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Brussels, 6 August 2007

Teachers need good education too! The Commission proposes to improve the quality of teacher education in the European Union

The European Commission has today set out proposals to improve the quality of teacher training in the EU. High-quality teaching is a prerequisite for high-quality education and training, which are in turn a powerful determinant of Europe’s long-term competitiveness and capacity to create more jobs and growth. If adopted by Member States, the proposals agreed today will ensure that the EU has the highly-educated workforce it will need to face up to the pressures of the 21st century.

Ján Figel’, the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, said “Better teaching and learning are critical for the EU's long-term competitiveness, since a highly educated workforce is a more efficient workforce. I believe we need to ensure that the EU has high-quality teachers if the Member States’ education reforms are to be a success. However, as studies show, there are worrying developments across the EU, with most Member States reporting shortfalls in teachers’ skills, and difficulties in updating them. In today’s Communication, within the scope of its competences, the Commission is urging Member States to address these problems by proposing a set of common guidelines and principles for action".

To prepare their pupils for the EU’s increasingly knowledge-based society, teachers are called upon to teach a new range of skills, which often require new teaching methods. Moreover, teachers are increasingly called upon to teach classes that have pupils from different cultures, mother tongues, ability levels and levels of special needs.

However, many teachers report that they are uneasy about using new technologies in the classroom. Furthermore, analysis by the European Commission shows that current systems for teacher training and education in the Member States are often failing to give teachers the training they need. Indeed, in some Member States there is little systematic coordination between different elements of teacher education, which leads to a lack of coherence and continuity, especially between teachers’ initial professional education and their subsequent induction, in-service training and professional development.

Further, the Commission's analysis reveals that investment in continuous training and development of the teaching workforce is low. For example:

  • In-service training is compulsory in only 11 Member States[1];
  • Where in-service training exists, training generally amounts to less than 20 hours per year, and is never more than five days per year;
  • Only half of the countries in Europe offer new teachers any systematic kind of support (e.g. induction, training, mentoring) in their first years of teaching;

The European Commission is working closely with the Member States to improve the quality of teacher education in the EU, as part of an overall process of policy cooperation in the field of education and training that encourages and supports national reforms. This cooperation has led to the present Commission Communication. It outlines a common framework for policies to improve the quality of teacher education. The document responds to a request, expressed in the 2004 Council and Commission Joint Report on Progress Towards the Lisbon Objectives in the Fields of Education and Training, that a set of common European principles be developed to improve the competences and qualifications of teachers and trainers.

The Communication provides Member States with a number of broad orientations for developing policies and practices. These include:

  • ensuring that all teachers have access to the knowledge, attitudes and pedagogic skills that they require to be effective;
  • ensuring that provision for teachers' education and professional development is coordinated, coherent, and adequately resourced;
  • promoting a culture of reflective practice and research among teachers;
  • promoting the status and recognition of the teaching profession; and
  • supporting the professionalisation of teaching.

Please see also: Memo/07/320.

[1] Austria, Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Finland, Hungaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Malta, United Kingdom

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