European Association of Teachers of Serbia
“The position and role of a contemporary teacher in the education systems of Serbia and Europe“
Professor Ivan Ivic, professor of Psychology
Your presence here, and moreover your absence speaks about the position of our teachers. I have couple of books and documents on the topic here with me. They are all about of the position and the role of teachers in Serbia and Europe. In the field of education there is no mutual European policy, like in agriculture. The European model does not exist, but the concept is mutual an it is the education based on the outcome rather than on the programme. While we are focusing on the programme itself and the delivery to the students, the latest trend in Europe is the outcome.
What are the outcomes? This is a problem we have to deal with. Teachers are the key factor in this, even besides the ICT. Secondly, they are the key resource of the education. Potential and the strength of this resource should be activated, in teaching and learning. This is where we need to invest.
The strategic documents say that by 2020.the state needs to invest 6%of BDP in education. There is the plan and the dynamics. But, none of this is being realized. This is the factor of improving the position of teachers and education in general. The financial position is highly important. The syndicates have the right to refer to this in the fight for the improvement of their social status.
We don’t have high education institutions that train teachers. We don’t have teachers,i.e. we have worked with biologists who are trained for research but 95% of them work in schools. Linguists teach languages, not teachers. And linguists deal with languages, not the methodology of teaching. Now, the national frame of qualifications is under way . It contains several columns. 1st is the vocation (professor of English), 2nd the level of education (e.g. Master), 3rd the competencies teachers have to possess. The profile of teacher has to possess certain skills. The profession of teaching has to be professionalized. The National Strategy for the development of teaching by 2020 implies integrated master studies (3 years of basic studies+2 years of master studies) that teach how to teach, to use the resources (internet, books, strategic documents, methodology), to know how to assess, etc. These would separate a professional in a field and a teacher of a field.
A great majority of people are now in the profession and do not have these qualifications. This is where professional development plays a vital role. Key programmes for professional development have to be financed by the government. And the purpose of those are not the points that teachers gather, but again the outcomes the innovations produce after being applied in class. Why does it not give effect? Imagine what would happen to university if professional development were not insisted on before reaching the position of a regular professor. The professional development should also be financially supported. And it is not, and therefore it all comes down to gathering points.
A contemporary teacher has to be a professional, has to know his subject matter, methodology, didactics and current assessment techniques because 50% of learning in our schools is simple learning by heart that has no effect whatsoever. He has to know psychology of learning. Therefore results of learning are very bad and speak of the lacks of the education system.
So, school has to be the place where learning takes place, and not a place where teaching is organized! Contemporary teacher does not only speak about his subject matter. A teacher has to cooperate with local community (e.g.school plays instead of theatre plays), teaching outside the classroom, etc.
Professor Desanka Radunovic, prof.of Mathematics
I will continue with what my colleague has been speaking about. A modern teacher has to be a superman or a superwoman. The development of technology has transformed many professions for which we are educating our students. So, sometimes we don’t even know what we are forming them for. Some of the vocations are completely new and some are slowly dying. In this ambiance, task of a teacher is very complex. We have to be up to date. A teacher has to be a counselor, as well. A family, parents do not have much time for the children in modern times. The importance of teacher is therefore bigger. The organization of the society is such.
I have spent two years in the European task group for school policy in frames of Open method of coordination of EU . EU has defined its strategy for Education by 2020. Education is a national matter, and there are no legal documents or requests that bound the member states to have a unified system. The groups are formed for adjusting the key principles in education. Serbia has participated in this task group as a member candidate since 2014. The basic topic was the initial education. The result is the document Guidelines for initial education that will be shortly translated and presented. Our national task group works on standards for education of teachers. Defining standards for accreditation of teachers’ course is the next step so that we can have a professional doing the job.
There are three key factors in teacher’s profession: the continuum, cooperation and management. There is no continuum after producing a professional. Faculties do not deal with the needs of former students, nor the problems they face. There is no cooperation, the link between initial education and the further development of a professional. The next step is cooperation between subjects. The National Education Council has dealt with the curriculum on many occasions, but the problem is the method of teaching in schools. A child on any level of education is asked to form some sorts of folders in his head for mathematics, physics, biology, etc., and never to form a connection between different subjects.
This is where cooperation should take place.
I always mention the example of a student who failed his physics course and when asked what vectors were could not make a simple relation between vectors in mathematics to those in physics. You cannot distribute scientific items in separate circles and then expect a child to make a meaningful conclusion and make a relation. The task of good teachers is to prepare and present an idea from different points, research methods, etc. Teachers need a lot of help for this from the ones who trained them to be teachers. The professional development should fill the need of the profession, there should be a link between offer and demand. Teachers attend a number of meaningless seminars that do not provide for the actual needs. And no one has ever thought of making a survey of what are the needs of the profession at the moment. Faculties do not participate in professional development, and do not cooperate with teachers who know a lot from practice.
And the third thing was management which is decentralized in many EU countries. The aims of education and finances come from the government, but the organization of teaching comes down to local government, schools and teachers. Some teachers are not even obligated to follow the curriculum, but deliver the final product i.e.the student with certain skills at the end of a school year.
Ministry, orders, councils is the principle on which our education is based. Motivating element should be public recognition of those individuals who are passionate about their profession and rewarded with money and mentoring status.