The degradation of teacher education, in the name of competition

One teacher-acquaintance undergoing inservice teacher training is not entirely happy with the quality of the training that he is receiving.

I started off as a lecturer at one of the former teacher-training colleges (sub-degree level), which later amalgamated with the other three teacher-training colleges to form the Hong Kong Institute of Education (I left the college before the merger, and joined CUHK in 1991). The teacher-training colleges had only one aim: to train good teachers. All lecturers were former teachers in local schools, and they went about their work with a sense of mission: to train generation after generation of professional and competent teachers. Unlike today when teacher education is supposed to be ‘reflective’, teacher training in those days could cover very micro skills that could range from how to write on the blackboard, to how to use a teacher’s voice, to how to deal with the class clown. Student teachers on Teaching Practicum had to be observed teaching in the classroom for a total of 18 lessons before they could get their teacher’s certificate. In comparison, the content of teacher education programmes around the world today seem to move farther and farther away from real-life classroom concerns.

But I personally would say the quality of teacher education was better in those days. From the mid-nineties when the academia became more and more competitive, schools of education around the world began to shift their priorities. The work of schools of education is not assessed by the quality of teachers that they nurture, but, like in any other academic discipline, by the number of papers faculty publish in first-tier academic journals, and the amount of competitive research funding that they are able to pocket. Today, even HKIEd is not exempt from this unhealthy trend (of forgetting one main reason for our existence). I would say that the quality of teacher education, and consequently, the quality of teaching, in many places have actually gone down in the last ten years. And all this degradation in the name of competition. We compete for the sake of competing. We have forgotten what we should compete for.

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2 thoughts on “The degradation of teacher education, in the name of competition

  1. Maybe quality is difficult to be quantified. It’s never easy to measure how ‘good’ a good teacher is. But amount of funding solicited and number of research paper published is easy to count. If it’s rule of the game shared by all institutions around the world, no single institution can stand-alone. I have once heard about a local school teacher’s apprasial and salary is directly linked to the performance of students in public examinations. More 5** students, more money one can get. Education is like doing business, in which there’re never-ending targets waited to be achieve.

  2. There are ways to evaluate the quality of teacher education (in fact, not just ‘teacher education’, but the overall quality of education that a university provides). Counting is an easy way, so that’s why the reliance on quantifiable measures in university league tables. Competition serves as a motivator, but if we don’t sometimes stand back and reflect on what is worth competing for, then even when we all abide by the rules of the game, we are only joining a rat race.

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