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Who is the 'dreamteacher'?: teacher education policy from a critical cosmopolitan perspective
Örebro universitet.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5554-6041
2013 (English)Conference paper, (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Purpose

Phelan & Sumsion (2008) raised the question about what is, and what is not, perceived in teacher education, from the premise that until we can address what is absent, it will be difficult to catch sight of an alternative teacher education. In this paper I examine policy texts on teacher education, as authoritative and discursive influential texts, through a cosmopolitan lens. The purpose of the study is to contrast a (perceived) internationalized perspective on teacher education with economical overtones, and a (not perceived) perspective on teacher education from a 'capabilities approach', developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, to examine how ‘new’ questions can generate new discourses concerning teacher competences. The question posed here is: How can the ‘capabilities approach’ contribute to develop a deepened understanding of teacher education policy as an important factor in the struggle for reducing inequalities and poverty?  

Introduction

From the perspective of education as a basic need and a fundamental right for all (Nussbaum 2000, Sen 1999); and with Nussbaum’s words “the key to all the human capabilities” (Nussbaum 2007, p. 322), teacher education concerns all nations, and we can ask, from a cosmopolitan perspective, which 'sets of capabilities' does a specific teacher education promote? For example, does this specific teacher education pay attention to a range of perspectives, global as well as national and local, or does it narrow the scope of educational questions to themes of skills and basic knowledge?  As Sen (1999, p. 19) notes, a capability is based on the freedom and power to do something and this power also can make room for demands of duty. Hence, the analytical question can be formulated as: what professional duties are emphasized in transnational policy texts on teacher education?  

 

Background

There is an increasing income inequality in OECD countries. It first started in the United Kingdom and the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but from the late 1980s the increase in income inequality became more widespread. In the beginning of the 2000s, there is a widening gap between the rich and the poor, both in high-inequality countries and in traditionally low-inequality countries. Examples of the latter are Germany, Denmark and Sweden, where inequality grew more than in other OECD countries in the 2000s (OECD 2011a). When it comes to inequality patterns for the seven largest emerging economies, they all have levels of income inequality significantly higher than the OECD average (OECD 2011b). The concept of poverty in these findings is perceived as a relative measure: as the difference between the group who have the lowest income and the group who have the highest income (OECD 2011a). The European Union Member States, who also are Member States in the OECD, have as one of their targets for “Europe 2020” to reduce the number of Europeans living below the national poverty lines with 25 % (or 20 million people). So poverty, or inequality, is a current problem also in ‘rich’ countries. As part of the efforts to tackle poverty, EU has formulated another, interrelated, target: to reduce early school leavers from 15% to 10 % in 2020 (European Commission 2010). On the African continent the conditions are different, and poverty is here measured in more absolute terms. According to the African Union Commission (2009, p. 14), a third of the people in much of the Continent are underfed and more than 40 per cent live in conditions of poverty. The conclusion that can be drawn from policy documents and reports from these three international policy organizations are that though the underlying forces of inequality are different between the OECD countries, the emerging economy nations and the countries on the African continent, education are on the list of proposed policy solutions for all three organizations. The policy recommendations claims that access to basic education and higher educational attainment are important; however, to serve as effective tools against poverty these opportunities also must be spread more widely between different social groups (OECD 2011a,b, European Commission 2010, African Union Commission 2009). As shown above, there is no absolute definition of poverty. In the paper I use the poverty definition formulated by the OECD: “An income level that is considered minimally sufficient to sustain a family in terms of food, housing, clothing, medical needs and so on” (OECD glossary), and contrast it with Sen’s (1999, p. 75) definition of capability as “the freedom to achieve alternative functioning combinations.”

 

Theoretical framework

The new global knowledge economy is based in an understanding of the economic importance of education. Michael Peters distinguishes between a view of a knowledge economy which posits the economy as subordinate to the state and as providing grounds for ‘education as a welfare right and the recognition of knowledge rights as a basis for social inclusion and informed citizenship’, and a view that sees the knowledge economy only in the service of trade and industry (Peters 2001, p. 13). In the international arena, organizations like the OECD and the European Union have increased their efforts in the field of educational policy (e.g. Grek et al. 2009; Grek & Ozga 2010; Dale & Robertson 2009). A ‘global education policy’, circulating, transformed and ‘borrowed’ between international education policy arenas and nations, has emphasised concepts such as ‘quality assurance’ and ‘teacher quality’ which has had the effect that teacher training has become a focal point for policy interest. In research on international educational policy, exemplified by the references above, the research results are centered around concepts as ‘globalization’ and ‘marketization’. Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) have also marked an increased interest in the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) concerning education during the last two decades, and the collaboration between the two forms of organizations has been intensified, exemplified by the Education for All movement (EFA ) and the Global Campaign for Education (GCE); where in the latter, Oxfam International has played a leading role (Munday & Murphy 2001). In the paper, I complement the current research on international policy of education with a cosmopolitan perspective; and more specifically, with the perspective of ‘capablities approach’. According to Amartya Sen (1999), there is a strong case for seeing poverty as deprivation of basic capabilities and not only, which is the most commonly used in international comparisons, as lack of income and wealth. “The shift in perspective is important in giving us a different – and more directly relevant – view on poverty not only in the developing countries, but also in the more affluent societies” (Sen 1999, p. 20).     

