Common Pressures, Same Results? Recent Reforms in Professional Standards and Competences in Teacher Education for Secondary Teachers in England, France and Germany

May. 15, 2015

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 41, No. 2, 180–202, 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study examines how cultural influences have characterized the ‘reforms’ in each of the three countries: England, France and Germany. Four common pressures leading to the reform of teacher education in England, France and Germany are identified as professionalisation, the Bologna Process, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and teacher recruitment.

The research in this study draws on documentary analysis and relevant commentary on recent teacher education reform in England, France and Germany. The data are drawn from publicly available documents on teacher education, professional standards and competences from respective government education departments, in addition to relevant documentation from the European Union, European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.


This study has argued that path divergence is evident in teacher education reform in England, France and Germany. In England, teacher education is noticeably different from that of its neighbours in the UK. France and Germany, although they are neighbouring countries, as with England, have very different, distinctive education systems. They come from ‘largely divergent intellectual worlds’ and ‘divergent intellectual spheres of reference’.
Teacher education remains at the heart of education reform, and each country has reacted to common pressures identified in this study in a similar way through their introduction of a set of standards and competencies to ensure a continuous production of quality teachers.
The professionalisation of the teaching profession has resulted in new teacher education programmes which emphasise practical skills as the key measure of teacher effectiveness and on which judgments of competence can be made.
The Bologna Process has highlighted how each country, to some extent, has experienced problems with alignment and with mapping new structures on to old structures.
The three yearly PISA assessment tests for 15-year-old pupils with its league table of results continue to have a marked impact on education reform in each country.
Teacher recruitment is an area of concern for each country, with shortage subject areas persisting in England and in Germany and an ageing teaching workforce in each of the three countries examined here.

Major constraints in the teacher education systems in England, France and Germany have been identified in this study: the move towards ‘the construction of teaching as a craft’ and teaching as a research-based profession with opportunities for teachers to further their knowledge has yet to be resolved in England. The duration and intensity of the teacher education programme in France with its traditional competitive public examination, coupled to the French government’s key education priority for reducing inequality, create unresolved tensions between the demands of an academic programme and those of training in school. There are also unresolved tensions between universities and training schools in Germany which impact on teachers training to work with a diverse school population within a large multi-cultural society.
Each of these constraints is mirrored in this study’s selection and description of one standard and one competence, serving to demonstrate how path divergence is replicated in each country’s teacher education system. By selecting one standard and competence, centred on the importance of knowing how pupils learn, the study has served to illustrate constraints in the way in which student teachers navigate their way through new teacher education programmes.

Updated: May. 30, 2016