Teacher Education Policy in Ireland and the Challenges of the Twenty-First Century

Nov. 10, 2010

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 33, Iss. 4, p. 349–360. (November 2010)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Teacher education policy in Europe and the challenge of convergence
Over the past decade and prompted in large measure by the Bologna process, teacher education systems across European countries have converged along a common structural path. The positioning of teacher education within the academy and the emphasis on core disciplines like history, sociology, philosophy and psychology of education have significantly strengthened the knowledge base of teacher education. Teacher education has thus moved from representing a national concern towards becoming part of the discourse around Europeanisation.

National versus European: an historical overview of the development of teacher education policy in Ireland

The development of the Irish system of education was fundamentally shaped by its relationship with its colonial neighbor.
Prior to Independence in 1922, the system of education promoted was a fundamental part of a strategic effort to ensure cultural assimilation and political socialisation.
Following Independence, the system of education promoted was a response to what was perceived as centuries of political, economic, cultural and linguistic domination (Harford 2009).

Two key reviews of teacher education at both primary and post-primary level were commissioned in 1999, both of which recommended significant reform of existing teacher education programs to prepare teachers to deal with the educational change agenda.

Among the recommendations made were the extension of initial teacher education courses, the restructuring of course content to allow for more cross-curricular integration, greater emphasis on the development of reflective practitioners and closer links with school personnel on teaching practice.

Lacunae in existing policy and the challenges posed by a wider European agenda

A national pilot program on teacher induction was established in 2002 and has been extended on a gradual basis since its inception. Plans are currently afoot to extend the program nationally and some progress has been made in the structure and design of induction seminars through the national education center network.

Looking to the future, teacher education policy in Ireland is at a critical juncture.
The national economic crisis has resulted in a radical overhaul of public expenditure and education spending has been severely hit. Developments in the areas of induction and continuous professional development have been slower to emerge. The lack of an effective policy on continuous professional development (CPD) is all the more anachronistic in light of the push for teacher professionalism.

The promotion of lifelong learning requires a more strategic policy approach, particularly in the context of efforts to bring about more inclusive and egalitarian schools. Notwithstanding the current national economic crisis, 2010 offers an unprecedented opportunity, and specifically CPD and lifelong learning strategies' corresponding with the Bologna process (ENTEP, Kreger, and Uzerli 2007, 3).

ENTEP, Kerger, L. and Uzerli, U. (2007) The continuous professional development of teachers in EU Member States: New policy approaches, new visions. — entep.bildung.hessen.de/

Harford, J. (2009) The emergence of a national policy on teacher education in Ireland. Journal of Educational Administration and History 41:1 , pp. 45-56.

Updated: Apr. 10, 2011