Õpetajahariduse sajand rahvusülikoolis. A Century of Teacher Education at the University of Tartu
The purpose of this article is to give an overview of the development of educational science and teacher education during the 95 years of the University of Tartu as an Estonian-language university. The article views teacher education throughout three historical periods. The first period includes the establishment of the Chair of Pedagogy in 1920 and the development of teacher education in the interwar period. The second period entails the Soviet Period and its diverse influences on teacher preparation. The third period involves the reforms and developments that occurred after the restoration of Estonian independence in 1991.
The field of teacher education has emerged as one of the largest in the university as measured by the number of students during the aforementioned period. At the same time, the content and organisation of teacher education has gone through major changes. Although history has seen eras of both progress and decline, the main components of teacher education—preparation in a subject field and general pedagogical studies in combination with teaching practice at school—have remained at the centre of the specialty throughout time.
The attention paid to the smooth functioning of teaching practice has been a constant topic during this long time period. In the first decades of the Soviet rule the practice period in teacher education was reduced to a minimum. With the eventual liberalisation of the Soviet rule school practice emerged again, largely in a form similar to that applied in the interwar years, while the importance of practice started to grow even more in time.
This article highlights that the most radical changes in teacher education were in the theoretical content of the teacher preparation. In the 1920s Germany remained the main catalyst in the development of pedagogy. The earlier theoretical orientation according to which the emphasis was on educational aims and learning about the past began to recede in the 1930s. In light of new sub-disciplines (didactics, educational psychology), pedagogy acquired increasingly more attributes of an applied science. After 1944 the Communist ideology became dominant in the curriculum and textbooks. In the 1960s the original textbooks written by the professors of the University of Tartu appeared, and a program of pedagogy which was in use until late 1980s was developed.
Many issues (conceptual bases of teacher education curricula, optimising student teachers’ school practice) that were topical in Estonian teacher education in the interwar and post-war period became relevant again after Estonia regained its national independence in 1991. In conclusion, the historical trajectory of teacher education reveals the interesting fact that the essential issues of the field share many similarities over different periods. Therefore, a good knowledge of the historical process is essential for the development of teacher education in the present and future. It could help us uncover the historical ideas, concepts and scenarios that we unconsciously enact when visualising the processes of the future.