General information about the programme
The proposal for the organization and implementation of the study programme in teacher education is an outcome of objective social (cultural and economic) needs and has been designed on the basis of an analysis of the current situation in the Croatian school system as well as of the prospects of its development.
The starting points for the organization of the programme are based on the following facts:
- That "elementary education is compulsory for all children, as a rule, from the age of five to the age of fifteen", that the elementary school has been divided into two cycles – the so called general classes (razredna nastava) and specialized classes (predmetna nastava). This is true for almost all developed European countries: education is divided into two basic cycles – primary education, or elementary school, which lasts for a period of, as a rule, six years, and compulsory education for a period, with no exceptions, of ten years at least, where the term of "primary education" has been used according to the ISCED system.
- That in the elementary schools of the Republic of Croatia the classes from year one to year four have been organized as general (razredna) – as a rule with one teacher-to-one class ratio (the organization of "team teaching" is possible as well).
- That general teacher obligations can be fulfilled by a person with adequate university qualifications.
- That teacher colleges remain constituent parts of the universities, that the academic community has reached common agreement on further organizing teacher education as a university study programme, which has also been the intention of Croatian educational policy, and that in this way the desired "coordination with the European educational area" will come true.
The Department of Teacher Education of the University of Split has a large student recruitment pool. It meets the requirements for teacher profession renewal as well as the development needs in the primary education system in Split and Dalmatia County and Dubrovnik and Neretva County as well as in the major part of Šibenik and Knin County. A considerable number of students come from the neighbouring country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In the creation of the curriculum attention has been paid to broad competencies which are wider in their scope than subject matter-specific competencies. Broader competencies require continuing professional development. The general structure of the study programme is in compliance with guidelines for teacher education programmes which emphasize the fostering of professional autonomy and reflective practice. In a broad perspective, the teaching profession can be broken down into four areas:
1. aims of education,
2. subject of education (child),
3. content of education (knowledge, skills),
4. methods of education.
A particular pedagogical act relies on the understanding of the basic principles and ideas in each problem area and it depends on understanding their interrelations. It is a well-known fact that there are no final answers to the fundamental questions for any of these areas, rather antinomies prevail. Therefore, teacher education is very demanding regarding its desired outcomes. It should ensure that the student acquires quite a large number of competencies. Given the facts that a teacher’s expertise is multifaceted, that teaching is not a routine job but rather a profession that requires commitment and an individual approach, that school education may strongly affect the personality of the pupil, that education takes place within complex and changing social contexts, that it involves day-to-day pedagogical choices dependent on the understanding of deeply rooted and open questions – it seems that the required competencies are “second-order competencies”, i.e. competencies related to one’s own competencies. In this respect the ability to reflect on, to evaluate and to revise theories which provide the grounds for pedagogical choices, and the ability to control and govern one’s own professional development, seem to be crucial teacher competencies. Briefly put, the teaching profession requires a rich variety of competencies. It would be a challenging theoretical task to develop a complete normative taxonomy of professional competencies for teachers. Instead, we provide a few examples. The professional competencies of a quality teacher range from a sensitivity to questions of human existence to the ability to create a rich learning environment, they should cover all aspects of educational literacy from communicative skills to the educational uses of information and communication technology, and so on.
Given the complexity and changing context of the profession, performative competencies are to be complemented with the ability to reflect, to evaluate, to research, to update and to upgrade them. Therefore, the competencies that are required of a good teacher must include second order competencies for reflective practice and self-governed professional development. On the level of curriculum design the University of Split hopes to enhance the acquisition of both performative and second-order competencies by: covering their elements through each course and by using a concurrent model of teacher education in which the educational study programme provides the backbone of the curriculum and is integrated in the teaching practice and subject didactics. On the level of educational policy, continuous professional development is promoted through annual teacher conferences in which practitioners present their educational projects, where diverse workshops are organized and where an environment for collegial discussion is provided.
The proposed structure of the study programme relies on the results of scientific research, in the first place, on that in which teachers of the Department of Teacher Education take part as well as on the results of other scientific research. The proposed study programmes have been adapted to the study programmes of the leading related foreign institutions of higher education, among which we emphasize those from Slovenia, Ireland and Finland.
The Master of Primary Education study programme is implemented through the basic study programme and a chosen specialist module. The modules can be:
- early foreign language learning module,
- module for applying information and communications technology in learning and teaching,
- module with additional different fields of training for the accomplishment and organization of special educational programmes in primary education.
The student chooses one module and one mandatory course from each study field. The early language learning module educates the graduated student to implement the early language learning programme in primary education. The module for applying information and communications technology (ICT) in learning and teaching makes the graduated student competent for various educational uses of ICT. Modules in other fields provide the graduated student with additional competences and educate him/her to implement and organize special educational programmes in primary education.