Why Do Student Teachers Enrol for a Teaching Degree? A Study of Teacher Recruitment in Portugal and Sweden

Sep. 01, 2014

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 40, No. 4, 328–343, 2014.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article reports on findings from an exploratory study carried out in Portugal and Sweden, concerning student teacher recruitment to Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programmes.
It addresses issues such as the motivations and expectations of the student teachers regarding the teaching profession.
The student teachers were probed about the access to information about the ITE programmes, what choices they made and why.

Drawing upon existing related literature, a questionnaire was designed and sent to student teachers in Portugal and in Sweden.
In total, 112 student teachers from Portugal and 157 student teachers from Sweden participated in the study.


The discussion comprises two themes: the frame of reference for ITE in the two countries and possible implications for the recruitment process.
Female students seem to be attracted to the education field in both countries.
What differs is how they enter the field.
This exploratory study suggests that family is important in the discussions of the choice of profession in Portugal.
In Sweden, friends appear to be the key persons in these discussions.
These findings may be related to the fact that some of the Portuguese study participants had relatives working as teachers, or at least within the education field, which was not the typical situation of the average student in Sweden.
Furthermore, employment opportunities were important to students in both countries.
For the Swedish student teachers, however, the key factors for making the decision to undertake the ITE programme were the location of the university and the encouragement from a significant other.

Another difference relates to when student teachers choose to enter a teaching degree.
In Portugal, student teachers tend to do so directly after upper secondary, whereas in Sweden the student teachers work or start a family before they enter.
For Portugal, the explanation is related to issues associated with the level of qualification for entering teacher and to the need to have a number of credits in a given subject before entering the Masters in Teaching.
Also, intrinsic motivations may be also associated as the high levels of unemployment in teaching, the lack of career prospects and the low level of status are key characteristics of teaching over the last few years, with these factors being exacerbated by the austerity measures during the last three years.

For Sweden, the explanation could be that there is a path in the upper secondary programme for becoming a child caretaker, which is popular.
With an exam from this route it is possible to work in preschool as a child caretaker.
In Portugal as well as in Sweden, prerequisites for applicants are already instigated, such as a certain level of educational degree.
The participants felt, however, a need for probing the personality profile of the student teachers before entering a teaching degree, with special emphasis on their motivation.
The student teachers in the this study harboured intrinsic motivations, also altruistic ones, rather than extrinsic motivations, but it became evident that some student teachers experienced a need for further discussions about the motivations for pursuing a teacher career.

Another aspect is the fact that in both countries female students seem to be attracted to the education field.
Gender was not an important issue commented on by the participants in this study.
As for recruitment, the important issue is to focus on the values the student teachers share, such as interest in working with children, not the gender issue.
It appears that since family and friends are the key persons involved when students decide to become a teacher, their views of teaching and being a teacher are vital and need to be positive .
Furthermore, it is important to look into how information is presented at the universities; they are the main source of information concerning the teaching profession. The best recruiters appear to be the student teachers themselves, but study counsellors are also important. These study counsellors can work at university, but as much important are those working in upper secondary schools.

Lastly, student teachers point to the fact that the information during the recruitment process has to include correct ‘signals’ about the content of the ITE programme and how it is designed.
It is important that the applicants understand that joining an ITE course implies committing to a programme lasting more than just a year that is demanding and rewarding.
When the student teachers gave recommendations about what to be considered during recruitment into a teaching degree, they mainly gave suggestions concerning internal factors.


Enjoying working with children or youth, employment opportunities and the mastery of given subjects and skills appear to be some of the reasons for applying to the ITE programmes. However, the student teachers made clear that there is a need for more information about the ITE itself, that is, its structure, demands and the qualifications the applicants would eventually attain.
These requests may, amongst other strategies, be of significance for improving not only the curriculum of the ITE programme, but also improve its completion and so reduce the amount of early drop-outs. It may also be desirable to analyse the beliefs and implicit theories that student teachers may bring into their ITE studies.

Updated: Jan. 18, 2016