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date: 19 October 2019

Summary and Keywords

The structure of teacher education in Germany has to be regarded in close connection with the structure of the German school system. Five different types of teachers (five Lehrämter) correspond to the several levels and types of schools in Germany. All teachers are educated and trained as part of a process consisting of two phases: During the first phase of five years, all future teachers attend university and study their two or three specialized subjects as well as education, while carrying out internships in schools. After that, they pass over to the second phase at a specialized teacher-training institution that prepares them for the necessities of practical classroom teaching in their subjects. This second phase lasts one-and-a-half or—in three of the sixteen German Länder—up to two years. Having passed the final state examination they apply for an available position at a school. The system of initial teacher education in Germany is very intensive and ambitious; on the contrary, the in-service or further education of teachers is not very well developed. This article sketches the basic structure of teacher education in Germany. As Germany is a federal state consisting of 16 Länder, and as school and teacher education matters are decided at the level of these Länder, each Land has its specific teacher education system, slightly different from the general model.

Teacher education has been and is criticized constantly: the courses at university are not sufficiently connected to the requirements of the second phase and the later work the students must carry out in schools. Because of this constant critique teacher education is continuously being reformed. As part of a general reform of the higher education system, teacher education was integrated into the bachelor’s-master’s system (the Bologna process). Not all hopes linked to this reform have come to fruition. Some other reforms deserve a mention. In the universities, Centers for Teacher Education have been established to organize and supervise all processes and actors involved in teacher education. Internships in schools have been expanded and restructured. Standards for all curricular elements of teacher education have been developed on the level of the federate state and have been adopted in Länder and universities very slowly. In some of the Länder, the differing lengths and academic levels of the different teacher education programs for the different types of teachers (Lehrämter), which formerly led to different salary levels and career opportunities, have in parts been graded up to the top level.

Nevertheless, teacher education in Germany is characterized by profound and persistent problems. All resources and hopes are still directed toward initial teacher education. In-service teacher education remains underdeveloped. The career system of qualified teachers in service does not mirror the career path of a teacher; in-service training does not respond to the processes and problems of individual teacher development. The changing conditions in the labor market for teachers undermine efforts to improve the quality of teacher education in a sustainable way. On the positive side, it can be noted that in Germany—and worldwide—research on teacher education, its processes and results has grown rapidly in the last two decades.

Keywords: teacher education, research on teacher education, teacher education reform, school system, Germany

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