The European Federation of Psychology Teachers´ Associations (EFPTA) was formed in 2004 as a federation of national and regional associations of psychology teachers in schools and colleges in European countries, to promote and support teaching of psychology in pre-university education. Members are mainly involved in the teaching of psychology courses at lower and upper secondary levels to students aged from 13 to 19 years. EFPTA's focus is on pre-university psychology education, and in the spirit of the Bologna Process it has established a network of pre-tertiary psychology educators across Europe. EFPTA is affiliated to the European Federation of Psychologists´ Associations (EFPA) and its representatives are members of the EFPA Board of Educational Affairs. EFPTA conducted several surveys focused on pre-tertiary psychology education (for more details see www.efpta.org). To fulfil its aims EFPTA organises conferences and other networking events. We have already met in 2005 in Barcelona, 2006 in Dortmund, 2007 in Bologna, 2008 in Cardiff, 2010 in Bratislava, 2012 in Copenhagen, 2014 in Berlin, 2016 in Prague, and 2018 in Reykjavík. The 2020 EFPTA conference was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we plan to organize the event either hybrid or fully online in April 2021.
We have both been members of the EFPTA board for more than ten years as national representatives of Slovakia and Scotland. Our countries have a lot in common and at the same time they differ a lot. From the point of view of the teaching of psychology, in both countries (similarly to many others in Europe) psychology is not a compulsory school subject. Students of upper secondary schools can choose psychology out of several options. This means that psychology teachers do not benefit from wide methodological support, unlike the teachers of mainstream subjects (e.g., national language, foreign languages, or mathematics). There are also limited places in the university training of psychology teachers. On the other hand, psychology teachers in our countries report that psychology is a popular subject with increasing numbers of students.
Psychology is taught as a secondary school subject in many European countries, in various types of schools and with diverse content. It is rarely a compulsory subject, though in Finland for example one course in psychology is compulsory for all upper secondary school students. More usually psychology is taught either as a voluntary/optional subject in both general and vocational upper-secondary education (e.g., in England, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Germany, Slovakia, Czechia, Slovenia, or Croatia) or as a component included in another subject (e.g., philosophy, social studies, or citizenship education). The numbers of psychology students in pre-tertiary education vary across different countries but in general psychology is a popular subject among secondary school students.
Like many psychology teachers, we believe that studying psychology at pre-tertiary level contributes to students' preparation for studying psychology and other disciplines at university. Pre-tertiary psychology also helps students develop critical thinking skills, understanding of self and others, life skills, mental health, and overall psychological literacy. It has a potential to bridge social studies, STEM and personal development subjects. Of course, we are aware of many obstacles of psychology teaching in secondary education: the subject often receives limited support with a shortage of qualified teachers. Plus there is always a risk of cutting down of optional lessons and subjects.
Promoting the benefits, and tackling the limitations, of pre-university education in psychology are the reasons why we spend our free time in developing EFPTA––a platform of and for psychology teachers––to support a sustainable model of high-quality psychology education, by well-qualified teachers, for all young people, and to share international experiences and ideas.
Lenka Sokolová is a former psychology teacher at upper secondary school and an associate professor of educational psychology and the didactics of psychology at the Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. Her research interests include psychology learning and teaching, educational psychology, classroom management and individual psychology of Alfred Adler. Currently, she is the President of the European Federation of Psychology Teachers’ Associations (EFPTA), the chair of Slovak Association for the Teaching of Psychology (SATP) and a member of the EFPA Board of Educational Affairs.
Morag Williamson is a retired psychology teacher and academic, and textbook author for secondary school psychology education. She promotes and supports psychology education via a number of bodies including the Association for the Teaching of Psychology Scotland (ATPS), the British Psychological Society Scotland (BPS-S), and the European Federation of Psychology Teachers’ Associations, of which she is currently Secretary.