Formal education requirements for teachers increase according to the level of education in which they are expected to teach. Initial teacher training for the preprimary and primary levels (21/2 to 12 years of age) requires three years of concurrent academic/teaching training and teaching observation at the Institut Supérieur Pédagogique (French) or the Pedagogische Hogeschool (Flemish). Prospective teachers graduate with a teaching diploma that details a specialty in either preschool or primary school. They are expected to teach all subjects. The initial training for teachers in lower secondary education (12 to 15 years of age) also takes place at the Institut Supérieur Pédagogique or the Pedagogische Hogeschool, where students pursue three years of course work in a specific and an optional subject and increasingly intensive training and practice in teaching, receiving a teaching diploma at the end of three years. Teaching in the upper secondary level (15 to 18 years of age) requires four to five years of university education. The requisite teacher training courses and practice can be taken alongside with the other courses during the last two years or the final year of university study. Alternatively, students may take a two-year part time course in teacher training upon graduation. Teachers at this level have the Licence or Licentie degree as well as a separate teaching diploma. A doctorate degree is generally required to teach in tertiary education, especially at the university level. It is not unusual for teachers with a doctorate degree in upper secondary education and who also are productive scholars to become university professors when they have matured. All teachers are employees of the respective community's administrative education authority and must go through a period of probation before obtaining a permanent appointment.
Belgian teachers have the right to pursue limited in-service training. Each of the communities make available noncompulsory continuing training for teachers, and certificates are awarded accordingly, making it possible to apply for higher level positions. In-service training covers a variety of subjects, including additional education in the sciences, development of communication skills, provision of pluralist education for immigrants and, above all, introduction of new computer technologies.
In the 25 years following the School Pact of 1958, the teaching profession was held in high regard, especially at the secondary and tertiary levels. Teachers in the upper secondary education level enjoyed an elite social status and enjoyed relatively high salaries. In the 1980s and 1990s, it had been suggested that the profession may be losing status, while at the same time demands on teachers were increasing due to curricular reform and the requirements of delivering pluralist education. However, surveys of teachers seemed to indicate continued high levels of job satisfaction. For example, a teacher survey on satisfaction levels in French-speaking Belgian schools in the Free Catholic System (Meuris 1993), revealed that teachers in nursery schools were more satisfied with their profession than were those in primary education, while those in the first cycle of secondary education conformed with the satisfaction levels of teachers in primary education. Generally, the experience of teachers was a positive one.
Belgian educators were faced with new challenges from the European Union. During the July through December period of the Dutch presidency of the European Community, teacher training received special attention. The Treaty on European Union (The Maastricht Treaty of 1992) made up for a shortcoming of the original Treaty of Rome (1957), which incorporated a specific provision for a common policy on vocational training (Article 128), but was silent on the overall area of formal education. The Maastricht Treaty began its Article 127 with the statement "The Community shall contribute to the development of quality education by encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, by supporting and supplementing their action, while fully respecting the responsibility of the Member States for the content of teaching and the organization of education systems and their cultural and linguistic diversity" (Rudden and Wyatt 1994). Teachers were mentioned in Articles 126 and 127. Article 126 aimed community action at "encouraging mobility of students and teachers, . . . the development of youth exchanges and of exchanges of socio-educational instructors, . . . and development of distance education," while Article 127 aimed action at encouraging "mobility of instructors and trainees." Educators were facing the challenge of providing access to the wealth of diversity of knowledge that comprised the people of the union.
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