Beyond The Limits Of Professional Development For Teachers: The Romanian Case
The teacher, one of the essential resources in the teaching-learning process, is expected to permanently attune to latest professional developments, and in-service training is supposed to serve this purpose. Moreover, teacher education, as a whole, directly influences the results that students might achieve. Starting from these assumptions, as well as from the international reports focusing on these variables, we noticed that the Romanian educational system is characterized by an obvious discrepancy: (very) well trained teachers, according to their own perceptions, and (very) low prepared students, according to the results they obtained in international assessments. Thus, our paper aims at analyzing the causes lying beneath this gap, in order to get some further insight into the current situation. Our conclusions point to the weaknesses, the shortcomings and the deformations of the Romanian professional development system for teachers (part of the Romanian in-service training system). We suggest that both legislative and methodological changes are badly required so that all Romanian stakeholders (training providers, teacher educators, teachers etc.) could fully benefit from qualitative and effective professional development, which could indeed ensure long life learning.
Keywords: Teacher educationin-service trainingprofessional development for teachersteacher educators
No matter the trends characterizing education, the teaching-learning equation has always included
two main elements: the learner and the teacher. Diachronically, their weight has varied according to the
ideas underlying educational theories and, gradually, the learner has started to play the main role.
Nevertheless, the teacher’s importance should not be overlooked, as student’s achievements depend on
the teacher’s ability to teach. Both pre- and in-service training help teachers gain teaching abilities. Metaphorically, one could
say that pre-service training lays the foundation of this profession and in-service training puts the
finishing touches on it. The latter ‘is at the heart of the European strategy for improving the quality of
education’ (European Commission, 2015, p. 55) and our paper deals with professionaldevelopment (PD),
which is part of in-service training according to Romanian educational standards.
The starting point of our research stems from the obvious discrepancy between the Romanian
teachers’ opinion on themselves (2013 TALIS National Report) and Romanian students’ 2012 PISA
scores: Romanian teachers considered themselves (very) well trained professionally; Romanian students’
scores were below the average obtained by OECD countries. Although factors such as school conditions,
school attendance, out-of-school learning experiences and family resources could account for Romanian
students’ poor performance, the teacher variable also carries some weight. Consequently, our paper aims
to investigate the causes leading to the mismatch between teachers’ perceptions and their students’ results.
In part one, this paper points to relevant literature and research/reports covering the issue of teacher PD in
Europe, with a special focus on the Romanian case. Then, the second part deals with methodology,
research findings and discussions, and the final part presents the conclusions of our investigation,
introducing possible solutions for the problems that have been identified.
Teacher Professional Development: A Brief Outline
Teacher education is and should be viewed ‘as a life-long experience for teachers, a continuum that
goes from their initial education to their retirement’ (Musset, 2010, p. 45). Thus, no matter how relevant
and effective pre-service training might be, in-service training acquires paramount importance to maintain
and improve the quality of education.
European countries have scrutinized the needs, participation, enablers, and barriers to PD in order
to identify the best, the most flexible and the most appropriate ways to equip teachers with the necessary
skills, so that they could be efficient in the classroom and could smoothly attune to the growing demands
of the teaching profession. In-service training systems in Europe are, more often than not, country specific
as far as the following aspects are concerned: training means; course topics; course length; potential
rewards for teachers attending the courses; status (in-service training is either a right or an obligation, or
both) (EC, 2015; European Union, 2014; Mâță & Boghian, 2012; Musset, 2010; Valencic Zuljan &
Vogrinc, 2011; Șerbănescu, 2011; Iucu, 2007). Nevertheless, at European level, in-service training of
teachers represents a major priority, as it directly influences the overall quality of the national education
In Romania, in-service training is both a right and an obligation (2011 National Education Act,
Art. 245 (1)) and the necessary complementarity between the pre- and in-service training is laid down in
Romanian legislation: ‘In-service training and pre-service training are conceived as interdependent
processes, which should be characterized by a high degree of interaction and self-adjustment, meant to
attune teacher training to system dynamics in education’ (Ministerial Decree No. 5561/2011, Art. 4 (2)).
Similarly, as in other European countries, Romanian in-service training ‘continues, refines and attunes pre-service teacher education, offering added value as circumstances keep changing and new demands
emerge, different from the ones characterizing pre-service teacher education’ (Iucu, 2007, p. 28).
Romanian in-service training is divided into career development (to reach the maximum status of
their career development, novice teachers are required to complete three stages: qualified teacher, teacher
certification level 2 and teacher certification level 1) and PD (teachers are bound to attend in-service
training courses in order to gain 90 professional transferable credits within 5 years). Whereas teacher
career development focuses on teacher’s reaching specific degrees of scientific and methodological
competence, PD aims at systematically equipping teachers with those skills that could help them attune to
the latest trends in their field (both scientifically and methodologically).
