The Netherlands has pursued numerous initiatives to improve the quality and attractiveness of the teaching profession, including greater salary flexibility and more selective entry into initial teacher training. While many teachers are approaching retirement age, some challenges remain such as a growing teacher shortage in some subjects and in some regions and a lack of status for the profession.
Various financial incentives for students in shortage subjects such as languages and the hard sciences to study teaching, for example a EUR 5 000 scholarship for 1st degree Master’s and subsidies for completing education Master’s.
Improving teacher quality and professionalism may increase the attractiveness of teaching profession, for example through the establishment of a teacher registry.
There is a difference between the attractiveness of the profession and the attractiveness of programmes. The introduction of knowledge bases for different subjects in primary and secondary education is strengthening programmes.
Although the Minister recently approved a primary programme at one academic university (WO), the general lack of programmes for primary teaching at the university level may decrease the number of academic students attracted to primary teaching.
Part-time (tailor made) options for completing ITE programmes lack flexibility. This may decrease the attractiveness to career changers, who require more flexibility to complete courses. For example, extending a one-year Master programme to two years part-time may incur additional costs for students.
Other countries have had success with national programmes to increase the attractiveness of the teaching profession, for example through PR-campaigns, national strategies. Dutch teacher love their jobs – get the message out there! In addition, offering greater financial incentives may make the profession more attractive to career changers.
Offering career pathways that provide professional opportunities for teachers and offer workforce flexibility may increase the attractiveness of the profession. Millennials in particular are not looking for long careers in the same position.
There are opportunities to increase the use of available lateral routes to teaching. Few teacher candidates pursue these paths in primary, but more in MBO and secondary.
Teacher shortage is causing high workload and stress for teacher candidates in practical training as they are given too many responsibilities or too little support.
Limits on the number of internship places available impact the number of teacher candidates trained, especially in some subjects.
To enter higher education in the Netherlands, including ITE programmes, all students must comply with the general requirements for entry into higher education. Those entering primary ITE programmes are also examined on their knowledge of history, geography, and nature and science. Some second degree ITE programmes also hold additional knowledge level criteria. Providers of first and second degree ITP programmes can make recommendations to candidates regarding their suitability to the programme/teaching – for example by interviewing them – but they cannot use ‘”selection criteria” to turn candidates away.
Universities can use selection practices such as interviewing applicants. A national expert group is currently discussing the development of selection criteria. Some universities already provide strong guidance to students on their suitability for teaching.
New entry requirements (i.e. entrance exams) for ITE programmes at primary level appear to be reducing dropout rates and increasing the quality of candidates.
Unless students progress through one of the mainstream tracks, the system of programme selection (and resulting qualifications) is complex.
New entrance exams have decreased the number of teacher candidates, especially those from minority backgrounds.
Schools are experts on knowing what they need from teachers, so including schools’ perspective in the selection into teaching could improve selection quality.
Diversity of the teaching profession should be supported at the point of selection, for example, supporting teacher candidates with a minority background in the Dutch language to prepare for entry tests.
Expanding university postgraduate programmes for primary teaching would open up a large pool of potentially high quality recruits.
Teacher shortages may put pressure on the system to lower selection standards in order to train more teachers.
Initial teacher education programmes for primary, secondary and vocational education are run through Universities of Applied Sciences (HBO), while Universities (WO) provide training for teachers in upper secondary education. Teacher education institutions are highly autonomous and there are many types of programmes and pathways, which means courses of study vary widely in their content and approach. Half of all ITE programmes involve at least 40-50% of practical training. However, over the last few years, the Dutch Ministry has focused on improving ITE programmes by implementing minimum professional requirements for teaching, set out in seven domains in the Education Professions Act (2006), and by revising professional requirements in 2017. Teacher knowledge bases were also collectively developed by teacher education institutions to describe what trainee teachers need to know, which guide programme curriculum and assessment.
Ministry and best practice teacher education institutions are creating a culture of collaboration, co-operation and “learning together”, evidenced by many school-university partnerships. About 1/3 of schools have good partnerships.
Some ITE programmes teach candidates how to improve their own practice, and use a continuum of skills to guide development from initial teacher education into induction.
ITE programmes provide a good balance of theory and practice, as well as generic and specific skills.
The Dutch Ministry stimulates innovation and encourages the implementation of preferred practices via pilots, for example “accrediting” partnerships and the teacher development fund.
It is difficult to ensure that effective ITE practices are disseminated across the system and that all teacher education institutions are using best practices to train candidate teachers.
Schools and schools boards said that their feedback to teacher education institutions is not always acted upon, and changes to school practices do not necessarily lead to updates in ITE. This was particularly the case in VET and also in secondary education but less so in primary.
A number of the successful pilots in school-university partnerships and induction programmes could be scaled across the entire system so more schools are using collaboration to improve teacher quality. The amount of funding (overall and per partnership) needed to scale effective partnerships should be reviewed.
There is recognition of the importance of having a developmental continuum from initial teacher education to induction in some institutions. This could be extended to additional support for approaches like lesson study, school-based research, and team-based Master’s programmes.
There are risks that successful pilot programmes and initiatives, such as the academic partnerships between schools and universities, will stop once there is no longer funding available from the Ministry.
