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It is increasingly recognized that education is the foundation for a sustained developmental society. Education creates capable active citizens in a consolidadted democracy able to face the new challenges. The challenges of a rapidly mutating society, as a result of technological advances, demands that students acquire competencies that will enable them to fully participate in society, and adapt to the changes imposed upon them by society. Among the various key competencies for the individual for the 21st century are: problem solving, organizational skills, adaptation and flexibilty, team work and capacity of self learning. Sinthesizing, one could say that the individual needs skills of knowing how to be, how to become and how to do. This has implications for schools.
The school, considered as a microsociety, is not just a mirror of society but, by its very nature, an organic institution in constant change in accord with the advancements and requirements of society. It is also a place where initiation to cooperative behavior and the democratic way of live begins. As long as the idea that school is separate from society persists, with its own strategies, instruments and attitudes, a greater distance between school and society will be created, with the result that the school does not prepare the student for active life. According to Sérgio Niza (1997), a portuguese pedagogue, school is a place of initiation to cooperative democratic living and the recreation of the cultural processes and objects through the progressive assimilation of the methods and meaning of every day as well as scientific practices with the aim of acquiring the values and knowledge which has been created by mankind.
There is a general awareness that there are numerous challenges facing schools today. It is not, however, questioned that schools must provide meaningful learning based on student diversity. Such diversity goes much beyond cultural diversity, including, but not limited to, cognitive, linguistic, socio-cultural and economic diversity. It is simultaneously recognized that that the school must supply students with the necessary skills required by today’s society. This is in accord not only with John Dewey’s idea that the school is fundamentally a social environment which stimulates education but also with Vigosky’s concept of a democratic organization in the school as indispensible to social learning.
The new demands placed on students imply a new positioning of the teacher. Just as the student must prepare for these new requirements, the teacher must acquire a training that develops the skills which must then be implemented in student teaching. The teaching profession has not only changed over the years but also acquired a new status and with it greater responsibility. The well-known north american report A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the Twenty-First Century (1986) states that teachers must be capable of thinking for themselves, be willing to help others think for themselves, be able take initiative with a large degree of independence, and be able to think critically about the issues. Today´s teacher is not just a public worker who is there to teach (merely transmission of knowledge), but an important educational agent in society with multidimensional functions and responsibilities. According to Orey da Cunha( 1997), the teacher is a professional which intervenes in society so that the ethical values of equal educational opportunity for everyone are implemented. Today´s teachers face the need to reevaluate and redefine their role in face of the complexity of functions which are demanded. The direct and permanent participation of teachers in the whole educational process, the challenges faced, the new requirements that are imposed, require a multidimensional teacher which, in addition to scientific training, increasingly needs a solid pedagogical and humanistic side. The pedagogical aspect is the basis for the teaching-learning process and consequently a determining factor in student success or failure.
The more educationally and socially effective school presupposes a fundamental change in the pedagogical practices in the sense of diversification of practices oriented to socially and culturally differentiated audiences. Only in this way can the school promote culturally contextualized learning. The pedagogical uniformity position fosters school exclusion. In other words, those that do not fit in the middle class culture are eventually excluded. Many continue, passing successive years, until they complete compulsory schooling at which point they are thrown into a constantly changing and ever demanding society that requires thinking citizens. Traditional pedagogy, based on homogeneity and uniformity at the same rate is a pedagogy which promotes learning that is non-reflexive, non-meaningful, limited to passive memorization of knowledge and excluxive of those that are incapable of following the subject matter. Ainscow (1990) argues that student difficulties have a variety of sources; however, they are of the opinion that the principal factor to lack of success in learning is curricular/pedagogical. Some teachers are incapable of providing meaningful learning which is interesting and motivating, and the learning is related to their experiences, knowledge and skills.
I addition to all these competencies, the present day concept of school, thus raises for all teachers the great challenge which consists in breaking with all forms of school exclusion, involving them directly in the construction of a school for all - a school which adapts itself to all students independently of their differences be they cognitive, physical, social, linguistic or other. The efficacy of schools today depends not only on the coordination and management of programs and curricula but also on the quality of the teaching-learning process. The diversity of students demands that the school not limit itself to offering equal opportunity in terms of educational access; the diversity of students demands that the equality of opportunity be based on diversified school responses in face of student diversity. The school should also provide the students with skills for active, critical and cooperative citizens.
Nyham (1991), speaking on the age we live in, what he calls the age of new knowledge, and on the required competencies, summarizes eloquently and succintly by stating that the new learning paradigm is self-learning, in which it is necessary to teach sudents to “learn how to learn”, in order that they may adapt to the constant mutations of today´s society. This new educational paradigm implies a new order in the pedagogical relation. Students should be co-responsible in the learning process which, according to Dumazedier (1978), is the corollary to the birth of a true educational society. Underlying this new educational paradigm there is a change at the learning level requiring that learning be active, meaningful and interiorized. This being the case, the school has an increasingly predominant role in student preparation and it is necessary that it become aware of the fact that the role of the teacher is increasingly more demanding in view of increased responsibilities. The adoption of this new paradigm requires therefore fundamental changes in teacher training. Education for all is a principal means for the affirmation of the democratization of schooling. This raises challenges for the teacher since he/she faces problems which test his professional competencies and human relations, knowledge and know-how. It is therefore necessary to provide teachers, being change agents, with the necessary training to implement the democratization of education.
In summary, the policy of the teacher tarining process cannot be disconnected from the educational policy, namely, the competencies that we desire that students achieve independently of their individual diversity. This requires that there exist an isomorphism between the pedagogy which will be implemented to achievce the goals desired for the students, and the pedagogy used in the teaching training process, otherwise the teacher training is merely theoretical and not in accord with what is needed in the classroom to achieve the above goals. There must exist an isomorphism between the training and the pedogogical processes in the classroom, so that no rupture exists between what is done in the classroom and the teacher training process.
Ainscow, M. (1990), Effective Schools for All, Cambridge Institute of Education, UKD`Orey da Cunha, P.(1997), Educação em Debate, Universidade Católica Editora, Lisbon
Dumazedier, J. (1978), A Sociedade Educativa e as suas Incertezas, Educação Permnente, nº 44, p.3-14
Dewey, J.(1990), The School and Society, The University of Chicago Press, London
Niza, S. (1997), Formação Cooperada, Lisboa, Educa
Nyhan, B.(1991), Desenvolver a Capacidade de Aprendizagem das Pessoas, Editora Interuniversidades Europeias, Bruxelas
Task Force on Teaching as a Profession (1986), A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century, Carnegie Corporation, EUA