The need to make entry into the teaching profession more selective
Teachers in high-performing education systems not only enjoy high status in society, matched by attractive salaries, they have also made it into a highly selective profession (Barber and Mourshed, 2007; OECD, 2014c). In contrast, apart from a probation period of up to three months, specified in the labour laws that schools may decide to include in their internal regulations, Latvia has no selective mechanisms in place to further test the quality and motivation of aspiring teachers (OECD, 2014b).
Latvia’s ageing teaching workforce, and continuing decline in student numbers, provides Latvia with an unique opportunity to shape teaching into a highly selective profession. Latvia can be much more selective of its aspiring teachers, for example adopting criteria for those wanting to enter initial teacher education, or establishing additional requirements, or a formal induction programme before they can become fully qualified teachers.
Finland is frequently mentioned as an example to follow. One of the factors used to explain the Finnish success in education is the quality of its teachers. A reform at the end of the 1970s strengthened teacher education and made it highly selective. Teacher education moved from teachers’ colleges into universities, and primary school teachers were required to have a master’s degree. At present, teacher education is provided by nine universities, of which eight have teacher training schools. According to some evidence, only about 10% of candidates who apply for primary teaching courses are accepted (OECD, 2013d).
The Netherlands is another example to consider. since 2010, student teachers are required to take a language and a numeracy test in the first year of initial teacher education. The results inform the binding study advice students receive at the end of the first year. They have three chances to pass the tests and cannot continue initial teacher education without them. The preparation and quality of new teachers is perceived to have improved in recent years partly due to this measure (Education inspectorate, 2015).