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Ensuring quality and selective initial teacher education

Research evidence points towards the importance of having high-quality initial teacher education to shape teachers’ quality of teaching practice and care for children, as well as their later professional development. Although many OECD countries have recognised the importance of a high level of initial teacher education at the tertiary level, they have shaped their initial teacher education in quite different ways. The duration varies widely across

OECD countries, for example (OECD, 2014a). Among countries considered to have quality ECEC systems are Sweden and Norway, where initial teacher education lasts 3 and 3.5 years respectively.

Initial ECEC teacher training in Latvia lasts 2 years - leading to a first level higher education and preschool teacher qualification - or 4 years if leading to a second level higher pedagogical education and preschool teacher qualification. These programmes, like those in the majority of the OECD countries, include a practicum, meaning practical modules or internships in front of students in schools. The goal of these practical field experiences is to familiarise students with classrooms, and to avoid them having a “reality-shock” at the beginning of their teaching career (Musset, 2009). In Latvia, student teachers undergo a practical period of 6 weeks. Though the practicum periods of initial teacher education programmes varies greatly among countries (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2013; Musset, 2009), the evidence recommends an extended school practice (at least 30 weeks), interwoven with coursework and careful mentoring (Darling-Hammond, 2006).

In addition to the two initial teacher education programmes mentioned above teachers with a teaching qualification for primary education can also become a qualified ECEC teacher after a programme lasting just 72 hours (MoES, 2015). Whether this alternative pathway is too short and risks the quality of these teachers is not known. This is something MoES should consider investigating.

Some OECD countries like Austria, Denmark, Finland and Germany have competitive examinations to enter initial teacher education in an effort to raise standards and draw in the best graduates. Latvia, like Belgium, Estonia, the Netherlands and Poland, has none and once they have completed initial teacher education programmes, candidates face no further requirements to test their quality and motivation before entering the profession, unlike in France, Japan and Korea (OECD, 2014a).

 
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