Aims | The Child | Task of teaching | First steps to integration
- Introduction
- The child in   the centre
- The teacher
- The learning   environment
- In the   curriculum
- Conclusion

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3.  The teacher


The (new) role of teachers in the process of introducing ETE


a. the role of teachers in different cultures

A short, stereotypical description of the role of teachers in our countries is teaching us that their role can be very different and that the teacher-student relation differs along the lines of cultures and characteristics.

Hofstede ¹), a well known social scientist in the area of comparing cultures, points out that that the role of teachers in cultures strongly corresponds to the way in which a society is coping with power distance. Under power distance we can understand the relation between a parent and their child, or the employer and the employee, or the teacher and the student.

The more informal they behave to each other, the more they feel equal, the more they negotiate tasks and activities, the more discussion takes place. The order in classrooms is a little bit of a noisy order (where periods of silence also take place). The more formal the relationship, the more the parent, teacher, employer is deciding what has to happen. Discussion is a phenomenon which is rarely seen. Classrooms are quiet. The teacher is teaching. There is power distance … there is respect, some say.

The result of both ways of coping with problems is that in the first case teacher and pupils/students will discuss tasks and will finally agree together what is going to happen. Both parties have committed to the task and especially the children – by that commitment - have internalised the task. In the second case the teacher is an authority that knows best for the children/pupils/students and they rely on her/him. They are doing the task because she/he said they must do it.

It also implies that the teacher is telling you how to solve the problem. A long century’s worth of experiences have taught us that this is the best way. In the first case children are finding out things which are already well known by teachers and parents. They are just finding out things in a shorter time than their great-grandparents did.   

In the case of formal relations, books and other materials are important to convey all knowledge of the past to new generations. In the case of informality, books and other materials are to support what has been found out (e.g. in practice, in daily life).

In formal cultures, books and teachers and family are the instruments along which new generations are learning to solve the problems of life. In informal cultures, everything and everybody can be the “thing” which supports a person to learn to cope with life.

In formal cultures, relationships are described/prescribed and children know how to behave. In informal cultures children learn by experimenting. The relations are less described and less prescribed.

In cultures with a large power distance (formal cultures) it is clear what the sanction is when students/youngsters/pupils are not behaving  - not behaving well in order to learn. Formal cultures are not helping the person who commits this prohibited activity. In cultures where the power distance is smaller the teacher is thinking about the best way of “punishing”. This thinking is related to education goals. Even judges do that. 

Teachers are nowadays educated like this. There was a time (‘70s and 80’s) that the education of teachers was not running parallel to the changes in informal societies. Teachers were educated as if they were going to teach in formal societies. They had not learned to cope with negotiation, with putting limits on behaviour, with the ways in which you can use books and other materials.

As from this century the informal societies may expect that their teacher education is more or less running parallel to what is happening in the informal society where power distance is small.


What we see in countries where there is a more formal education structure is a development into the direction of more informality, of more negotiation about tasks and activities and a less formal attitude of teachers towards their pupils or students. Perhaps the reason for this is the EU in which also in the area of education there is much more intensive contact than in the past.

Yet, we must conclude that – generally speaking - there are important differences, e.g. between the North of Europe and the South.     


b Changes in the required skills of teachers in Europe.

In the last 5 to 10 years, education scientists have strongly concentrated on the teaching profession. Looking back, we can find that in the 70s it was believed that education reform had to be a reform of the curriculum. Also the description of aims and goals became of more and more importance. For all those years the teacher as such was outside the picture.

It is only since the 90s that the skills and knowledge of teachers became the subject of investigations. First studies were published how new generations were educated. So far this last issue is still waiting and scientists are now concentrating on the “new” teacher.


As might be known, constructivism is a theory which is adopted across Europe nowadays. It is supporting the way in which people in Europe are thinking more and more about making the child the focus. To be more specific: the learning of the child with that specific reference framework. People are constructing knowledge and adding new knowledge to that. Not without meaning, on the contrary, especially new knowledge WITH a meaning.

A famous Dutch learning psychologist Carel van Parreren and adept of Vygotsky already described this way of learning in the ‘70s and later in his publications esp. for starting student teachers at teacher training colleges.

The focus on constructivism has consequences for teacher training in general and specifically for teachers in the area of ETE.


Another development in this area is the focus on “competences”. Also Europe-wide, especially education scientists concentrate – we described this earlier in this paragraph – more and more on the competences of teachers. We can say that this is closely related to the developments within modern learning psychology in the area of the earlier described constructivism.

In The Netherlands publications mention sometimes 5, sometimes 7 and even 9 competences have been identified for teachers.

