10 February 2017 • Julia Broos (Algemeen Dagblad, 6 February 2017)
Primary school teacher training: too white, too elitist, too many empty classrooms
The degree programme in Education in Primary Schools (PABO) is now open to all senior secondary vocational education (MBO) graduates. It makes no difference whether their MBO degree was in hospitality, nursing, technology, etc. Admitting these MBO graduates is intended to keep PABO classes filled.
Here is the online version, but you might want to read the newspaper feature.
Imagine: you just got your MBO diploma to become a hospitality worker, nurse or cosmetologist. You’ve never considered becoming a teacher, but so what? The PABO degree programme at THUAS can’t wait to have you. In half a year, you could be whipped into shape for teacher training. You’ll be brought up to speed in Dutch and maths, visit primary schools, and receive a thorough preparation for the PABO entrance examination. The PABO hopes that offering this new bridging programme will attract dozens of extra MBO graduates. Ever since the introduction of the required entrance examination that tests students on their knowledge of geography, history, nature and technology, intake has dropped drastically.
Scaring prospective students away
During the last two academic years, the number of first-year students has been half of what it was before. ‘We used to have lots of incoming MBO graduates – half the total number of first-year students. But these are exactly the prospective students that have difficulty with the exam or let it scare them away before even taking it. These days, 75% of our first-year students are senior general secondary education (HAVO) graduates,’ says Marian van Noort, Programme Manager for the PABO degree programme at THUAS. What’s more, the percentage of students with a migrant background has dropped from 33 to 10%. All of this means that PABO has not only shrunk in numbers but is also becoming whiter and more elitist. But this isn’t what primary schools want since their pupils actually benefit from having various kinds of teachers as role models. Yet another problem faced by the PABO degree programme itself is that its student population has been cut in half; since this has financial consequences, the degree programme will have to reduce its teaching staff. Both the primary schools and the degree programme will benefit by attracting more students as soon as possible.
A larger source of prospective students
MBO students already planning to enrol in PABO by getting an MBO diploma to become a teaching assistant will be prepared for the exam by taking extra subjects. THUAS, however, wants a larger source of prospective students. This is why it is recruiting MBO graduates for the PABO regardless of their former career direction. ‘Some recent MBO graduates may not even be sure yet of what they want to do. By informing these students about the new bridging programme, we hope they will consider a job in primary school education,’ says Van Noort. ‘It’s quite possible that a student already trained in technology, for example, might want to teach this subject.’ The students who will be enrolled full-time in the bridging programme will pay tuition fees, of course, but will also retain their eligibility as MBO students for student finance, etc. In this sense, the bridging programme is an extension of their MBO programme. It should also be noted that if the MBO graduates successfully complete the bridging programme, they will not be obliged to enrol in the PABO. Even so, Van Noort hopes that the vast majority will do so. ‘In any case, a PABO diploma would give them a good chance for landing a job. That’s not nearly as true for all sectors.’ Jet Bussemaker, Minister of Education, is making 2.5 million euros available to the PABO degree programmes in and around The Hague (including the one at InHolland) for the new bridging programme. The teacher training degree programmes in Amsterdam and Rotterdam will also receive funding. This pilot programme is intended to run for two years but will be extended if successful. As of this September, the PABO at THUAS will also offer a special part-time degree programme meant to attract a different target group. Unlike the existing part-time degree programme, this one will allow students a very flexible schedule. They won’t even have to attend classes and, if they want, could show up only for examinations. ‘We think this would be a way to attract older people who are already strapped for time with a job or a new baby. They could now learn entirely at their own pace.’
But that’s not all. Van Noort and her team members are thinking about new specialised programmes that could make the degree programme more attractive to men or expats. ‘What about a degree programme with a career direction more aimed at a position in management and school administration, or a bilingual degree programme? We’re also thinking about starting a specialised academic programme. Whatever we do will depend on the needs of schools. We’ll be discussing these possibilities with them in the coming months,’ says Van Noort. The new specialised programmes will be introduced in 2018.