Too many pupils for not enough teachers

"Aula" of the Ghent University. Gent...

“Aula” of the Ghent University. Gent, East Flanders, Belgium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Flemish schools waiting for new buildings I mentioned already that it was back to school for students of all ages and that this new school year promises to be dominated by plans for reform of education in the region currently being discussed by education minister Pascal Smet, who earlier in the year was already severely criticised by the NV-A for his proposals, which involve a reorganisation of years one and two of secondary school, for students aged roughly 12 to 14.

“The last three years I’ve been observing and preparing,” Smet said. “Now I’m ready to take decisions, and, in the coming months, I want to cut through the knots. We can’t get around the fact that our education system needs to be strengthened.”

The current system of choosing a learning stream – general academic studies, technical, career-oriented and, to a lesser extent, artistic studies – would be replaced by a single educational plan for all students.

The aim of the change, says Smet, is to allow students more experience before they make a choice of study track. At present, some experts argue, too many children are pushed too early into the wrong academic stream and because of that we get a waterfall system. If all students from 12 to 14 were to follow the same stream, Smet argues, their real aptitudes could better be determined.

Teacher training and job-attractiveness

Among the ideas being considered is the possibility for teachers coming into education from other fields being allowed to retain their seniority for the purposes of pay. Also, young teachers would have less time to wait before obtaining an indefinite contract. Both measures are designed to attract more people to the profession.

In Belgium the training for teachers is not how I would like to see it, and does not really give a good training to be ready to solve the many problems at school in different ways.

Having an extra year would not do any harm and would give more time to ‘play school’ and participate in different pedagogical exercises, under a scheme being considered by Flemish education minister Pascal Smet. For the lower grades schoolteachers follow a Bachelor’s degree lasting three years, while teachers of classes in the upper levels of secondary schools train for four years. Under Smet’s proposal, all teacher training would be extended to a four-year Master’s degree within the next five years. Naturally the fourth year may not be something of the same and not contributing anything extra. In my eyes the best thing would be that they first have a specific training in their subject. Doing a Bachelor or Master, and afterwards one or two years of just pedagogic training with a project in a school added to it, followed up by their supervisor and projectmanager. But this is something what not many youngsters would like to hear.
Problem is also that parents do know that there is no respect any more for the job of a teachers, and then to study such a long time and getting not much afterwards is not worth it, according to them.

© Shutterstock

The teacher in class – © Shutterstock

On the other hand extending the studies of teachers will lead to more professionalism and perhaps to a higher status when there shall be also higher earnings. Having more opportunities to do interesting fieldwork and to be more sure of a continues contract, not having to wait each schoolyear what it will bring for hours and possible income could attract more young people into the profession.Cricking up the low morale in the profession and doing something against the rapidly rising pupil numbers per teacher and making an end to the dictatorial rules of the OVSG (the City and villages co-operation board) who do feel their are standing above the inspectors of the government and educational system could take away the major problems for recruiting and keeping enough staff in the future.

In case the government and the local schoolboards do not make serious work to get the OVSG out of their system, they will soon face a shortage of headmasters as well.

Such a change and some incentive could be reversing the chronic shortage of teachers in Flanders’ schools. But then the schoolboards shall also have to take measures to get the pupils in line. Order and regulations should come before wanting to keep enough pupils in the school. As long as the teacher shall not receive the right to give his obliged study-material in the way he wants to give it and in the way he can keep order in class, they shall not stay long in the teaching job, but shall prefer to go to the private sector. A more academically oriented training, it is believed, could also help attract more men to teaching. It also would be more attractive when the teachers shall limit their teaching only to one subject, for example only French or German and not to have to combine A German and a Roman language or to combine it with two totally different subjects as geography or history.

The competence of teacher trainers could be a lot higher when they are specifically trained to teach in their own subject and shall be allowed to restrict themselves only to their favourite subject.


Among the other ideas being considered by Smet’s office is the creation of schools of education, which would group together various forms of training (primary school, secondary school and technical school), as well as carrying out research, training school directors and taking care of continuing education for working teachers.

The many reform ideas have not yet attained the status of a government proposal. According to reports, Smet has been carrying out consultations in recent months with the education sector on career matters, and the idea of extending teacher training arose out of that. Other countries in Europe have already introduced the change, but some questions the results.

Smet has promised a full proposal on the reform of teaching by the beginning of next year at the latest.

On-the-job training

An other problem for the businesses is that the number of students in secondary school who spend time working as part of their education – has dropped by 21% in the past five years. The students who could study and work at the same time make it possible to have really integrated fully prepared workers for the specific job and offering a cheaper solution than having to prepare school-leavers for that job. and cheaper workforce is welcome now Belgium has fallen back in the international list that ranks the world’s most competitive economies. Belgium now features on the 17th spot – down from 15 – in a ranking headed by Switzerland. Work placement is such a very good way to get the best of apprenticeship, it should be taken care of much more.

The fall in the numbers taking part is, according to Unizo secretary-general Karel Van Eetvelt, “a pity, because this is a perfect method to find new and worthwhile employees. With the labour market as tight as it is, businesses cannot expect to stumble on exceptional talents. Instead they need to take people with the right attitude and give them the chance to gain work experience.”


The quality of mathematics education in Flanders, meanwhile, is below standard, according to retired Ghent University professor Raymond Boute. He particularly criticised the books teachers use. “Mathematics is based on precision, and that’s something that’s nowhere to be found in these books,” he told De Morgen. Maths classes in secondary schools do not get across complex abstract concepts, he said, or prepare students for higher education, where courses are much more theoretical.


Read also:

Belgium again loses competitive edge

Back to school in Flanders

Extra year of teacher education being considered

Figures drop for job students On-the-job training benefits both secondary students and business


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    In a survey of headteachers, one in four said it had been more difficult to recruit teaching staff this year than last, while 55 per cent said morale in the profession was poor or worse. Only 10 per cent said it was good or better.

    Professor John Howson, who carried out the research, said the findings revealed “a perfect storm of falling teacher-training applications, low staff morale and rapidly rising pupil numbers” that could “create a future teacher workforce crisis in primary schools”.

    “The Government needs to take urgent steps now, including higher bursaries for primary initial teacher education courses, to avoid a crisis which would impact on the education of thousands of pupils,” he added.


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About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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2 Responses to Too many pupils for not enough teachers

  1. Pingback: What is important? | From guestwriters

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