Teachers with a capital 'T' : exploring the professionalism of experienced teachers in Kyrgyzstan
This thesis explores three aspects of teacher professionalism in Kyrgyzstan through the lives and practice of eight experienced and exemplary teachers in four schools in Chui province. Highly experienced and exemplary teachers have been called Teachers with a capital 'T' since Soviet times because they are wellregarded and an inspiration to other teachers; they are known to promote ethical principles and high standards in teaching. The thesis probes why this persists in contemporary Kyrgyzstan despite the effects of at least three decades of under investment in education and teacher policies that have deprofessionalised teachers and diminished their social status. My conceptual approach includes an exploration of three interrelated aspects of professionalism: professional commitment, professional practice and professional interactions. It explores the connections and disjunctions between these ideas in the field and how they are shaped by context. This provides the framework for a qualitative research approach that involves elements of case study method which underpins an examination of the influences of context and the interconnections between the personal, professional and social factors that shape teachers' choices and their teaching. My purpose was to understand how these dimensions are significant for the teaching profession and education reform. The thesis suggests that policy makers and other teachers in Kyrgyzstan can learn a lot from EEE Teachers as they have persevered under difficult working conditions and continue to be innovative and enthusiastic in their teaching. The thesis explains how the three dimensions of professionalism are fundamentally shaped by their internal dynamics and external context. It arrives at a final question that has crucial implications for the future of the teaching profession: how can Teachers with a capital 'T' use their potential to transform teaching and the context for the teaching profession in Kyrgyzstan?