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|Special Issue - August 2003|
Teachers: passing the baton
There are approximately 4.5 million teachers in the EU, which is about 3% of the active population. In Germany, the figure is 2% and, in Belgium, 5%. On average, 60% of teachers are aged over 40. In primary education, this proportion soars to 78% in Germany and 74% in Sweden.
At secondary level, it is in Italy that ageing is most apparent (91% of teachers are aged over 40 at lower secondary level, and 82% at upper secondary level). In France, 16 000 teachers will be retiring between 2002 and 2006. Ireland is having problems recruiting science and maths teachers. The Norwegian Teachers’ Union estimates that an extra 20 000 teachers will be needed between now and the year 2005.
The Strata-Etan report cites a number of examples of good practices. The Netherlands, for example, is offering retraining for engineers and researchers in the private sector to fill vacant teaching posts. Sweden and the United Kingdom are looking at ways of improving teacher status. The German Foundation for Science has launched a six-year programme to support a number of initiatives to improve the quality of science and maths education, in particular through multidisciplinary projects, which also include courses in pedagogy and sociology.
Retraining at CERN
CERN runs two kinds of teaching programmes. Since 1998, the HST (High School Teachers at CERN) programme has been held during the first three weeks of July and is attended by teachers from all over the world. More recently, the new, shorter PhT (physicsteachers @cern) is a three-day course which ends with the launch of a competition to find the best teaching project supported by particle physics laboratory. This aims to encourage direct contact between teachers and 'science in action', and to provide teachers with information they can use in their lessons. The programme dates are published on the CERN website.
CERN funds the HST programme in full and teachers pay nothing. For the PhT courses, teachers only have to pay their travelling expenses. There is growing demand for both courses and teachers are selected on the basis of their CV and motivations.
'The HST programme offers teachers a very intense human and personal experience. An important element – also included in the PhT programme – is the direct interaction, without intermediaries, with the scientists. The two programmes enable teachers to recharge their batteries,' explains Antonella del Rosso of the education and communication group.
This positive effect continues as teachers who have completed the programme are encouraged to maintain links with CERN. 'Teachers [contact] us for teaching material and they participate in other initiatives, in particular other European programmes, such as “Physics on Stage”. They also help us to develop teaching material and in popularising science.'
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