The Erasmus+ project Teachers of English for Future Europe (TEFE) has brought together five key institutions from across the EU together with a UK partner, all of whom are committed to the internationalisation of English teachers in Europe. A central aspect of the 3-year mobility and employability project is the opportunity for participating students and their teachers to visit partner institutions for Intensive Study Programmes (ISP) to learn about different approaches to English language teacher education in other countries The first ISP was hosted by the University of South Bohemia in the Czech Republic in September 2021; the first instalment of the second ISP was hosted by the University of Passau at the end of March 2022.
Over the course of four days from 28 March to 1 April 2022, Passau University’s Teacher Education Center and the Professorship for American Studies/Cultural and Media Studies hosted more than 40 participants online via Zoom—due to the ongoing pandemic—to explore the topics of intercultural competence, the recognition process of teaching in the EU, and internationalisation, an area in which the University of Passau specialises. As the University of Passau Vice President for International Affairs and Diversity Professor Christina Hansen emphasised in her welcome to participants, internationalisation in teacher education requires particular attention and support as it is integral to how European education will be delivered and sustained in the future.
Day 1 of the ISP continued with warm welcomes from members of various departments, after which student participants had the opportunity to get to know each other in transnational groups, i.e., breakout rooms. In their session, Helena Lohrová Mgr. Ph.D. and Alena Prošková Mgr. Ph.D. from the University of South Bohemia then worked together with the students to develop ideas for various internationalisation measures. As students reflected on and compared their own international experiences, all agreed that intercultural communicative competences are essential not only for their own personal development but also to be be a good teacher. On Day 2, Prof. Karsten Fitz of Passau’s Professorship for American Studies began the day with his keynote, emphasizing the implications of being aware, or unaware, of cultural meanings. Working with the genre of photography, Fitz analysed the practice of staging visual narratives in American political culture to establish important interconnections between the private and the public lives of US presidents. The contribution clearly illustrated the need for intercultural competence in English teacher education, especially when these motifs are adopted for effect by German and other European politicians, thus casting a critical view on “the Americanization of European political culture, which is never a one-way street.” The next session shifted the focus from personal development to employability in an international context. In her extensive and detailed keynote, Anastasia Kamarauli explained the complex process of international recognition of teaching degrees and how, despite the stipulated freedom of movement within EU, it is currently a major obstacle to solving the teacher shortage in EU countries. Kamarauli’s talk, as well as the subsequent discussion with participants, provided much needed clarity on processes and procedures that can be both daunting and overwhelming. Day 2 wrapped up with a panel discussion and Q&A on international career opportunities with five English language teachers who studied or lived in one EU country but now teach—or study English language teaching—in another.
The focus of the final two days of the ISP shifted from the wider, EU perspective to the regional or local, as Dr Hans Stefan Fuchs provided insight into Bavaria’s school and education system. In his talk, he emphasised the connections between EU policies for education and the need for more equivalent systems. Subsequently, students worked on a comparative view of their respective education systems in transnational groups. Later, in national groups, each set of university students began work on a scientific poster depicting the education system in their own country. The completed posters will be foundational to the next instalment of this ISP to be hosted live in Passau in September 2022 where each will be presented.
Despite being split in two and forced online, TEFE’s second Intensive Study Programme was a successful and enriching experience for all who participated. “I would like to thank the University of Passau for organising four very intensive and productive working days. In collaboration with educational experts, teacher educators and students we were able to progress our work on the TEFE Internationalisation and Employability frameworks that we plan to adopt across the consortium as an integral component of modern teacher education,” TEFE project manager Lohrová confirmed after the event. Students had the opportunity to learn more about internationalisation and intercultural competence, to understand future employment opportunities, and to meet fellow teaching students from all over Europe. As student participant Margareta Wagener (UP) commented, “I learned how much there is still to do in education on our way to a united Europe and that all of us have to put our minds together to reach this goal. Our future is decided today.” The TEFE project advocates and provides opportunities for that better future.