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While the number of pupils in primary and secondary schools has increased in recent decades, the number of teachers in front of the classroom has decreased. Today the situation is dire, with an estimated shortage of several thousand teachers, especially in the cities. “There is a lot of attention for this nowadays, and we also expect that this will have a self-regulating effect and that more people will therefore choose a job in education,” says Jan Schoenmakers, head of education at the Department of Education and Training of the AP University of Applied Sciences. Antwerp, Mechelen and Turnhout. “By the way, you invariably see that in an economic depression, that people go more for security. We were able to clearly establish this in 2008, although there is now a shortage on the labor market and several sectors are calling for people.”
Some universities of applied sciences already reported on Thursday that the number of registrations for their teacher training programs had increased for the first time in a long time. “At AP we currently see a status quo,” says Eva Maertens, head of secondary education. “That is positive, because a lot of students will register in the coming weeks.” The academic year starts on September 19, today AP is holding another information day. Every year, 1,200 students follow the teacher training course, across the departments (preschool, primary, secondary), bachelor years and branches.
Several initiatives have already been set up in recent years to make the teaching profession more attractive again. AP is the only university of applied sciences in Flanders to now also come up with something new: it itself looks for jobs for aspiring teachers, even before they start their teacher training. “We mainly want to use this to convince people from other sectors who do want to take the step to education, but also want to be sure of a job and an income,” explains initiator Jan Schoenmakers. He is responsible for this so-called ‘lateral influx’. “After a first pilot project at the end of last school year, with a positive evaluation, we have now launched our concept widely.” That is to say: via AP, 32 teachers stood in front of the class in secondary education for the first time on September 1, while their training will only start in a few weeks. “They recently received a crash course not to start completely unprepared,” says Schoenmakers, “and I am always available for questions and concerns.”
The newcomers teach with a LIO status, which stands for ‘teacher in training’. “They are paid according to the scales of the education system,” says Schoenmakers. “Once they have completed their teaching diploma, they will of course earn even more.”
Is the combination of teaching, studying and possibly a family not very difficult? “Not everyone will like that,” says Schoenmakers, “but we do facilitate it as best we can. Lessons can also be taken digitally, from home, and there is support from the university college, but also from the school where our students work. It is a shared responsibility.”
“AP also commits itself to help students in the regular track in their search for a job,” says Eva Maertens. “Because we often become aware of vacancies more quickly, we like to pass them on to graduates who have not yet found a job themselves. Although that is a small group these days.”
“We also like to make a warm appeal to people with a technical profile who would like to become practical teachers. For them, the threshold to college is sometimes high, but this year we see their number increase sharply for the first time. They are also highly sought after in education.”
More info: ap.beJan Schoenmakers can be reached at [email protected] or at 0472-888343.