The place of theory and practice in preschool teachers’ pre-service education
Educational requirements for early years professionals are increasing across the world. This is associated with the neoliberal reform policies of raising the status of early education professionals while regulating the field more tightly and increasing its accountability. The quality of preschool professionals’ education, and particularly the professionals’ own perceptions of it, substantially determine whether reform initiatives succeed and whether professionals are able and motivated to critically appraise and to influence reform policies. This chapter introduces the results of a written survey conducted among Estonian preschool teachers (n = 576). We asked the respondents to rate the pre-service programmes for preschool teachers in Estonia, specifically focusing on the relationship between theory and practice. It appeared that whereas the respondents rated the amount of time spent on theoretical studies as disproportionately large at the expense of field practice, they rated the quality of the theoretical studies the highest and the field practice the lowest. We will discuss the mechanisms by which this contradiction threatens to decouple the practitioners from broader conceptual and contextual concerns in the field and to evoke ‘policy evasion’ rather than an active critical stance, as should be inherent in the notion of professionalism in its extended meaning.