South East Europe: Comparing notes on professional development training

How teachers can improve their skills by sharing experience and ideas with international colleagues

The education and training needs of teachers in specialist schools was put under the spotlight Wednesday (29 May) at a regional conference in Podgorica, Montenegro. "Exploring the harmonization of continuous professional development offer with the actual needs of teachers" brought together senior professionals from across South Eastern Europe to explore a key factor in vocational education and training reform.

Striving to improve

In-service training for teachers within vocational education systems can benefit from regional cooperation and peer review, delegates to the Podgorica one-day workshop heard.

The third meeting of the Teacher Education and Training Network for South Eastern Europe, set up in June 2018, brought together senior professionals from economies that included Albania, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Moldova and North Macedonia, to look at issues in continuous professional development (CPD).

In a region where there are different levels and experience in VET system reform, the experience of Lower Austria's University College of Teacher Training - a three campus institution that offers over 60,000 training courses every year, in addition to under and post-graduate courses for hundreds of students - provided an insight into what an advanced, well-resourced, central-government backed system of European CPD looks like.

"We have very close cooperation with schools and INSET (in service training) courses that are held in the schools," Michaela Tscherne, a professor of quality management at the University College, said.

Training was "planned and organised by the schools" she added - with all costs for approved courses covered by the college budget, negotiated with the Ministry of Education every three years.

Training for needs

Julian Stanley, an ETF specialist on vocational teachers and trainers, emphasised that in a voluntary network it was up to stakeholders to concentrate on improving needs analysis to inform their own training systems and those of economies in the region.

"A network is a great opportunity for learning," Mr Stanley said. "It is hard work setting up a national system [of CPD] and you want to get it right. One thing we can do together is to express our voice collectively to find solutions."

Sharing experience

CPD systems exist in all the member countries of the network, the conference heard, although the level of integration and communication between the national, regional and local levels of VET systems vary considerably.

In Montenegro, where a system of licensed teachers was introduced in 2014, vocational school staff must pass legally defined training courses every five years in order to remain in the profession. A network of school-based CPD coordinators is being set up to improve the system and a structured system of career advancement through grades based on completing professional training courses offers a specific incentive structure apart from the legal minimum of licence renewal.

Most countries require teachers to undergo professional evaluation every three to four years - such as North Macedonia, where although there is no licence system, teachers must complete 40 hours of accredited programmes every three years, including 20 hours of government-set "priority training".

"In most cases economies in the region have the systems [of CPD]," Mr Stanley said. "The challenge is to improve these systems to make them more responsive to needs."

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