International Panel: Bridging Policy and Practice
A Focus on Teacher Preparation

Background

The eight nations represented in the seminar were Brazil, Egypt, France, India, Japan, Kenya, Sweden, and the United States (See Appendix B for a list of participants). Participants presented an overview of the national policy in their country on pre-service and in-service teacher education from countries where such a policy exists. In countries where there is no national policy, such as the United States, the participants described trends and highlighted regional variations in pre-service and in-service teacher education policies. Participants from each nation shared an example that provided details about a specific program for teacher pre-service and in-service education.

The nature and features of each nation's policies and practices were filtered through the experiences of the individual members of the two-person teams. This document is meant to be a "story" that describes an international conversation about issues in mathematics teacher preparation and professional development. The team members whose views are expressed in this report were not functioning in any way as official representatives of their nations of origin. Thus, the views expressed by the members of these teams and the information contained in this report are not intended to reflect the status of mathematics teacher preparation and professional development in each nation. Although there is some discussion of the national teacher education context, each individual brought a unique perspective to the discussions. As such, issues of region, locality, or other circumstances may have influenced individual views and opinions. It is not the intention of the PCMI, or this report, to claim that the views expressed are indicative of the national situation in each country.

The topic for discussion at the 2002 seminar was the focus of the presentation given in 2001 by the team from Egypt (mathforum.org/pcmi/int2001report/page26.html). Three themes arose from their presentation and the discussion that followed-1) the need to connect pre-service training to the realities of practice, 2) the need for continuing education for in-service mathematics teachers, and 3) the need for interesting innovations in teacher training and mathematics education. These themes were the foci in the 2002 seminar. The primary goals of the 2002 seminar were to consider approaches to pre-service and in-service education that are prevalent or successful in a particular country and their potential as solutions to issues and challenges faced across the eight countries.

The seminar discussion was framed by nine questions, identified in advance, covering a broad spectrum of issues related to both policy and practice in mathematics teacher education.

  1. What should prospective teachers learn about teaching in general, and specifically about teaching mathematics?
  2. Should a country have a standard system for educating prospective teachers, or is there an argument to be made for differentiating programs within a country?
  3. How can in-service programs be improved in countries with large numbers of teachers?
  4. How can the education system deal with uneven communication across the system and large numbers of teachers who have varying backgrounds and degrees of expertise?
  5. What is the role of university math educators in the community of teachers (i.e., What interface exists and how can it be improved)?
  6. How can we increase collaboration across educational levels?
  7. How can we divide the responsibility for pre-service and in-service education?
  8. How can we monitor and ensure high quality programs?
  9. How might math education programs be redesigned to deal with teacher shortages?

Additional issues raised by the participants related to the selection of criteria for evaluating pre-service and in-service programs, adapting these to the demands of each education system, responding to pressure to examine teacher success by way of student achievement, and responding to the increasing desire for interdisciplinary approaches to education.

The discussion began with team members from each of the eight participating nations sharing a practice from their country that might be promising in helping to answer core questions about preparing teachers to teach. Presentations focused on teacher education programs that support teacher readiness (i.e., pre-service), ongoing professional development (i.e., in-service), or both. Each presentation was approximately thirty minutes long and included an overview specifying the rationale for the approach, the context in which the program is used, who uses the program, the educational level at which it is used (e.g., elementary, secondary), and advantages or strengths of the program, along with any disadvantages. Because the theme of the work was "Bridging Policy and Practice," the presentations involved reflections from both of the team members about the program. While listening to the presentations, participants were encouraged to keep the following questions in mind:

  1. What mathematics do teachers need to know in order to teach well, and how does that mathematics fit into the set of knowledge teachers need to know?
  2. How and where do teachers learn that mathematics (e.g., in mathematics settings in universities, working in classes with children, strengthening curriculum materials)?
  3. How might research help us better prepare teachers, and what do we actually know about teacher education and how it works?

During the round-robin discussion that followed each presentation, participants were asked to highlight any features of the approach described that seemed promising or might work (or could be adapted) to their setting. They were also asked to highlight any features that would be challenging or very difficult to implement in their country. The table below briefly summarizes the national context within which each approach to pre-service and in-service education is situated. The content that follows the table describes the situation in each nation in more detail.

Table 1: Context of Pre-service & In-service Teacher Education

  National Standards Licensing & Certification
Brazil Yes Typically, students who have passed their teacher education courses and their supervised teaching activities are qualified to teach. If they want to teach in a public school, they take a civil service exam. In cases of teacher shortages, exceptions may be made to the requirements.
Egypt Yes There are no official procedures for licensing and certifying teachers. Teachers are qualified to teach when they complete the appropriate teacher education program for the subject or grade level.
France Yes

The methods of certification vary to some degree as they are determined by the requirements of the place where teachers will teach. However, there are some common features in the certification process.

Typically, prospective elementary school teachers take the Regional Competitive Exam (RCE). Prospective middle school teachers usually take a National Competitive Exam (CAPES). Prospective high school teachers typically complete a competitive examination called Aggregation, however some high school teachers take the CAPES to obtain certification in the subject area. Passing the relevant national exam allows prospective teachers to teach anywhere in the country.

At the end of a year of training, prospective teachers take the Accreditation Exam given under the auspices of the University Institute of Teacher Training (IUFM) and the Ministry of Education. Teachers must pass this exam to earn a credential. They must also write and defend a dissertation (i.e., degree paper) called "Le Mémoire Professionel" in front of a board of examiners.

India Yes Prospective teachers must receive a Diploma in Education (D.Ed.) or a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) certification in order to teach in public schools. Teachers with a D.Ed. qualify for primary schools while those with a B.Ed. qualify for high school education. Teachers are qualified when they complete the appropriate teacher education program for the subject or grade level.
Japan Yes Students must successfully complete the teacher-training program developed by the university to get a teaching license. The programs typically include courses and lesson study. After receiving a license, students must pass the "examination for appointment" developed by the board of education.
Kenya Yes Teachers complete six months of student-teaching, during which they are visited by lecturers (who may have taught them during training). Lecturers visit ten times during the six-month period. During this period, teachers spend nine weeks independently teaching a subset of the week's lessons and assessing student learning. The lecturer observes, provides feedback and advice, and provides an assessment of the teacher's capability. In later visits, the lecturer uses the earlier reports to assess progress. At the end of the six-month period, the reports are used to determine whether or not the student-teacher can become a classroom teacher.
Sweden Yes (national goals and general content) There is no formal certification process. A student who has graduated from a university teacher education program is automatically qualified for a teaching job. The programs typically require courses, a degree paper, and a period of school practice (i.e., student-teaching experience) which is integrated into the courses and evaluated during the university education program. Upon completion of the program, the teacher applies directly to the schools for employment. The local headmaster decides if a teacher is qualified for teaching a specific subject and at a specific level. The decision is based on recommendations from the university from which the teacher graduated. All courses and the degree paper are examined to determine a prospective teacher's qualification, and the recommendations are inscribed in the diploma.
USA No (standards vary by state)

Each state has its own certification process. Many require a nationally standardized teacher's exam. The score needed to earn a passing grade varies widely. Some states now write their own exams for teachers, and these vary. Some states accept certificates from other states, but may add their own requirements - like courses in the history of the state in which the applicant is applies. In cases of teacher shortages, exceptions may be made to the requirements.

Most states require different certificates for elementary and secondary school. Some also have special certificates for middle level schools.

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