Maybe a bit of an acquired taste, but I like it: the history of teacher education and politics in England and Russia

When talking about research in education people tend to think about observations, surveys, maybe even anthropological research, but I’ve noticed that historical research is often overlooked. So maybe, this new comparative study is a bit of an acquired taste, but I like it as it looks how teacher training has developed during the past 4 decades in 2 very different regions: England and Russia. I do hope that indeed other countries will be added to the comparison.

From the press release:

The paper, titled “A tale of two countries – forty years on: politics and teacher education in Russia and England”, came out in European Journal of Teacher Education.

Professor Valeeva commented, “We chose England of the four countries of the United Kingdom because it has a peculiar system of teacher education. The last 40 years in the two compared nations have been somewhat alike in policy changes and decision-making in teacher education. So we made that decision on the scope.”

She mentioned some of those changes in Soviet Union and Russia, such as the closing of specialized teacher education universities and the program “Teacher of the Soviet Union” of 1988 which introduced concepts of inseparability of productive and reproductive functions of teaching staff and continuous education.

“In the late 80s there was research on a comprehensive model of teacher personality, a new emphasis on psychological testing of enrollees of pedagogical institutions. In particular, such research was conducted at Kazan Pedagogical Institute.”

“The 90s became truly transformative for the Russian educational system – processes of economic, political and social reform warranted the reshaping of educational approaches in ideological, methodological and conceptual aspects.”

Three stages of post-Soviet development of teacher education are mentioned in the article. Dr. Valeeva said this about the latest which started in 2013 – 2014, “Many pedagogical universities have been closed or merged with classical universities. The latter always provided fundamental knowledge, whereas the former were strong in practice-oriented studies. A new balance should have been found in these circumstances, which in the case of Kazan University proved to be feasible.”

“A unique structure of teacher education was formed at KFU, where advantages of specialized and classical universities were combined to create variable study trajectories for future teachers, namely, traditional, distributed, and integrated programs.”

The influence of globalization has created some similarities in the very different educational systems of Russia and the UK.

“The more visible traits of similarity are in the decisions to create specific standards of teacher education. Both Russia and England aspire to do just that.”, said our interviewee.

As an external observer, Professor Menter noted the comparatively bigger attention to psychological aspects in Russian teacher education. This can be seen at KFU as well. He opined that the integration of pedagogics and psychology is rather efficient.

Further plans include studies of the evolution of teacher education in the context of policy changes in different countries. A monograph is planned for publication at Oxford University Press.

Abstract of the study:

The relationships between politics and teacher education have become increasingly close over recent decades in many contexts around the world, often causing significant challenges as well as some opportunities. In this article, we draw on a project on the reform of teacher education in Russia and through a comparison with the development of teacher education policy in England – especially over the last forty years – we explore how the evolution of a new politics in both contexts has affected policy on teaching and teacher education. Looking, for example, at ‘post-communism’ and ‘neoliberalism’ and their respective impacts on political systems, a number of contradictions and paradoxes are identified, when comparisons are drawn between the two systems.

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