HOW TO EDUCATE A PROSPEROUS PRE-SCHOOL TEACHER
This paper presents a part of Slovene school system which is quite unique and innovative. It describes how our kindergarten and pre-school education is organized and the programme which future pre-school teachers have to pass. The secondary school programme is intended for pre - school teacher’s assistants, who are, after successfully completing the programme, skilled to work with children but only under guidance and supervision. In order to become the main teacher in the pre-school group, a university diploma is needed. The author of the paper has been teaching English in the programme for pre-school teacher’s assistants for 7 years. Experiences gained in those years are presented in the paper.
Slovene kindergartens or pre-schools are well-organized and carefully structured. The majority of them are governed by the state; however, there are some private ones as well. Regardless the funding, each has to follow the national curriculum and thus employ skilled professionals. After successfully finishing primary school, students (aged 15 years) can enrol the programme which takes four years to complete. It ends in final examination known as Matura, which includes examination in four subjects: Slovene, Maths or English (according to students’ preference), work practice and an exam in psychological science and national curriculum for pre-schools.
In these four years, students gain an abundance of useful skills and experiences needed to perform their job well. They are taught how to play the piano and the flute, they are taught psychology, pedagogy, psychology and development of infants and toddlers, the national curriculum etc. They acquire methodology of teaching specific contents, for instance maths, (foreign) language, science, art etc. Furthermore, each class has to prepare a theatrical performance, where they are required to write their own script and incorporate dancing, singing and music. In addition, they are obliged to make all the prompts by themselves. This enhances students’ autonomy and demands a great deal of independence, creativity, communication and negotiation skills.
In these four years of schooling, students undergo around 10 weeks of work practice in local kindergartens - two weeks in the first and the second year and eight weeks in the final two years of training. Students’ main tasks are to observe their mentor and prepare and conduct lessons according to the guidelines given by the school and the mentor. More ambitious students have the opportunity to apply for a 3-week work experience abroad as there has been Erasmus+ funding available for the last few years. Working abroad broadens students’ horizons. Firstly, their professional knowledge is enhanced and secondly, their independence and self-reliance are developed. So far, our students have worked in England, Northern Ireland, Ireland and Malta. Regardless the country, all of our students have been highly appreciated and recognized as potential experts in the field of pre-school education.