Most Romanian teachers enroll in career development as permanent teacher certification not only
provides professional stability, but also raises their salaries, very much like teacher certifications (levels 1
and 2), whereas PD is rather optional (although Romanian legislation specifies that 90 professional
transferable credits shall be acquired by teachers after they have become certified teachers level 1, there is
no reference to the penalties that they might get if they choose not to enroll in any PD course at all). Thus,
it is up to each individual teacher whether he/she chooses to attend PD courses in order to get the 90
professional credits, as there is no immediate reward (only indirect and unguaranteed rewards, e.g.
accumulating scores required when applying for: teaching staff transfer; becoming a member of the
national body for professionals in educational management) and no financial compensation, as, in most
cases, teachers themselves pay for the courses they attend (OECD, 2014a, p. 98).
In contrast with this situation, most Romanian teachers consider PD to be an obligation, a duty,
and, very rarely, acknowledge it to be their right (Iucu, 2007, p. 108), and this makes PD become highly
formal and even perfunctory (Jigău, 2008; Velea & Istrate, 2011; Stan, Suditu & Safta, 2011; Masari,
2013; Popa & Bucur, 2015; Zoller, 2015).And yet, many Romanian teachers are eager to comply with
this obligation: 83% of lower secondary teachers report having undertaken a PD course in the 12 months
prior to the survey (OECD, 2014b), percentage which is, nevertheless, below the 88% OECD average
Although,apparently, it is still difficult to account for the relevance of PD for the individual
teacher or for his/her school (Șerbănescu, 2011, p. 88), ‘empirical evidence increasingly shows the
positive impact of teachers’ PD on students’ scores’ (OEDC, 2014a, p. 97). Even if Romanian students
failed to rank among the best in international assessments (OECD, 2013), considering the content of the
discipline they teach, as well their methodological skills, Romanian teachers have a very high opinion of
themselves as compared to the international average (National Assessment and Examination Center,
2014). The aspects listed above make up a contradictory picture, which has prompted us to ask ourselves:
Our questionnaire-based survey was conducted in 2015-2016 school year: 200 subjects, primary
and secondary school teachers participated in the survey (Prahova county – 176, Dâmbovița county – 15,
Giurgiu county – 4, Ilfov+Bucharest – 7). One of the items provided the following identification data for
the survey participants (gender was excluded, as only 6 male subjects, all from Prahova county, took part in the survey): (A)
– 188 (94.0%), substitute teacher – 12 (6.0%); (C)
teacher – 30 (15.0%), certified teacher level 2 – 27 (13.5%), certified teacher level 1 – 130 (65.0%); (D)
At the time of our investigation, all the subjects were enrolled in a PD programme. Moreover, to
get some further insight, we organized 6 focus groups (36 respondents, each group comprising at least one
representative from the 6 counties mentioned above).
Besides the identification item, our questionnaire comprised 6 more items (3 closed, 3 open),
correlated with the main objective of our research: identifying Romanian teachers’ opinion on the current
PD system (
Romania; the weaknesses of the PD system in Romania; how the knowledge and the skills acquired by
teachers during the PD courses could be implemented; the kinds of competences that teacher educators
Findings and Discussions
Analyzing the structure of our group of respondents, and correlating it with the survey data and
group interviews, we consider that the following aspects are worth being given some explanations:
there are more survey participants that come from rural areas because (1) they are motivated to attend PD courses as their chances of occupying a better position (closer to home or in an urban area) increase and (2) public administration institutions in rural areas are more likely to pay the course fees for the teachers in their schools (41 teachers out of the 53 teachers, who received sponsorship to attend the PD course, come from rural areas);
many of the survey participants come from Prahova County because the course they attended took place in the county capital, Ploiești. The course attendants belonging to the other counties chose to enroll because (1) they could get easier to Ploiești than in their own county capital (the reason given by respondents from Dâmbovița); (2) the moment they enrolled there was no course / no appealing course was organized in their county of residence;
the majority of the survey participants are older than 36 because (1) younger teachers are usually in the process of gaining their qualification/ certification (exams which belong to the career development stage, thus younger teachers might have already obtained or be about to obtain the required number of transferable professional credits) and (2) senior teachers are more likely to enjoy the benefits granted by PD (e.g. the possibility to occupy a management position, to become a teacher methodologist in the school inspectorate or an expert in educational management or to get a financial reward based on his/her professional merits) as compared to their younger counterparts;
the big number of tenured teachers suggest (1) tenured teachers’ high interest in PD and, obviously, (2) the low interest exhibited by substitute teachers, either because their status is temporary (they will leave the educational system as soon as a better opportunity occurs) or because they want to become certified teachers in the near future (PD does not really help them achieve this objective, as it involves passing a national exam).
