Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

Refugee teachers start intensive AUAS training programme

Refugees prepare to revitalise their teaching careers

13 Sep 2018 14:17 | Communication

Sixteen refugees with residence permits, a background in the sciences and teaching experience in their home countries have started an introductory course this September for teacher training at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS). The goal is that they will receive their teaching credentials within a year thanks to this accelerated process. It is hoped that they will then start working straight away at Amsterdam secondary schools, where the shortage of science teachers is becoming acute.

They hail from Syria, Iran, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Turkey, where they were once teachers. Now they want to continue practicing their profession in the Netherlands. The group seems well aware of the challenge they face. They have recognised qualifications and teaching experience, but their language skills hover around B1 and B2 (intermediate) – this has to improve considerably in the near future if they are to independently teach classes of Dutch children. They also have to familiarise themselves with the Dutch education system.

Ljilana Vurlinovic, AUAS lecturer in Dutch as a second language, acknowledges that it’s demanding. "Nevertheless, step by step, we are getting there. Together, we will make it", she tells the group. Zakia Abdelmajeed Yousif (33) is also confident that she can do it. She has faith in her own perseverance. She taught Maths in Sudan for four years, and has been living in the Netherlands for seven years. "I can’t wait to teach again, but it is quite a challenge".

Teacher shortage

It is in any event unique that this group – with a subsidy from the City of Amsterdam – has the opportunity to enter the employment market at a relatively high level. "It is certainly not the first time that legal refugees have taught in Dutch schools, but until now these cases were initiated by the refugees themselves", says Puck Euwe, policy consultant at the City of Amsterdam. "There was no introductory course like this before. Not even at the national level".

This unique opportunity for refugee teachers is due to the great shortage of teachers in the region. To date, six secondary schools have expressed their willingness to offer the refugees work experience as teaching assistants. The goal is for them to get to work as teacher trainees starting in the next school year. In this scenario, they will be employed by a school and at the same time will complete an official teaching qualification. However, not all members of the group have a confirmed work placement yet.


Nasrin Mostafari (38) from Iran is one of the luckier ones. She already has six months at the IJburg College under her belt, and can now start at another school – to cram in as much experience as possible, as she puts it. What is the biggest difference from teaching in Iran? "There is more openness for different levels in Dutch classes. Here, pupils can reach the next level at their own pace. This means there is less panic and there is a great feeling of safety in the class", the mathematician explains, in pretty decent Dutch.


She is also impressed by the practical orientation of the approach in the Netherlands. "Where I come from, we are very good at theory, but we don’t teach what you can do with it. There is also a lot less funding available for linking education to the employment market".

A certain reservation can be heard in her voice when she talks about the attitude of pupils in the Netherlands, however. "In Iran, the pupils are highly motivated. Over there, it is really very important to do well at school, so you can get a good job and later take care of your family". And then, cautiously: "Over here, this sense of urgency sometimes seems to be less evident among the pupils".