By / March 20, 2014

Teacher education in Europe

Teachers are vital for young people to develop their talents and acquire the knowledge and skills they need in a…

© XtravaganT / Fotolia
© XtravaganT / Fotolia
© XtravaganT / Fotolia

Teachers are vital for young people to develop their talents and acquire the knowledge and skills they need in a rapidly changing world. Continued teacher education which allows teachers to cope with these challenges is thus of high importance. Despite the fact that there more than 28 different teacher training systems in place across the EU, the European Parliament in its resolution of September 2008 on the improvement of teacher education quality (P6_TA(2008)0422) stressed that in essence these challenges are common to all Member States. The resolution, taking into account the Commission’s communication COM (2007) 392 final and its attached impact assessment SEC (2007) 931 addressed 36 proposals to Council, Commission, the Member States, OECD, Unesco and the Council of Europe. Key proposals were: more and better quality teacher education, and recruiting best candidates as priorities for all education ministries; promoting continuous and coherent professional development for teachers throughout their careers; regular opportunities for all teachers to update their skills and qualifications (qualifications should be recognised in all Member States); need for transnational exchange of experience; particular attention be paid to new teachers’ initial induction; mentoring programmes; composition of teaching workforce at all levels should represent social and cultural diversity within society; teachers’ participation in critical reflection; ensuring teaching is an attractive and fulfilling profession with good career prospects. The European Commission’s 2013 Education and Training Monitor report (p. 33) found out that continuing professional development is now considered a professional duty in 28 education systems. However only in 8 of them it is clearly linked to promotion. During the 2014 Greek Presidency of the Council the subject will be re-assessed.

The European Parliament has closely followed the developments in the field, which is also reflected by a considerable number of questions to Commission and Council. This is a selection of the most recent ones. In the framework of its communication on “Rethinking Education” (see Library Keysource) the Commission introduced an evaluation of the present situation (SWD (2012) 374 final) and the Greek Presidency anounced in its programme (p.55) that it “… will build on the European Commission’s presentation of April 2013, following the Conference held by the Irish Presidency on “The Professional Identity of Teacher Educators” with the aim of adopting relevant Council Conclusions at the June 2014 Education and Youth Council“.


Improving the quality of teacher education – Summary of EU legislation on the European Commission’s website

Key Data on Teachers and School Leaders in Europe / Eurydice, 2013 – Factsheet presenting the study and providing a link to the fulltext.

Teachers’ professional development: Europe in international comparison: an analysis of teachers’ professional development based on the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) / Jaap Scheerens for the European Commission, Luxembourg 2010

Teacher Education and Training in the Western Balkans / Eurydice, 2013

The European Parliament’s DG IPol (PolDep B) is preparing a study on the “Outlook of Primary Teacher Training in Europe” which is foreseen to be published in April 2014 (anounced in the PolDep B’s February newsletter)


OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) collects information from teachers and schools about their working conditions and the learning environments. It covers in particular initial teacher education and professional development; appraisal and feedback for teachers; the school climate; school leadership; and teachers’ instructional beliefs and pedagogical practices. The final survey is due in April 2014. The project has been running since 2008 and is covering 33 countries – a number of intermediate results have already been published. You may find them on the respective OECD pages.

Teachers in Europe – Main Trends, Issues and Challenges / Vlasta Vizek Vidović and Vlatka Domović. in: Croatian Journal of Education, (2013) vol. 15, Sp.Ed. 3, p. 219-250

Developing High‐Quality Teachers: teacher evaluation for improvement / Looney, Janet. in: European Journal of Education – Research Development and Policies (2011) vol. 46, is. 4, p. 440-455

Key Competences in Europe: Opening Doors For Lifelong Learners Across the School Curriculum and Teacher Education / Jean Gordon et al. 2009: The study was commissioned by DG EAC of the European Commission and undertaken by a consortium led by CASE (Center for Social and Economic Research, Poland). It provides a comparative overview of policy and practice concerning the development and implementation of key competences in the education systems of the EU’s 27 Member States. In particular, the study assesses the implementation of the 8 key competences contained in the European Reference Framework of Key Competences in primary and secondary schools across the EU as well as the extent to which initial and in-service education and training of teachers equips them with the necessary skills and competences.

