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Title: European integration, social change and new challenges in the training of teachers in Spain : more questions than answers
Other Titles: Teacher education in the Euro Mediterranean region
Authors: Villanueva, Maria
Keywords: Teachers -- Training of -- Spain
Education -- Spain
Comparative education
Issue Date: 2002
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.
Citation: Villanueva, M. (2002). European integration, social change and new challenges in the training of teachers in Spain : more questions than answers. In R. G. Sultana (Ed.), Teacher education in the Euro Mediterranean region (pp. 231-250). New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.
Abstract: The current phase of economical development is characterized by a new labor process: the introduction of new technologies and work practices is designed, in the global system, to obtain greater flexibility in production, labor and markets, and to quicken rates of innovation and capital circulation. Communication technologies have opened up access to information in an impressive manner, but that access is asymmetrical, and closely related to uneven world development. Apparent predictability and security is being replaced by complexity, uncertainty and increasing apprehension (Huckle, 1996; Meadows, 1992). This not only produces new fractures in society, with new status and class divisions becoming evident, but it also has a significant cultural impact (Harvey, 1989). In this context of change, new inequalities and competition are arising and their tensions are reflected in education. Traditionally, educational policies in democratic countries have attempted to balance those tensions emphasizing social and cultural values. However, in our times, an everincreasing utilitarian spirit seems to reinforce the need for work-related 'basic skills' and 'useful knowledge', which predominates over any consideration of social values (Hartley, 1993). On the one hand, pupils, as future citizens, are expected to learn and apply democratic values and to be aware of the global repercussions of their actions and choices. They are therefore expected to acquire, thorough schooling, the skills and critical thinking that will enable them to understand and interpret the messages and the superabundance of information given by worldwide media. On the other hand, however, much information tends to erode traditional values, supplying little other than facts. Due to European historical processes, most countries' demographic composition is multi-cultural. The consolidation of national-states during the 19th century left within their territorial borders many linguistic and cultural minorities. One of the main goals of schooling was homogeneization as a strategy to reinforce clear distinctions between states, cultures and languages. Social 'minorities', especially linguistic ones, were ignored in the process, and national systems of teacher training were used as an instrument to convey the concepts and values of the national state. After World War II, European economic growth was sustained by intense flows of migrants both from the northern region and from the eastern and southern ones as well. These flows increased the cultural pluralism and heterogeneity of European states that constitutes, nowadays, one of the most important pedagogical challenges that requires clear social policies. But the issue here is that contemporary European societies, being at one and the same time capitalistic and democratic, have principles that are not easily reconcilable. The democratization of schooling, the massification of compulsory education, and the search for efficiency in educational systems have been some of the steps taken to respond to the ever increasing requirements of the global system. Traditionally, the school has been the main instrument to erase diversity as well as to silence the problems and complaints of minorities. In our days, education for pluralism and respect for human rights is seen as a present and future need. In recent years, the increasing pressure for neo-liberal political reform has placed teachers and school systems in the eye of the hurricane. The decline in educational standards, the increasing incidence of violence and bullying, and the lack of ethical and social values are some of the charges made against schooling. Teachers were held responsible not only for their work, but also for the failure of the school system. As a result, teachers have become more subject to control and inspection, even as at the discursive level the principles of pedagogical autonomy are widely declared. Increasingly, schools are held as solely responsible for the results they achieve, with teachers being required to be competent in new skills, to expand their knowledge horizons, and to facilitate the personal development of future citizens. While such demands are, in themselves, positive, the problem is that there is an underlying assumption that school can address and cope with new labor requirements, and can somehow resolve new social needs and conflicts generated by broader social processes. As it is clearly pointed out in the Delors Report (Delors, 1996), the four pillars that constitute the foundations of education are 'learning to be, learning to know, learning to do and learning to live together' . This implies a global understanding of education, and the coming about of a society which links formal and non-formal provision in such a way as to facilitate the move towards lifelong learning, widening access to knowledge and information, and ensuring that new social fractures are not created by uneven opportunities. The role of teachers, from this point of view, is becoming crucial for preparing young people not only for looking confidently to the future but also for building it by themselves in a responsible way. In the case of Spain, the latest reforms in teacher education are a good example of all these tensions. The increasing demands made on the school have made themselves felt through debates on the content of the curriculum for the preparation of new teachers, for instance, with the latest reforms demonstrating the difficulties of matching practical and professional skills with theoretical knowledge. The objective was to maintain theoretical rigor while emphasizing field-based practice, but what happened in reality was the privileging of the latter at the expense of the former. Another contradiction has therefore become manifest: schools are expected to socialize students by conveying attitudes and values that will reduce societal conflict, but teachers are deprived of the kind of broad intellectual formation that ensures an understanding of the wider context. It is only if and when teachers have the intellectual tools that enable deeper theoretical reflection about society that they will be able to establish clear objectives for their professional action. A three years diploma, one less than other University degrees, is placing teacher training in a difficult dilemma between requirements that are not always wholly compatible: technical efficiency and educational quality in an ever increasingly complex society.
ISBN: 0820462160
Appears in Collections:Teacher education in the Euro-Mediterranean region

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