Initial Teacher Training: the French view

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Birmingham]On: 06 October 2014, At: 00:20Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Education for Teaching:International research andpedagogyPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cjet20

    Initial Teacher Training: the FrenchviewJohn Holyoake aa Department of French , The University , Western Bank,Sheffield, S10 2TN, United KingdomPublished online: 03 Aug 2006.

    To cite this article: John Holyoake (1993) Initial Teacher Training: the French view, Journal ofEducation for Teaching: International research and pedagogy, 19:2, 215-226

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0260747930190207

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    http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditions

  • Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 19, No. 2, 1993 215

    Initial Teacher Training: theFrench viewJOHN HOLYOAKEDepartment of French, The University, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UnitedKingdom

    ABSTRACT This paper, against the background of trends in the development of initialteacher training in Europe as a whole, identifies and explains some of the recent, radicalreforms which were introduced in France by a socialist government. These include the needto raise the status and the competence of the teaching profession; the creation of newteacher-training institutions of university status (Instituts universitaires de formation desmaitres); the introduction of common entry qualifications at degree level for both primaryand secondary levels; the harmonisation and the extension to 2 years of the post-degreeteacher-training course and the increase in emphasis placed on professional training, boththeoretical and practical. These reforms provoked a storm of protest and an examination ofthe reasons for this reveals a multiplicity of crucial questions which have far-reachingimplications.

    INTRODUCTION

    Initial teacher training has often been a highly controversial item on the politicalagenda. Readers of D. P. Gilroy's paper in this journal (1992) will know only toowell how contentious the dispute has been on this subject in England and Wales forsome years and especially in 1992. A controversy on the same subject has hit theheadlines in France where the socialist government, over the last 2 years, imple-mented reforms in teacher training which move in precisely the opposite directionfrom those of the conservative government in England and Wales. The key issuescentre on professional training. What are its objectives? How long should it be? Whoshould provide it? Whereas the government in England and Wales has taken anextremely sceptical view and is reducing the role of teacher-training institutions, inFrance, by contrast, the government has created new institutions, Instituts universi-taires de formation des matres (IUFMs) and has increased the length and breadth ofprofessional training at all levels.

    The purpose of this paper is to examine in some detail how France rethoughtits initial teacher-training programme in order to respond to a changing political,economic and educational climate. Before concentrating on France, however, it will

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  • 216 J. Holyoake

    be useful to set the question of initial teacher training in a broader context, if notinternational, then at least European.

    The paper was completed before the general election in France in March 1993at which time the socialist government was swept from power. There was muchspeculation prior to the elections that a new right-wing government, whose spokes-men in opposition had strongly opposed the creation of the IUFMs, might abolishthem when they came to power. This has not happened.

    The Minister for Higher Education, Francois Fillon, in a guarded statement ata conference of university leaders in April 1993 announced the government'sintentions. First, a rapid, in-depth assessment of the IUFMs which would lead toreal improvements; second, an examination of the possible development of theseinstitutions.

    THE EUROPEAN CONTEXT

    Cross-cultural comparisons are notoriously difficult and in Europe there is a widediversity of systems based on a multiplicity of national traditions and culturalidentities. However, it is possible to identify the main features of initial teachertraining and to present a broad-brush picture from two wide-ranging surveys ofEuropean countries. Details of these surveys are at the end of this paper. The mainelements which are relevant here are the entry requirements at primary and sec-ondary levels, the length and the nature of the training periods, and the relativeimportance accorded to subject and professional training.

    It is easier to describe the overall situation if primary and secondary levels aredifferentiated. To begin with the primary level; out of some 15 European countriessurveyed, all have a period of training for future teachers which lasts at least 3 yearsand in many cases begins immediately after the higher secondary school leavingcertificate (i.e. about 18 years of age). Some countries have had 4 or even 5 yearsof such training for some time (Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzer-land, for example), while Denmark, Greece and France have comparatively recently(since the late 1980s) increased the 3-year period. In the vast majority of cases thetraining period includes a combination of subject studies and professional training,involving educational theory plus teaching observation and practice. It is worthnoting that in England and Wales, as well as Scotland, there is a non-compulsoryroute by which future primary teachers can acquire a degree and then go on to dotheir teacher training. In general, however, there is no requirement for futureprimary school teachers to have a degree qualification before commencing theirperiod of training except under the new system which has been recently imple-mented in France and which is described later in this paper.

    Comparisons of the length of training for future secondary teachers is less easyto summarise because there are so many different structures based on a variety ofcombinations of age-breaks. This structural complexity, however, is not our concernhere. The secondary training pattern may, in some cases, be sub-divided into a lowerand an upper level so that teachers are specially trained for one or other level. Inother countries there is no differentiation between secondary levels and a unified

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  • Initial Teacher Training 217

    course prepares all teachers who will be involved in secondary education. In themajority of cases (England and Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland, Scotland,Portugal and Spain) a degree is normally a prerequisite for entry to the trainingcourse, although there are variations. For example, in Belgium and the Netherlandsthere is some professional training element within the degree which is then followedby a more intensive teacher- training course, and in Greece teacher training formspart of the third and fourth years of the degree course. Given the complexity of thedifferent systems it is not easy to establish the precise length of time which is devotedto educational theory, teaching methods and teaching practice.