The relation between cosmopolitanism and the 'capabilities approach', with Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum as its proponents, is ambiguous. Hansen (2011) understands the capabilities approach as part of an economic cosmopolitanism, influenced by values from political and moral cosmopolitanism, in its arguing for a bottom-up perspective on human capabilities, while acknowledging the need for institutional support. There are both similarities and differences in Nussbaum’s and Sen’s concepts of capabilities. Both agree on Sen’s attempt to create a space for understanding quality of life as what people are actually able to do or to be. Nussbaum, however, more explicitly relates the capabilities approach to rights for each person (Nussbaum 2000, p. 13). Further, while Nussbaum emphasizes the notion of “human dignity”, Sen stresses the notion of “public reasoning”, i.e. a person’s capacity to read, communicate, participate, argue, being listened to, being able to make informed choices and decisions and to participate in democratic deliberations (Nussbaum 2000, Sen 1999). The link that can be drawn between the capabilities approach and cosmopolitanism is that the scope of the capability approach (as a philosophical work) applies “to all human beings independently of their country of birth or residence, and not only to social institutions but also to the social ethos and to social practices” (Robeyns 2011, p. 18).  Thus, I place the capabilities approach in the strand of cosmopolitanism that primarily understands cosmopolitanism as a principle of justice; in contrast to the other main strand that understands cosmopolitanism as culture (Scheffler 2001). An additional clarification can be made by contrasting institutional and moral cosmopolitanism, and thereby placing cosmopolitan global justice as premised on moral cosmopolitanism. The moral cosmopolitan view is based on the assumption that individuals are entitled to equal concern regardless of their nationality; but the focus is not on global institution building (Tan 2002). In sum, I view the capabilities approach as a moral claim on justice in a moderate version; that is, recognizing the distinction between social justice within a society, and norms of global justice as an addition to, but not as a replacement of, national principles of justice (c.f. Scheffler 2001). As Robeyns (2011) notes, the capability approach can serve, not only as analysis of inequality in developing countries, but also as a framework for policy evaluations in economically developed communities (c.f. Sen above).

Method

The questions raised in this proposal will be answered by analyses of international policy texts on teacher education, read through the lens of four key concepts developed from an analysis of the capabilities approach: 1) having a capacity to consider oneself as a citizen both in a nation and in the world; 2) having a capacity for critical examination of one’s own life as well as of others'; 3) having a capacity to develop an imaginative understanding for other people’s lives (Nussbaum 2006; 2007, p. 323); and 4) having a capacity to act as a member of a public, influencing the rest of the world (Sen 1999, p. 18). The analysis of the policy documents draws on a critical discourse-analytical approach by which I examine how policy texts on teacher education are legitimized by the use of concepts and arguments understood as specific social practices. A special focus in the analysis is the comparative strategy of identifying shifts and discontinuities in the vocabularies between different policy documents for teacher education, and in the naming and framing of teacher quality (c.f. Fairclough 2010 Bernstein 2000).

Data sources, evidence, objects or materials

In order to grasp the role of the teacher and its implications for teacher education expressed in different international policy documents, the discourse analysis is based on three main documents, and a number of follow up documents linked to each of these key documents. The key documents are: Teachers Matter. Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers (OECD 2005); Improving the Quality of Teacher Education (European Commission 2007) and Second Decade of Education for Africa 2006-2015 (African Union 2006).

 

Results

The preliminary results show that teacher education in international policy documents is mainly discussed in terms of a ‘human capital’- discourse, based on economical concepts of promoting basic learning, teaching efficiency, resources for teaching; and, specifically concerning OECD, the acknowledgement of diversity. At the same time, each of the three organizations' key texts has its own specific emphasis. By examining the policy of teacher education through a perspective of ‘capabilities’, it also becomes possible to make an alternative approach to teacher education and programs for anti-poverty visible. The key factor in this latter perspective is the individual freedom as a two-way relationship - to be able to act and to be able to bring about change. In sum, in the first of the two discourses, the teacher’s task in relation to inequality is understood in terms of being an effective instructor; and in the second discourse, where poverty is related to a more inclusive idea of capability deprivation, the teacher's task is understood in terms of communication and self-reflection, emphasizing an awareness of power relations, reflectivity, deliberations and a cosmopolitan orientation.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013.
Keyword [en]
cosmopolitanism, capabilities, teacher education, educational policy
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-36454OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-36454DiVA: diva2:739473
Conference
AERA Annual Meeting, April 27-May 1 2013,San Francisco,California
Projects
Att lära studenter bli kosmopolitiska medborgare? Framtidsutsikter och utmaningar för svensk lärarutbildning
Available from: 2013-05-21 Created: 2014-08-21 Last updated: 2015-05-26Bibliographically approved

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