|Counting the Cost of Teacher Education: Cost and Quality Issues (CIE, 1999, 37 p.)|
This paper has explored resource and cost issues in the provision of teacher education. It implies that there is a window of opportunity for some radical reconsideration of how teachers are trained which may be long over due. Tried and tested approaches can be expensive and may not be not self-evidently effective. Despite the existence of many enthusiastic teacher educators, what evidence there is often suggests a surprising homogeneity of practice and assumptions about how best to train teachers at the curriculum level, and a disappointing record of sustained innovations which might lead to new practice which meets new needs.
There are attractive images of teacher education institutions at the cutting edge of professional practice and the development of learning and teaching methods in schools and for teacher education students. There are many opportunities to contribute to and lead curriculum development, develop close relations with clusters of schools, support teachers over the early years of their careers, improve school-based assessment, and explore and evaluate pupils learning at all levels. Teacher education institutions and teacher educators could be the critical mass at the centre of a spider's web of partnerships designed to improve the quality and range of competencies that schools engender in their pupils. Can colleges become developmental institutions which are closely linked to practice? Can they provide theoretical insights and research based rationales for experiment directed towards innovations that can "go to scale" and become generally adopted? Can they inspire and motivate new generations of teachers who might move more freely between schools and college environments? How can initial training and certification become more of a stopover on a railway line to an interesting destination rather than an arrival at a terminus beyond which maps are scarce?
All these things and many others are possible in revitalising teacher education systems. All the options are resource-constrained. The implication of this paper is that the constraints are not a starting point - imagination, enthusiasm, commitment, and insight into the training process take precedence. But costs and resources are a central issue, which must be coupled with judgements of effectiveness to chart the room to manoeuvre in generating alternative and preferable strategies to train teachers in a vibrant and purposeful professional environment.
Teacher education is at risk where austerity in public financial resources leads to the asking of hard questions about how to re-profile educational investment. Unless the sceptical can be convinced that what exists, and what can be developed, does represent value for money, unless proposed and actual costs and resource needs identified are realistic, and unless there is robust evidence that training methods of whatever kind lead to tangible benefits, the pressure will be to find the cheapest methods of certifying teachers. These will not necessarily be the most effective.
This paper makes a start at mapping key questions concerning costs and resource utilisation that can be explored empirically. Appendix 1 provides a summary of these. Deeper understanding of these questions, and the reasons for whatever answers can be provided, would provide a much more secure basis to develop policy on teacher education in particular countries. Such policy will never be solely the result of analysis focused on resource utilisation. However it can hardly ignore the questions raised in this paper if the best use possible is to be made of public funds.