The answers given by our respondents on how they got informed about the PD course they chose to attend (by e-mail sent by teacher educators/ training providers to prospective trainees or to school offices; from colleagues or acquaintances in informal discussions; from colleagues in formal contexts – e.g. subject-oriented methodological workshops) suggest that promoting and disseminating PD courses is not a very well organized activity. Nevertheless, 164 of our survey participants (82%) took part in such a program in the last five years, percentage very close to the one included in the OECD report on Romania (2014b), indicating the high level of interest that Romanian teachers seem to have in PD.
Being asked about their reasons for enrolling in the PD course and being given the possibility to enumerate one or more answers, the survey participants pointed to: the possibility to develop professionally (66 responses); the wish to accumulate 90 professional transferable credits (64 responses); the convenient schedule of the program – organized at the weekend as compared with other programs available only during the week (51 responses); the convenient price of the PD course (36 responses); the difficulty of enrolling in fully-sponsored PD courses, which are in very high demand (29 responses); the possibility of applying for a better teacher position during the transfer period (17 responses); the possibility of joining the national body of experts in educational management – getting 60 credits in educational management is a prerequisite to becoming a member of this group of experts (16 responses); the location of the PD course (13 responses); the possibility of complying with the criteria for obtaining a financial reward for their professional merits (12 responses); the possibility of getting the position of teacher methodologist in the school inspectorate (1 response). To sum up, we noticed that, out of the 305 responses, the ones referring to intrinsic reasons (individual PD needs) are in obvious minority, as most responses are in close connection with the already listed characteristics of PD in Romania: on the one side, it is mandatory (more like a constraint), independent of personal needs, formal and, on the other side, it represents a prerequisite for reaching personal objectives.
As for the usefulness of the various PD courses they have attended, for their present activity in the classroom, our subjects’ answers indicate their moderate satisfaction:
The fact that they are not fully convinced that taking part in the PD program will positively
influence their didactic activity resurfaces with the next question (
Our respondents’ views are relevant and we divided them into four groups, closely related to the aims of
(1) the general features of PD in Romania – its high degree of formality (‘
teacher level 1, rural area, Giurgiu; ‘
provisions regulating the teachers’ attendance (
the courses on offer (
and a prerequisite for career advancement (
certified teacher level 2, rural area, Prahova;
(2) PD weaknesses in Romania – the content is too general, theoretical, obsolete, instead of being
customized in order to be compatible with the participants’ curricular area(s) or the age characteristics of
their students (
certified teacher level 1, rural area, Dâmbovița;
qualified teacher, rural area, Prahova); more flexibility is needed as far as time and place of the training
courses are concerned (
teachers during the PD courses – the poor conditions in Romanian schools (lacking technical equipment,
space, etc) as well as the traditional mentality deeply rooted in some teaching staff (
teacher level 2, rural area, Dâmbovița profesor).
(4) the profile of the teacher educator (
Conclusions and recommendations
As our findings show, PD problems have evinced the weaknesses related to legislation,
curriculum, methodology, thus creating the proper circumstances to make the teachers participating in PD
courses pretend that they are motivated and willing to attend the training sessions. Even if, more than a
decade ago, Romanian education specialists tried to sound the alarm so that appropriate measures would
be taken (Potolea, & Ciolan, 2003; Bârzea, et al., 2006), so far, no important steps have been taken to
improve the PD system.
In our opinion, the most serious problem is related to the quality of teacher educators. In
education, at any level, the most important resource is the individual:
people can train people; so, without investing in people, no beneficial changes could occur in education or
for education. In order to achieve better learning outcomes, students have to rely on their teacher (=their
most important learning resource), and, similarly, teachers should be able to get the most from their
teacher educators, as teachers’ teachers are supposed to represent valuable learning resources. That is why
we consider that, in Romania, efforts should be channeled towards supporting teacher educators, going
along the lines laid down at EU level (EC, 2013). We suggest that PD research in Romania should focus
on identifying the most suitable ways of training and selecting teacher educators, on defining the profile of the teacher educator, in order to deliver teacher educator PD programs in accordance with our national
context, given the Romanian conditions. In our opinion, specific, national-oriented approaches are
needed, so that Romanian frameworks and policies regulating PD could be devised.
Although the group of subjects we investigated was small, it covered a wide range of situations,
which gives a certain weight to our conclusions. Our findings reemphasized the problems already
identified by Romanian researchers focusing on PD, pointing to the importance of reconsidering the
teacher element in the education equation. PD, as integer part of in-service training, represents one of the
most direct ways of improving teacher quality and, unfortunately, in Romania, this profession is currently
in freefall. We consider that by solving teacher-related problems, the rest of the education-related
problems could be alleviated. Thus, Romanian education could hope for better teacher educators and
better teachers, who could produce better students, who, eventually, will possess the skills and
competences to build up a brighter future for us all.
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