Teacher Professionalism in a multicultural perspective

Project owner

Western Norway University of Applied Sciences

Project period

January 2009 - January 2018

Project summary

In June-July 2009 three representatives from Bergen University College were a part of a series of workshops and a symposium held over a period of two weeks in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The participants in these workshops and the symposium were teacher trainers and teacher trainees from the National Institute of Education as well as principals from local schools. As the Senter for Utdanningsforskning contributed with funding, the centre has received a written report from the symposium and the workshops. The symposiums revealed that teacher-trainers and trainees were extremely concerned about various problems in the education system that seemed to be rooted in what they described as a lack of professionalism among Cambodian teachers, especially concerning professional ethics. Professional ethics for teachers is a standard for teacher behavior. Professional ethics is a part of the general ethics which have special attention to relevant occupational characteristics. Professional ethics is about what is right and wrong, good and less good in the exercise of a profession. It deals with the ethical challenges inherent in the exercise of a particular profession. A professional ethics for teachers can for several reasons seem necessary, teachers have a great influence on their students through what they say, do and are, both in and outside school. In Norway there is no written professional ethics for teachers for several reasons. One of them, is the fear of instrumentalism and the belief that a teacher's work is so broad, that all cannot be included in one professional ethics. When working with the term ethics one needs to pay extra attention to Cambodia being a Theravada Buddhist country. Buddhism has for many centuries contributed to shaping the culture and ethics in Cambodian society. When doing action research focusing on ethics in this country, it is essential that researchers are well aware of how they interpret the term ethics and are aware of the cultural differences. The notions of ethics are rooted in Theravada Buddhism, including the five principles among them the notion of karma and the emphasis on compassion for all living beings. This kind of thinking is also a part of a school tradition where there is great respect for age and for one-way communication in teaching, which may affect the research project. With this as our starting point, it seemed appropriate to initiate an action-research project rather than a more traditional form of research. It was felt that the research should be focused not just on expanding scientific knowledge, but also on initiating change in the existing situation. Action research is undertaken for the sake of investigating practice, and then improving practice based on what is discovered (Hatch, 2002). In addition, action research has the advantage of being participatory and dialogical, and thus contributes to professional development. In a co-operative inquiry, such as this, the roles of the researchers and research subjects are not exclusive, but rather interchangeable. The participants are all involved in the design and management of the inquiry, as well as the experience and action that is being explored and everyone is involved in making sense and drawing conclusions from the research (Heron & Reason). Since the problem area was identified in a general forum, it will have to be confirmed and specified in dialogue with our research partners in Cambodia. We will then have to collaborate in pla