Journal of Social Sciences

Learning Trajectories of Primary Student Teachers; a Cross-Cultural Comparison

Paul Gardner and Chris Rix

DOI : 10.3844/jssp.2012.135.142

Journal of Social Sciences

Volume 8, Issue 2

Pages 135-142


Life history methodology was used to compare the life and educational trajectories of six primary student teachers in England with their counterparts at a Malawian Teacher Training College. A semi structured interview schedule was used to elicit the students’ childhood memories including experiences of school, significant people in their lives, interactions with their teachers and influential factors in deciding to enter teaching. Students were also asked to expand their philosophy and purpose of education, to consider their immediate needs as newly qualified classroom practitioners and predict their career trajectory over a 20 year period. The cross-cultural analysis reveals causal biographical and socio-cultural factors combining to influence students’ intentions to pursue teaching as a career. Teacher identity and notions of educational purpose revealed altruistic desires to teach, influenced by significant others in students’ personal lives; educational narratives and the socio- political contexts of the respective societies. Choices made by the English students reflected the individualistic nature of British society whereas their Malawian counterparts were driven by a desire to improve children’s education as a means of improving their country. In all cases the English students saw themselves remaining in primary education, in comparison all the Malawi students saw this as a stepping stone to a higher status role. This reflects the perceived low status that primary teaching has in Malawi and suggests that to improve education in Malawi a major priority should be to raise the status of primary teachers.


© 2012 Paul Gardner and Chris Rix. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.