tools they need, any attempt at reform, no matter how well-conceived, has little chance of success.
The needs of teachers must therefore be considered throughout - at the planning stages of reform, in policy and strategy development, in teacher training and in the school environment, which is also dealing with rapidly changing conditions.
Schools are taking on a new role, particularly in local development, where their traditional function as trainers of youth is moving into new areas and policy makers must endeavour to help them to see the myriad new challenges as opportunities, not threats.
The ETF takes the role of schools and teachers seriously throughout its work. It tries to convince policy makers to take the impact of the new education paradigm on schools and teachers into account from the outset.
In projects such as the one addressing social inclusion through education and training in the Western Balkans, the role of teachers receives particular attention. In 2009, the ETF initiated a study that maps policies and practices for the preparation of teachers for inclusive education in contexts of social and cultural diversity in the region.
ETF work in candidate country Turkey also has a strong teacher training component. Here the focus is on school leadership, the development of in-service teacher training and support to a vocational training centre of expertise at Sakarya University.
A good example of a project transforming schools into flexible centres for community learning is currently unfolding in Central Asia. In this three-year project, schools in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan are learning to use self-assessment and quality control as tools to support school development in a lifelong learning perspective. It is now being extended to include Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.