Research Article Open Access

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

Paul Gardner and Chris Rix


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.

Journal of Social Sciences
Volume 8 No. 2, 2012, 135-142


Submitted On: 18 January 2012 Published On: 18 February 2012

How to Cite: Gardner, P. & Rix, C. (2012). Learning Trajectories of Primary Student Teachers; a Cross-Cultural Comparison. Journal of Social Sciences, 8(2), 135-142.

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  • Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
  • General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE)
  • Junior Certificate Examination (JCE)
  • Initial Teacher Education (ITE)
  • life-history methodology
  • Malawi School Certificate Examination (MCSE)