    In most European countries much closer attention is being given to thequalifications on entry at both primary and secondary level than hitherto. While wehave seen that a degree qualification is rarely required at primary level, it isbecoming increasingly a prerequisite for the secondary level, even the lower sec-ondary level. France is unique in requiring a degree for teacher training at bothlevels. This change may be seen as being the vanguard of the general movement inEurope to lengthen and upgrade the quality and status of professional training and,indeed, the profession as a whole. Furthermore, there is a European-wide tendencyto foster closer relationships between teacher training and university degrees andinstitutions, especially at primary level. Once again, France is in the forefront ofthese initiatives, while in England and Wales, the government seems determined tomove in the opposite direction.

    This brings us to the final general point. In most countries, however theteacher-training programme is developing, there are difficult pedagogical (as well aspolitical and financial) questions simmering beneath the surface. Amongst the mostcontentious of these is: how does one reconcile the conflicting claims within thetraining programme of subject knowledge, on the one hand, and educational andpedagogical theory, plus the development of practical teaching skills, on the other?This controversy is nowhere more passionately addressed than in France.

    Teacher Training in France

    Let us now focus more clearly on recent changes in teacher training in France. First,however, some clarifications. The implementation of the French reforms in teachertraining is at an early stage. Three pilot schemes began at the start of the school year1990-91 and all regional education authorities (academies) were required to set uptheir own IUFMs in university towns 1 year later. All that one can say withconfidence is that progress has been patchy. It would be premature to attempt anevaluation.

    One of the specified objectives of the French reform is to increase recruitment.More teachers are needed to deal with the high increase in the staying-on rateimplied by the objective of 80 % up to the level of the baccalaureata nationalexamination taken at the end of secondary level; there are, in addition, enormousproblems posed by the extremely high rate of retirements before the year 2000. Theminister recognised that these problems could not be solved, even in a period ofrelatively high unemployment, unless he tackled the question of low morale,

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  • 218 J. Holyoake

    unattractive salaries and working conditions, and the need to widen the traditionalpool of recruitment. Some sort of revalorisation ('raising of the status') of theteaching profession was a prerequisite if the government's policy was to be imple-mented. All teachers in French state schools are civil servants and, thus, any changein their salaries and status may have massive repercussions upon the hundreds ofthousands of other civil servants. Revalorisation, therefore, could only be justified ifthere was a corresponding rise in the minimum levels of entrance qualifications aswell as of professional training. Thus, two of the key, declared objectivesrecruitingmore teachers and raising levels of professional competencehave to be seen in thecontext of the overall educational strategy of the then socialist government. Theharsh, practical imperatives were married to the pedagogically desirable.

    THE HISTORICAL DIMENSION OF TEACHER TRAINING IN FRANCE

    Before we can get to the heart of the debate over the IUFMs in France, however,we need to remind ourselves briefly not only of the current political context, but alsoof the crucial organisational and historical dimension of the teaching profession.

    Prior to the introduction to the IUFMs, primary and secondary teachers inFrance were recruited with different qualifications, trained in different ways and indifferent institutionsEcoles Normales d'Instituteurs (ENI) for primary and CentresPedagogiques Regionaux (CPR) for secondary. The distinctive appellations, instituteur/institutrice (primary teachers) and professeur (secondary teachers) have roots deeplyembedded in social, political and religious history.

    One of the principal, divisive, structural features of the French educationalsystem, starting in the early nineteenth century and perpetuated until well intothe second half of the twentieth century, was the existence of two paralleleducational systems. To grasp the significance of this, we have to abandon themodern concept of an educational pyramid in which primary education leadsautomatically on to secondary education for everyone. Two parallel systems existedfor different classes of pupils. The first ensured education for a cultural elitefrom about the age of 6 and onwards, for those capable of it, to the baccalaureat at18 and again beyond that to university. The second, rather patchily to begin with,and only compulsorily and nationally in the 1890s as a result of Jules Ferry'slegislation, provided an elementary level of education for the masses with littleopportunity of continuation beyond what we would now call primary level. Evenwhen pressure led to the creation of classes above this level they were still part of thesame separate branch of primary education. Those who entered the first system hadthe opportunity to take the baccalaureat, to go to university and, if they wereattracted by teaching as a career, would train to become secondary teachers orprofesseurs. Those who entered the second, parallel system had no access to thebaccalaureat, were thus excluded from university and, if they were attracted toteaching could only seek to be trained at an ecole normale as an instituteur/institutrice.Each system was self-enclosed and self-perpetuating; the former was mainly thepreserve of the wealthy or very wealthy, the powerful and the culturally privileged,the latter was for the masses. The latter was viewed in di...

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