Internationally, the status of teachers is fraught with ambiguity, contradiction, and complexity. Status, simply defined as one’s “standing in society,” has undergone many redefinitions as lives and societies have become more nuanced and complex. Status, historically ascribed through inheritance and wealth, has been largely replaced by status achieved through individual effort, study, and achievement. The medical, legal, and clerical professions have traditionally enjoyed high status for their specialist qualifications and social responsibility, although the correlation between academic success and the comfortable family socioeconomic circumstances in which many aspiring to these professions also lends them a large element of ascribed status. Teachers experience a status paradox. For many, teaching has been a route out of the working class toward a more professional status. Teachers, in many countries but not universally, are highly trained, well qualified, dedicated, and trusted in their communities. Relative to the medical profession, however, teachers are poorly paid, and experience poor working conditions, limited professional autonomy, and high accountability. Their participation in trade union activities prompts debate as to whether teaching should be classed as a “profession.” Yet, despite the 1966 UNESCO and the International Labour Organization’s strong recommendation that teaching should be recognized as a profession and accorded high status, it remains at best a semiprofessional occupation. There is great variation across the globe in public respect and government treatment of teachers. International comparative surveys lack overall consensus but suggest that teachers in Taiwan, major Chinese cities, and Finland enjoy high status as compared with those in Brazil, Israel, and Italy, for example. Classic theories of status include those of Karl Marx and Max Weber. For Marx it is determined by socioeconomic status, but for Weber cultural and social affiliations can outweigh economic factors. Teaching straddles the two. Twentieth-century theorists, such as Talcott Parsons in the United States, have linked status to educational achievement. Pierre Bourdieu relates status to social reproduction of social class-related “habitus” in taste and consumption and Anthony Giddens to individual lifestyle choices not necessarily related to status. Recent research in England supports Weber’s cultural determinants, but international surveys reveal complex and debatable relationships between pay, student performance, and status. High percentages of the public think teachers deserve higher salaries that are linked to performance. Teaching as a lifestyle choice still appears to be motivated at least as much by intrinsic, “psychic” rewards as by well as extrinsic ones. Teachers rate their own status lower than do those who work with them. A recent international survey of teachers found over two-thirds in general, and over 95% in Sweden, France, and the Slovak Republic, thought teaching was not valued in society. The portrayal of teachers in the media may be relevant here. While this has become more positive in tone and prominence in England since the 1990s, there are wide cultural differences internationally. Improving teacher status is a complex challenge. Potential contributory factors include higher entry standards and competition to join; the creation of professional associations, as opposed to unions; improved and safe conditions of work; higher pay linked to performance; professional autonomy and involvement in decision-making; and teachers themselves rating their status more highly. The UNESCO Global Sustainable Development Goals for Education 2030 provide a set of overarching aims for the future of teacher status, envisaging teachers not as adults in a child’s world, but as orchestrators of national sustainable development.
Linda Hargreaves and Julia Flutter
Dries Vansteenkiste, Estelle Swart, Piet Van Avermaet, and Elke Struyf
Any answer to the question “What is professional development (PD) for inclusive education (IE)?” needs to be based on a deep understanding of the nature of IE. Taking fully into account its multileveled nature, encompassing inclusive practice, policy, advocacy, and philosophy, IE appears as a “glocal” phenomenon that is affected by institutions (e.g., accountability, new public management, and neoliberalism) with which it can resonate or collide, resulting in tensions within the educational field. These tensions complicate the endeavors of teachers to orient themselves and their actions because different institutions conceptualize teaching and the role of teachers differently, demanding different and sometimes conflicting things from them. Further, teachers also need to give meaning to perceived similarities, differences, and conflicts between these professionalisms and elements of their own professional identity. This results in specific concerns for teachers and imposes challenges for teachers’ agency. PD based on this understanding of IE refers to creating and exploiting spaces where the different actors involved address the complexities of, and coconstruct, a teaching profession that is inclusive. This conceptualization implies formal and informal, social and local, embedded, open-ended practices that can strengthen teacher agency. To do this, it needs to recognize the teacher as being at the center of PD. These spaces are experimental zones for the exertion of agency, incorporating transformative ideals which can involve developing a different behavior repertoire, changing the immediate professional context, or addressing contradictory institutions. As such, PD is not regarded as the prerequisite for IE, but as its consequence.
Stephen M. Ritchie
STEM education in schools has become the subject of energetic promotion by universities and policymakers. The mythical narrative of STEM in crisis has driven policy to promote STEM education throughout the world in order to meet the challenges of future workforce demands alongside an obsession with high-stakes testing for national and international comparisons as a proxy for education quality. Unidisciplinary emphases in the curriculum have failed to deliver on the goal to attract more students to pursue STEM courses and careers or to develop sophisticated STEM literacies. A radical shift in the curriculum toward integrated STEM education through multidisciplinary/ interdisciplinary/ transdisciplinary projects is required to meet future challenges. Project-based activities that engage students in solving real-world problems requiring multiple perspectives and skills that are authentically assessed by autonomous professional teachers are needed. Governments and non-government sponsors should support curriculum development with teachers, and their continuing professional development in this process. Integrating STEM with creative expression from the arts shows promise at engaging students and developing their STEM literacies. Research into the efficacy of such projects is necessary to inform authorities and teachers of possibilities for future developments. Foci for further research also are identified.