Minister looks to the Netherlands to address teacher shortage

19th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

The  Education Minister of the government of Flanders Pascal Smet SP.A plans to recruit Dutch teachers for Flemish schools. About 5,000 teachers in the Netherlands will lose their jobs as a result of cutbacks. Flanders, on the other hand, struggles with a growing shortage of teachers, with retired teaching professionals leaving their vocation at an alarming rate and the number of students who chose a career in teaching dropping by 6% this year. As pupil numbers continue to increase, Education Minister Pascal Smet SP.A will have to find 20,000 new teachers during the next ten years. And this is a very conservative estimate, as new teachers often leave the profession after several years of temporary teaching, choosing instead a job outside their profession that provides more security. Minister Smet sees the recruitment of Dutch teachers as the perfect opportunity to address both countries’ problems with one initiative. In a letter to his Dutch Colleague, Marja van Bijsterveldt CDA, Smet calls for “systematic collaboration to convince more Dutch teachers to work in Flanders”. He refers to a trial project with Dutch teachers currently running in Antwerp which, according to Antwerp councillor for education Robert Voorhamme SP.A, is a huge success. “We currently have three Dutch teachers on our staff and it works perfectly well. They are extremely motivated and enjoy our strict and clear approach. We still advocate standards and values which are not always respected in their schools.” The Socialist and Christian unions are in total support of these plans. Mieke Van Hecke, the general director of Catholic Education, sees this exchange as an opportunity to enrich Flemish education. Johan Vanderhoeven, department head for teacher’s training at the Catholic School for Higher education of Bruges-Ostend KHBO, fears the government of Flanders is too hasty, saying: “The biggest problem is that many young teachers give up their teaching career after only a few years. If you don’t address this problem, you could also lose the Dutch teachers in the process,” he says. Smet is adamant that he does not intend to solve this problem with the appointment of Dutch teachers. “We are already talking to school networks and unions to find ways to keep young teachers in the classroom, to provide more job security and support. These are fields that are currently neglected.” He further admits that much needs to be done to finalise the plan. Most of the 5,000 teachers who face job cuts in the Netherlands are specialists in providing care for“pupils that require special attention”. Smet feels Flanders could benefit from their skills. “As we would like to accommodate more of these pupils in our mainstream schools, it would make sense to recruit these teachers.”

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