Preparing Teachers for Diversity:
the Role of Initial Teacher

Even though the diversity found in European societies is not a new phenomenon, its nature is rapidly changing. Europe is becoming increasingly diverse due to intra-European mobility, international migration and globalisation. These societal changes affect the educational landscape and organisation, and create both new opportunities and challenges for schools and other educational institutions. Recent studies show that intolerance and social exclusion are increasing both in schools and in society. The growing number of refugee, asylum seeker and migrant children entering Europe places specific demands on schools and teachers. These phenomena lead teachers to re-consider their everyday practices and strategies to meet the learning needs of these pupils.

These social transformations highlight the need for teachers and schools to be better prepared. Teachers and schools should be able to provide support to newly arrived pupils, to address the specific needs of all learners, and to foster tolerance, respect for diversity and civic responsibility in all school communities. They should build on the benefits diversity brings to education. Teachers also need to be prepared to identify and address processes that lead to discrimination, exclusion and racism, as well as to the growth of radicalisation leading to violent extremism.

The increasing diversity of European societies represents societal and educational opportunities. If valued and utilised effectively, diversity can function as a rich educational resource in classrooms, to enrich the competences and creativity of all pupils, promote inter-group contact, opportunities for reflection and peer-learning.

  • In spite of this diversity, the teaching population remains largely homogenous and lacks experience in teaching in diverse schooling environments. Teachers feel illprepared to teach students from diverse socioeconomic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
  • To address the challenges faced by all pupils in schools, education systems across Europe must equip teachers with relevant intercultural competences, including valuing and adapting to diversity as well as being culturally self-aware, are key to effectively teach diverse pupils.
  • Preparing student teachers for diversity implies to support their knowledge and better understanding of the world and its cultures. The need to develop communication competences for diversity emerges from the capacity of teachers to be empathic and reflexive about their own beliefs, cultural and socioeconomic differences.
  • Raising the attainment level of children without the language of schooling implies that teachers in all subject matters need to be effectively prepared to be part of the language learning process. Promoting and valorising non-dominant languages (and cultures) can enable pupils with a migrant and/or minority background to develop and gain recognition of linguistic skills of equal value
  • There is an increasing need to prepare future teachers to build on the benefits of diversity, shifting from compensatory to inclusive learning approaches. A comprehensive system of teacher education is crucial to equip teachers with the intercultural competences necessary to respond to and manage the evolving diverse school environment.

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