16 October 2019 • HOP, Bas Helleman
Analysis: Sometimes students of primary school teaching programmes (PABO) need more time
Why shouldn’t primary teacher training programmes last for five years? Do politicians think the higher education system is more important than the teacher shortage and the level of our degree programmes?
It’s not easy to start a primary school teacher training programme. Future students have to take tests and demonstrate that they know enough about geography, history and science & technology.
These stricter requirements were introduced four years ago after previous maths and language tests in the first year of study were made compulsory. This was because there was unrest and indignation about the level of the primary teacher training programmes. The programmes needed to be improved. As a result, there would be less first-year students, but that was not considered a big deal.
Did the politicians perhaps not see the teacher shortage coming? They did, but the reasoning was that “we should just chew on these bitter seeds”. The level should be increased and there was only one way to solve this, namely, through admission requirements. That is because you can’t cram everything into these four years of primary teacher training.
Fairly soon it became evident that degree programmes would be supplying the work field with hundreds of teachers less as a result of the stricter requirements. Far fewer young people were opting for primary teacher training programmes and this was not being compensated by the higher study success of those remaining.
So, the politicians had a change of heart. Now that the unpleasant effects of the teacher shortage are being felt, the governing parties want to abolish the admission tests once again. The Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid Van Engelshoven, has little sympathy for this. She wants to maintain the level.
However, they do not have to be mutually exclusive. You can effectively test young people for primary teacher training programmes without all of those strict admission requirements. However, you then have to accept that they will spend slightly longer on their studies. You need to improve their skills,
and there’s the rub. The primary teacher training programmes need to remain within the four-year university of applied sciences degree programme, because that is how the system works. All university of applied sciences degree programmes last four years, end of story. However, is this really a hard and fast rule?
Exceptions are being made more frequently. For instance, the tuition fees for all first-year students are halved, but students on teacher training degree programmes also receive this discount in their second year. Another exception to the system is that the higher tuition fees for the second year of studies does not apply if you retrain in education or healthcare.
In research university education (WO), you have one-year and two-year master’s degree programmes, which means that a research university degree programme (together with the three-year bachelor’s degree) can take four or five years. Nursing degree programmes even last for six years. Why couldn’t a degree programme that is as important as the primary teacher training degree programme take another year if a student needs this?
All children in the Netherlands are taught by graduates from primary teacher training programmes and spend eight years in classrooms with them. It goes without saying that the level of these degree programmes must be high and that prospective students should not be deterred by admission requirements. However, you then have to accept the consequences and dare to think outside of the system.