Primary education is a process that takes children as they are, and leads them towards what they can become. It starts from a context and moves towards an aim. There may in fact be a series of contexts and a number of aims, but that basic model of the process of primary education remains the same. Primary teaching is the most creative career and primary school teacher has to be very good and lovely.
Primary teachers usually take responsibility for a group of children, spending most of their day with the one class. They have many opportunities for creativity in the classroom, devising programs that are exciting and challenging for their students.
Primary teachers are generally expected to teach in seven key learning areas: English, Mathematics, Science, Technology, Health and Physical Education, The Arts, and Studies of Society and Environment.
The primary school teacher as professional
We can define professionality at this point as the set of professional knowledge, skills and values entailed in proffessional practice. One is thus concerned with exploring the degree to which primary scool techers have, over recent years, been upgrading their knowledge, enhancing their skills and developing the values tat are inherent in truly proffesional work. In the first place, although the study of teachers and teching in Europe has in recent years developed to the degree that makes a volume such as this possible, there are not yet sufficient comparative data to enable detailed comparisions to be made across system and over time. But more important is the fact that professionality remains a contested concept. The teacher’s job is very hard and responsible so they must be professional in own job.
The teacher’s role in most societes has been undergoing considerable expansion. This role has perhaps occurred most clearly at the secondary level, but the primary school teacher is also beset by increasing expectations, not only in terms of subject matter knowledge. The areas in which the teacher’s role has been under pressure to expand include the following: responsiveness to parental expectations, social education, pastoral care, curriculum development, school management, technological development, assessment, links with other priffesionals in the social and welfare fields, combating discrimination, and professional development.
European countries tend to have flat career structures for primary school teachers. In some system, career achievement is seen in terms of a move from primary school teaching into teaching in the lower secondary school, a move that is related to achievement in an academic subject. Although it is a contentious matter, there is perhaps a case for increasing the career opportunities of teacher within the primary sytem, so long as – and this is the practical difficulty – progression is associated with increased professionality achieved through proffesional development.
The teaching lacks the status of the primary education and other proffesions has been attributed to a varety of factors. These can be grouped as follows:
• Knowledge and skill: Teachers are regarded as needing a lower level of expertise than major professionals.
• Autonomy: Teachers are seen as being more bureaucratically constrained than proffesionals in private practice and even professionals employed in organisations.
• Characteristics of teacher: The social class background and educational achievements are lower than those of the major professions and theis personality characteristics are believed to be ‘unenterprising’.