In the state of Victoria, pre-service teachers are required for registration purposes to complete 80 days of school experience over their four-year Bachelor of Education degree. This generally means participation in different classrooms each day while at school and the planning and teaching of one lesson per day. Here Universities pay each teacher a small allowance for the mentoring of pre-service teachers that, over the course of a year, amounts to a considerable proportion of a faculty’s budget. While most universities attempt to have lecturers visit all pre-service teachers when on placement, the pressures on time and budget means that this does not always occur. For these reasons, the question of the practicum in terms of extent, funding and support has been somewhat problematic for many years. For example, a review of initial teacher preparation conducted for the Parliament of Victoria commented in the following terms:
The teaching practicum was a key area of contention throughout the inquiry, with the overwhelming majority of stakeholders believing that the current time spent in practicum, as well as the quality of the experience, is largely inadequate. Many called for teaching practice to represent at least 25 percent of pre-service teacher education, with some suggesting a 50 percent split between university classes and school-based training.
Consideration of practicum arrangements in this way demonstrates that a consensus has not as yet been reached on the nature of knowledge, let alone the purpose of schools and the role of teachers within them. At the core of this debate is the relationship between human social practice and how we theories that practice, perhaps the main problem that schools have yet to resolve. If we accept that knowledge is known and set, then it can quite easily be passed on from expert to novice. Conversely, if we view knowledge as evolving through collaborative endeavor, then the development of personal understanding over time becomes more appropriate. Both tendencies are of course seen in schools and curriculum, with the latter view being in the minority. If schools reflect the society in which they are located, then Bourdieu’s notion of cultural capital provides an explanation. Under current economic arrangements, schools merely reproduce the relations of power and privilege, the advantages and disadvantages that exist, in spite of the efforts of many progressive educators to change to more equitable systems for all children. How the practicum is conceptualized and organized then has implications for not only the operation of schools, but the social justice fabric of the broader society.