Training and development of teachers and professional staff
The pre-service training of prospective teachers and in-service training of current teachers and professional staff is certainly an important part of the education system with a significant impact on its overall quality. Different factors play a role in the decision of each individual to join the pre-service training of teachers, while the overall attractiveness of the teaching profession ranks among the important ones. Both international research and qualitative data in the Learning Makes Sense project indicate that in Slovakia, the overall attractiveness of the teaching profession is relatively low due to the inadequate salaries and low social recognition of teachers. A relative scarcity of applicants for various teacher education programmes at higher education institutions means that in fact all applicants are admitted, i.e. also applicants with insufficient knowledge and skills gained from their prior studies, or applicants whose personality is not suitable for this type of work. Higher education institutions for the pre-service training of prospective teachers react differently to such diversity of admitted students. According to students themselves, pre-service teacher training is mostly focused on providing knowledge. However, students have fewer opportunities to practice their theoretical knowledge and to gain relevant teaching skills through teaching internships or classroom modelling during their higher education studies. Upon completion of a teacher education programme, not all graduates find their jobs within the Slovak education system. Schools try to hire the best teachers, and in practice not all the graduates from teacher education programmes find such a position. At the same time, for several school subjects or in certain localities, school principals have nobody to choose from. Schools could terminate jobs for teachers showing a low quality of teaching, but this does not actually happen, because it is difficult to prove low teaching quality. Also, schools can seek to professionally develop their teachers and professional staff. According to Learning Makes Sense survey findings, one of the main problems in the current in-service teacher training system is that it motivates teachers and professional staff (with salary bonuses) to attend various approved further education programmes. Yet it does not follow up on them, nor reward teachers if they gained any important skills and actually applied them at their school.
Analysis of the qualitative and quantitative Learning Makes Sense data is examined in more detail in the following sections:
Attractiveness of teacher profession
Few would like to become teachers
Pre-service training of teachers at higher education institutions
Unexploited potential of higher education institutions to prepare prospective teachers well
Hiring and dismissing teachers
Hiring and dismissing teachers as an unexploited opportunity
Professional development of teachers and professional staff and its challenges
The quality of an education system largely depends on whether teachers are motivated, qualified and rewarded professionals. Equally important is their ability to recognise learners’ talents, their mastering of a wide variety of teaching methods, and ability to select the optimal method for every learner in co-operation with other teachers and professional staff at schools. According to Learning Makes Sense survey findings, teacher training programmes achieve this objective to only a limited degree. Although in-service teacher training could, to some extent, compensate for the shortcomings of the pre-service training, the survey findings uncovered various doubts related to the in-service training system and its actual contribution to teachers and professionals gaining relevant knowledge and skills for their work at schools. In order that the education system should become a quality and accessible public service providing a basic educational standard to all individuals from early childhood, then the professional training, development and support for people running this system needs to be one of the cornerstones of education reform.