Dutch King visits the AUAS to discuss teacher shortage

The Dutch Minister of Education and King Willem-Alexander were special guests at the AUAS

8 Oct 2019 14:01 | Communication

Collaboration between universities of applied sciences and school boards is a prerequisite to effectively tackle the teacher shortage in the Netherlands. Amsterdam serves as an example of this. To see how this works in practice, Ingrid van Engelshoven (the Netherlands Minister of Education, Culture and Science) paid a visit to the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences’ (AUAS) teacher training college for primary education (PABO). She was accompanied by the King of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander.

The visit began at the public primary school Aldoende, just around the corner from the AUAS. The King and Minister were welcomed by teaching transfer student Hugo Smeijer, who teaches three days a week alongside his teacher-training education. Smeijer graduated this week from the so-called ‘zij-instroomtraject’, which is a subsidised programme in the Netherlands that enables people to complete their teacher-training certification within a two-year period.

Professional support

The King was curious about Smeijer’s experience of the programme. Smeijer: "The success of a programme like this depends on the support you receive. Fortunately, this is well-arranged at the AUAS and the STAIJ (school association governing the Aldoende school). I’ve heard different stories elsewhere.”

Els Ramaekers, Director at Aldoende says that there is a vicious circle among Amsterdam schools. "Where there is a major teacher shortage there is also a lack of guidance and support for teachers. And this increases the chance of teacher drop-out.”

Close contact

Luckily Aldoende is not affected by this at the moment. Ramaekers: "We offer a collective education, so the contact is very close. This makes for a smooth transition from studying to working. Our teacher trainees often want to keep working for us, and were very happy about this of course.”

After visiting the primary school, the King and Minister paid a visit to the Kohnstamm building (AUAS Amstel Campus). They met with a group of PABO students (studying to be primary teachers) to discuss why they chose this particular study.

PABO students met with the King and Minister

The PABO students are a very diverse group. The group includes, for example, a mature part-time student who made the switch from a legal career, as well as a young full-time student, Koen Rosema, who was inspired to become a teacher while taking a Spanish course in Spain.

Rosema: "The teachers made learning so much fun. I thought: I want to do this too.”

During the roundtable meetings, Van Engelshoven reflected on the ‘hopeful stories’ shared by the students. “Still, the need for more teachers remains urgent,” said the Minister. She wants to hear more from these students about what can be done to address the problem.

Preparatory education

AUAS Executive Board Chairman, Huib de Jong, also serves as the Chair of the Teacher Shortage Taskforce in Amsterdam. He points out that it would be ideal to prepare more students for teacher-training education when they are still in high school. Nothing like this is currently offered to high school students.

The King was surprised to hear this, while the directors of other universities in attendance nodded in confirmation. "In Amsterdam we’re already working with vocational schools (MBO) to make agreements about our curriculums, showing that much is possible," says De Jong.

Salary gap

Marjolein Moorman, Education Councillor in Amsterdam, insisted that the salary gap between primary and secondary (high) schools needs to be addressed and could contribute to a solution.

Thijs Roovers, a primary school teacher who recently led a teacher strike in the Netherlands, confirms this. Roovers, who happens to be an AUAS alum, says that the improvement plans need to involve the teachers themselves. "We are often overlooked when it comes to changes in the education sector.”

He has the final word: “I believe that we must do something to improve teacher retention. There are many good intentions, but few are executed. If we can solve this problem it will be a huge step in the right direction.”