Adapted from 3rd edition, “Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety”.
The scope of the teaching profession extends from the nursery school to the postgraduate institution. Teaching involves not only academic instruction but also scientific, artistic and technical training, in laboratories, art studios and workshops, and physical training on sports grounds and in gymnasia and swimming pools. In most countries almost everyone comes at some time under the influence of the profession, and the teachers themselves have backgrounds as diverse as the subjects taught. Many senior members of the profession also have administrative and managerial duties.
In addition, the development of policies and activities to promote life-long education necessitates a reassessment of the conventional concept of teachers within traditional establishments (schools, universities). Members of the teaching profession carry out their tasks using formal and informal educational methods, in basic and continuous training, in educational establishments and institutions as well as outside them.
Apart from pupils of school age and university students, new kinds of students and trainees are coming forward in ever-increasing numbers in a great many countries: young jobseekers, women wishing to return to the employment market, retired persons, migrant workers, the handicapped, community groups and so on. In particular, we find categories of persons who were formerly excluded from normal educational establishments: illiterates and the handicapped.
There is nothing new in the variety of apprenticeship facilities available, and private self-education has always existed; life-long education has always existed in one form or another. There is, however, one new factor: the growing development of formal life-long educational facilities in places not originally intended as places of education and through new means—for example, in factories, offices and leisure facilities and through associations, mass communication media and assisted self-education. This growth and spread of educational activities has resulted in an increasing number of persons engaged in teaching on a professional or voluntary basis.
Many types of activity falling within the field of education may overlap: teachers, instructors, lecturers, promoters and organizers of educational projects, educational and vocational guidance workers, career advisers, adult education specialists and administrators.
Regarding the membership of the teaching profession as represented in employment markets, one finds that in most countries they make up one of the most significant categories of the salaried workforce.
Recently, the importance of teachers’ trade unions has increased continuously, keeping pace with the ever-increasing number of teachers. The flexibility of their working hours has enabled teachers to play a significant role in the political life of many countries.
A new type of educator - those who are not exactly teachers in the previously held conception of the term - can now be found in many systems, where the school has become a centre for permanent or life-long educational facilities. These are professionals from various sectors, including handicrafts experts, artists and so on, who contribute permanently or occasionally to these educational activities.
Educational establishments are opening their doors to diverse groups and categories, turning more and more towards external and extramural activities. Two major tendencies can be observed in this connection: on the one hand, relations have been established with the industrial workforce, with industrial plants and processes; and on the other, a growing relation has been established with community development, and there is increasing interaction between institutional education and community education projects.
Universities and colleges endeavour to renew teachers’ initial training through refresher training. Apart from specifically pedagogical aspects and disciplines, they provide for educational sociology, economy and anthropology. A trend still facing many obstacles is to have future teachers acquire experience by doing training periods in community settings, in workplaces or in various educational and cultural establishments. The national service, which has become general in certain countries, is a useful experience in the field for future teachers.
The immense investments in communication and information are auspicious for different types of individual or collective self-teaching. The relation between self-teaching and teaching is an emerging problem. The change-over from the autodidactic training of those who had not attended school to the permanent self-teaching of young people and adults has not always been correctly appreciated by educational institutions.
These new educational policies and activities give rise to various problems such as hazards and their prevention. Permanent education, which is not limited to school experience, turns various places, such as the community, the workplace, the laboratory and the environment, into training premises. The teachers should be assisted in these activities, and insurance coverage should be provided. In order to prevent hazards, efforts should be made to adapt the various premises for educational activities. There are several instances where schools have been adapted to become open centres for the entire population and have been equipped so as to be not only educational institutions but also places for creative and productive activities and for meetings.
The relationship of teachers and instructors with these various periods in the lives of trainees and students, such as leisure time, working time, family life and the duration of apprenticeships, also requires a considerable effort as regards information, research and adaptation.
Relations between teachers and students’ families are also on the increase; sometimes members of families occasionally attend lectures or classes at the school. Dissimilarities between family models and educational models necessitate a great effort from teachers to reach mutual understanding from the psychological, sociological and anthropological standpoint. Family models influence the behaviour pattern of some students, who can experience sharp contradictions between family training and behavioural models and norms prevailing in the school.
However great the variety, all teaching has certain common characteristics: the teacher not only instructs in specific knowledge or skills but also seeks to convey a way of thought; he or she has to prepare the pupil for the next stage of development and stimulate the pupil’s interest and participation in the process of learning.