Professional Studies: Evolution or Stagnation? The Zimbabwean Experience
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Since 1980 numerous changes have occurred in the content and structure of teacher education programmes in Zimbabwe. The driving force behind the changes has been the desire to strengthen, in qualitative terms, the teacher preparation programmes. Effective teacher education programmes, would positively impact on the quality of teaching and learning going on in our schools since, as McNamara and Ross (1982) put it, “At the heart of the educational process lies the child” In an attempt to create programmes that produce competent teachers, the teachers’ colleges, in conjunction with the Department of Teacher Education at the University of Zimbabwe, have made deliberate efforts to upstage the role of Professional Studies in teacher training programmes. One such effort was the commissioning of the Teacher Education Review Committee (1986) which was tasked with the responsibility of formulating syllabus guidelines. Among other purposes, the guidelines would help “refine teacher education programmes so that they become increasingly more meaningful and effective” (TERC Report 1986 p iv) However, apart from pointing out that “Professional Studies is intended for pre-service teachers and combines upgrading of course content and methods of teaching subjects in schools” (p83) the report does not provide any guidelines on what constitutes Professional Studies nor does it provide a rationale for the inclusion of the course on teacher education programmes. Lack of clarity on what constitutes Professional Studies and what role it plays in the preparation of teachers may have deprived teacher educators of opportunities to design effective Professional Studies Syllabuses. This paper attempts to define Professional Studies as well as proposing a rationale for perceiving Professional Studies as the key component of any teacher preparation programme.