Stories + Views
Out-of-step again: planned tests for trainee teachers not like those in other countries
Tougher tests for prospective teachers are needed, the Government says, to raise the status of teaching, raise educational standards and “help Britain compete and thrive in the global race and spread privilege across our country”.
It’s unclear how setting harder entry tests for teacher trainees will raise standards when academies and free schools don’t have to hire trained teachers. And how far will these tests help “Britain (sic) compete” internationally?
To answer this question the review panel which recommended the tests looked at what happens in six countries and one jurisdiction which score highly in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. It found there is “no evidence of nationally mandated testing specific to teaching” in these countries.
In three of the countries, trainee teachers were selected on their academic record and aptitude for teaching. Once selected, they followed a training course. In the other three, trainees undertook training which was followed by locally administered tests. These included a mixture of traditional written tests, demonstration lessons and interviews.
Only one country, New Zealand had “specific requirements” about literacy and numeracy although Ontario was planning language competence tests in both official languages (English and French). In Singapore, the only prospective teachers required to take a test – in English fluency – were those who failed to reach matriculation standards.
In high-performing countries, candidates were tested on their knowledge of education although the panel decided this had “low predictive validity in relation to performance as a teacher”. If that is so, then it raises the question why these high-performing countries bother with assessing “education theories in relation to child development, [and] knowledge of the education system”. The countries that examine such knowledge must think it has some value even if the panel decided otherwise. The panel’s opinion appears to chime with Mr Gove’s idea that teaching is a “craft” best learned on-the-job.
Most teacher training in these countries was at undergraduate level and solely led by universities except in New Zealand where there were a small number of private providers. Teacher training in England is moving away from university-based to school-based training.
Finally, the panel found that in most of the countries “critical decisions about access to teaching are made on the basis of interactive performance in interview or micro teaching.”
England is again out-of-step with high-performing countries, although it has to be said that six plus one jurisdiction is not a large sample. But a pattern is emerging – England is moving away from what high-performing countries do despite Secretary of State, Michael Gove, saying his reforms are underpinned by international evidence. England is changing exams at 16 when other developed countries have moved to graduation at 18 (see faqs above); the proposed programmes of study for primary schools “fly in the face of evidence from the UK and internationally”, the proposed tests for trainee teachers in England are nothing like those in other countries and the method of training teachers in schools does not match the university training offered elsewhere.