Having first and second degree level ITE programmes for secondary may create arbitrary divisions between teachers and result into differences in the knowledge gained through ITE programmes and level of support new teachers require.
In the Netherlands, all university programmes are reviewed every 6 years by a panel of peers based on an accreditation framework. Professional standards, tests for primary school teachers, and collaboratively developed frameworks set minimum standards of quality across the system (e.g. teacher knowledge bases, VELON teacher educator standards). School-university partnerships are also “quality-checked” before and reviewed after they receive funding from the Ministry.
The accreditation process for university programmes looks at the vision, quality assurance system and culture of improvement, and involves a review panel of peers (for re-accreditation) and consequences for very poor performing institutions.
There are legislated professional standards for teachers and national tests for primary school teacher candidates in three subject areas. There are also “industry-developed” VELON teacher educator standards and teacher knowledge bases. These things set system-wide expectations for the base level of what new teachers and teacher educators need to know.
The Ministry conducts a survey of all newly qualified teachers. Various stakeholders (e.g. accreditation body and inspectorate) collaborate to review the information collected from schools and new teachers to identify national trends and make policy recommendations that are based on what is actually happening in schools.
The accreditation body looks at some school partnerships and has to approve these before they are funded. This helps set expectations across the system of what a good school-university partnership should look like.
There is a strong culture of collaboration in the Dutch system – particularly within school boards and/or regions – but there are few national projects to share quality practices across the entire system.
There does not seem to be many strong incentives for all institutions – especially those delivering “average” programmes – to participate in innovations such as the school-university partnerships or teacher development continuum / induction projects.
Include strong initial teacher education/professional development partnership activity as some part of the school inspection process.
Continuing to strategically fund research initiatives on what works in teaching practice, teacher preparation and ongoing development, using school-based research and teacher teams completing their Master’s, will ensure a coherent and focused research agenda.
Teacher shortages may create pressure to shorten and/or lower exit standards for initial teacher education
Teachers are automatically certified to teach after completing their studies. Since 2017, teachers need to be registered with the Education Cooperative but to do so, new teachers must complete 160 hours of training in the first 4 years. After 4 years, new teachers must complete 460 hours of professional development to remain registered. Teachers are recruited by schools and hired by School Boards. Schools and their Boards often hire teachers on the basis of alignment of the teacher and school/School Board’s needs and vision.
Practical training, including internship programmes, allow schools to “try before they buy”.
When ITE providers are producing consistently strong teacher candidates, schools can focus more on finding teachers that fit the school’s needs, for example according to subject area specialisation or general alignment with the vision/mission of the school.
Teachers lose their seniority if they move to another school board unless they are in a good negotiating position.
There may be room for initiatives to improve the attractiveness of training and working in certain areas (e.g. rural) and levels of education (e.g. primary education for male teachers).
Providing greater incentives for teacher mobility within and between School Boards may address problems of teacher shortage and offer more career flexibility.
Some school boards and/or individual schools may not be able to offer the same opportunities as others school boards. For example, some school boards attract stronger teacher candidates by offering better practicum, induction, professional development and general career opportunities. It may be easier for larger school boards to offer more but even large school boards cannot offer many opportunities for professional development.
According to collective labour agreements, all teachers (both temporary and permanent) have the right to induction in their first year of teaching, with negotiated release time and reduced workload for new teachers (e.g. no extra-curricular duties). A growing number of schools offer support programmes for new teachers, which include a mentor, who is responsible for jointly training candidates, developing programmes (e.g. induction) and conducting research; teacher educator (one for content and one for GPK/PCK); and school supervisor. Increasingly, school-based mentors are registered through VELON, and educators also receive training. Schools can decide if the tasks of school-based mentors are included as part of teachers’ non-teaching time.
Current collective labour agreements mandate induction plans for each student for 1 year.
There are opportunities for teacher educators at the school and university levels to achieve professional standards through VELON, serving to increase quality and consistency of support for young teachers.
While the number of induction hours is mandated by collective labour agreements, induction may vary across schools and School Boards in terms of availability (i.e. not all schools have induction programmes and only offer some induction activities), quality (i.e. partnership schools often have more resources to improve quality of induction) and implementation (i.e. culture / management in the school makes a difference).
Teachers with permanent contracts receive more support than temporary teachers. Teachers on short-term contracts (i.e. substitute teachers) are unlikely to receive any support.
Expanding initiatives linking initial teacher education, induction and ongoing PD will help create a career-long teacher development continuum.
A new pilot initiated by the University of Groningen introducing a 3-year induction period for all new teachers (50% of schools in the Netherlands are currently participating) may be considered for upscaling by the Ministry after the pilot in 2021.
Boards should use their role as a formal employer to share best practices across schools, create opportunities for professional learning, etc.
Increasingly, schools are developing a strong culture of support for new teachers, involving a team of educators, coaches, mentors, experienced teachers. This support is enhanced by provision of formal training for these staff.
Due to teacher shortages, some new teachers are asked to take on mentoring or coaching roles. This may result in heavier workload for new teachers and possible attrition.
In some schools, responsibilities of a mentor or coach are included as part of the non-teaching responsibilities of a teacher. However, this is not a formal career path, nor is it compensated, and this can be an additional workload in schools which do not recognise mentoring and coaching as part of non-teaching responsibilities.