Learning to Teach and its Implications for the Continuum of Teacher Education: a Nine-Country Cross-National Study / Conway, Paul; Murphy, Rosaleen; Rath, Anne and Hall, Kathy. School of Education, University College, Cork, IE, 2009 [comparing Ireland, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Finland, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States and Poland].

Teacher education policy in Europe : a voice of higher education institutions / Brian Hudson and Pavel Zgaga (eds.) Brian Hudson and Pavel Zgaga. Faculty of Teacher Education, Umeå and Center for Educational Policy Studies, University of Ljubljana, 2008.

How the best performing education systems in the world come out on top / Michael Barber, Mona Mourshed. McKinsey, 2007

Insights into relevant features of teacher competences can be found in a report on the international study project on “European Profile for Language Teacher Education – A Frame of Reference“. The report by the same name from Michael Kelly and Michael Grenfell et al. was published in September 2004 and “proposes the European Profile for language teacher education in the 21st century. It deals with the initial and in-service education of foreign language teachers in primary, secondary and adult learning contexts and it offers a frame of reference for language education policy makers and language teacher educators in Europe.” [from the executive summary]. By Michael Grenfell there is also a brief brochure offering a comprehensive guide to the frame of reference, outlining each item and presenting strategies for its implementation and practical application.

Stakeholder views

The European Commission runs a webpage on “The Teaching Professions” where it presents studies, policy papers and official EU documents (e.g. Council conclusions of 2007, 2008 and 2009). Among others you may find “Literature review: Quality in Teachers’ continuing professional development.” / Francesca Caena, European Commission, June 2011 and a Study of the feasibility of a long-term school education staff mobility action / Eurydice, 2013. The Commission also launched the “Opening up Education” initiative (see the roadmap as well as the Library’s keysource on intranet / internet), which includes issues of teacher education.  The issue is also monitored in the “Education and Training Monitor“, particularly in chapter 3.3 of the 2013 report, p. 33-34

The Association for Teacher Education in Europe (ATEE) is a non-profit European organisation, composed by individuals and institutions. They publish the European Journal of Teacher Education and provide policy views on relevant issues.

The European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) is the teachers’ social partner at European level and a defender of teachers’ interests to the European Commission. ETUCE was established in 1977. Their views are published in the publications section of the website, the most recent document on teacher education dates to 2008: “Teacher Education in Europe. An ETUCE Policy Paper

Teacher Education Policy in Europe (TEPE) is an academic network with the goals to advance research in and on Teacher Education, increase mobility and extend the European dimension in Teacher Education and enhance quality through the renewal of evaluation cultures in Teacher Education. Their latest position paper dates from 2007.

Unesco’s 2014 Mobile Learning Week was focussed on teacher education as “teachers are the pillars of education systems and their involvement is crucial to the viability of ICT in education efforts.” Unesco also maintains a section on teacher education.


Key data on education in Europe 2012. Eurostat, 2012. In particular chapter E on teachers and management staff (p. 109 ff)

Eurostat statistics tables: Pupil/teacher ratio in primary education / Teaching staff / Pupil/Student – teacher ratio and average class size (ISCED 1-3) / Teachers (ISCED 0-4) and academic staff (ISCED 5-6) by age and sex / Teachers (ISCED 0-4) and academic staff (ISCED 5-6) by employment status (full-time, part-time, full-time equivalence) and sexTeachers stays abroad (ISCED 0-4, Erasmus Programme) as % of academic staff (ISCED 5-6)

The Unesco Institute for Statistics (UIS) provides a core set of teacher indicators based on its administrative data collection. This includes traditional indicators, such as: trends in teacher numbers; pupil-teacher ratios; and data on trained teachers.

OECD TALIS (see above) survey raw data and technical guides

EU Programmes and Projects

Teacher education is part of the Education and Training 2020 – Strategic framework (ET2020).

Mobility of teachers is supported via the Erasmus+ programme.

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