A competence is the capacity to execute tasks and to solve problems which are part of a position or professional role with a cluster of knowledge, skills and personal characteristics in a complex working situation ²).

We would like to concentrate on 7 general competence areas: the pedagogical area, teachers need to be competent on their subject, interpersonal, in the area of organisation, in the co-operation with colleagues, in co-operation with the environment and finally being competent in reflecting and professional development.

These competences in combination with the new developments within learning psychology are absolutely relevant for the subject area of ETE.    

In chapter one (§ 3) we described the development-oriented approach (OGO) in the Netherlands. This approach in education for children ages 4 – 12 is in a way a concept derived from and interrelated with these described new developments of constructivism and the competences of teachers.

Some key characteristics of the curriculum within development-oriented education are:        


-          Learning is increasing the participation in structured activities i.e. teaching.

-          Learning is a social construction process

-          Pedagogy, didactics and subject methodology cannot be separated. They are interrelated

-          The learning content always has a personal meaning

-          Learning is production based on research.


The consequence of this for the curriculum is:

  1. the curriculum is constructed by meaningful activities. Aims are derived from these meaningful activities (in the past we put forward the aims and objectives first). The constructing of the curriculum takes place in co-operation between teacher and students. Both are busy with a reciprocal construction process.
  2. Students, children are producers of solutions for problems. They are producers of research, of concrete products.
  3. (…….) ³


c. the required role for ETE teachers

First a short description of the competences of a teacher related to the subject (in general). The tasks for a teacher related to his/her subject are to:

·         arouse and develop motivation and involvement to learn;

·         challenge pupils to make further steps for their development;

·         plan teaching by external set aims;

·         development-oriented by playing and task-oriented by learning;

·         design education arrangements to achieve requirements from individual children and their differences;

·         grasp the essentialities of the subject and connect that to the emotional and experience-based world of children;

·         adapt and add education resources to needs and learning styles of children related to education aims. 4)  


The specific requirements for teachers in the area of early technical education are of course running parallel to the basic competences children have to learn (see Chapter 1 § 3.5). This means that the competences children have to learn are already required by teachers. We copy them here from chapter 1:

“Basic characteristics:

-          emotionally free;

-          being curious;

-          self-confidence;

These basic characteristics are objective and contain at the same time for development and learning during primary school age and actually for the entire learning process.

The competences from the in between circle are necessary for children to start their personality development and increasing independency.

We distiniguish:

A.         being active, taking initiatives, making plans

B.         communication and language

C.         playing and working together

D.         discover the world

E.         express yourself and designing

D.         imagination and creativity

G.        understanding symbols, signs and meanings

H.         reflection

I.          investigation, arguing, and problem solving”.


A first identification of the competences for teachers in the area of ETE as a conclusion of what is said in this paragraph:

Teachers must be:

-          emotionally free;

-          independent;

-          curious;

-          positive towards new developments;    

-          self-confident;

-          competent in knowledge and skills in the area of ETE;

-          open for questions and needs of children and colleagues (national, international)



d. What has to be changed in order to develop an attitude appropriate for ETE? 


In short, we can say that in daily practice there are a lot of obstacles in requiring the competences for an ETE teacher in Europe according to the above described demands.

-          First there might be the cultural obstacle. Familiar ways of teaching that have their roots in the national culture are sometimes difficult to change. Sometimes one must wait for the right time. We believe that the time will come. We also believe that teachers from more formal cultures can become independent of rules, can try out new things and are able to think independently.

-          Secondly, there is the cultural determined attitude of what it is for boys and what it is for girls and what boys and girls think about that 5). Note that this resource is already from 1989. We think attitudes might be changed.

-          Third. There is the obstacle of pedagogues and their theories about how children develop and at what age one can start with the arousal of new developments. In this respect it is important to have knowledge about the “zone of proximate development” (Vygotsky).    

-          Fourth. Knowledge (or the lack thereof) is also an obstacle for teachers in the area of ETE. Beside knowledge, teachers are also lacking experience in this area. As teachers are generally active people, we suggest that teachers learn by doing, learn by seeing their colleagues working with children. It will motivate them, and this way of in-service training will be very effective. Beside this, becoming competent in theoretical knowledge is absolutely required.

-          A fifth obstacle is the lack of new input. We believe that teachers once they have started, need support and new ideas and certainly the sharing of experiences with colleagues. Exchange of ideas looks rather important. Having examples of good practice is a minimum.

-          A final obstacle might be, that there is no time for (E)TE in the curriculum. As earlier mentioned we think that (E)TE must and can be embedded within other educational activities/subjects.