Attracting and selecting trainee teachers

Many teachers are approaching retirement age

In upper secondary vocational education (MBO), more than half the teachers are over 50 years of age (Figure 5.1). This is a challenge because highly experienced teachers will be lost and replacing them with good recruits will be difficult. However, it is also an opportunity to reshape and enhance the skills of the teaching workforce to ensure that it is ready to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world (MoECS, 2013).

Teaching is not considered a high status profession

A great deal of effort has been expended to make the teaching profession more attractive (MoECS, 2015a), but although 9 out of 10 Dutch teachers are satisfied with their jobs, only 4 out of 10 report that society values their profession (OECD, 2014b). Projections suggest a rise in the number of vacancies in primary education, but with regional variations. At the secondary level it remains difficult to find sufficient teachers for certain subjects, for example mathematics and science. Despite the large number of retirements in MBO, large shortages are not expected as teachers can also be recruited from working life (Fontein et al., 2015).

Good quality teaching requires high level recruits

The strongest education systems typically make teaching a highly selective profession (Barber and Mourshed, 2007), and the cognitive skills of teachers are a significant determinant of international differences in student performance. Until recently in the Netherlands, all those who had obtained an MBO level 4, general secondary education (HAVO) or pre-university education (VWO) diploma could enter initial teacher training. An analysis of the cognitive skills of teachers, based on data from the Survey of Adult Skills 2012, a product of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), confirms that recruitment has not been from the top of the cohort of secondary education graduates (Schleicher, 2013; Hanushek, Piopiunik and Wiederhold, 2014).

Figure 5.1. Percentage of teachers by age group and school type, 2013

Source: Eurostat (2015), “Distribution of teachers at education level and programme orientation by age groups [educ_uoe_perd01]”, Eurostat database, Eurostat, and-training/data/database (accessed 11 January 2016).

Entrance to initial teacher training has become more selective

In 2010, mathematics and language test requirements were introduced for first year trainee teachers for primary education. A test at the end of training has been in place in teacher training programmes for both primary and secondary education since 2013/14 (Van der Rijst, Tigelaar and van Driel, 2014). The quality of new teachers is seen to have improved partly due to this measure (Inspectorate of Education, 2015). Further subject knowledge requirements have been imposed on those wanting to enter teacher training for primary education from 2015/16 onwards. Students coming from VWO can enter directly, unlike students from HAVO and MBO. As a result of these stricter entry requirements, some 30% fewer students started teacher training in 2015 compared to the previous year (The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, 2015), and projections suggest the sector will face a shortage of 4 000 full-time primary teachers in 2020 (Fontein et al., 2015).

Entry requirements may have become too selective and are focused only on cognitive skills

The projected teacher shortages suggest that entrance tests to the profession may be too demanding and do not take into account other criteria, such as non-cognitive skills, that may better reflect the complex nature of teaching. Teacher training institutions have recently started various initiatives around intake procedures and selection options. The evidence shows a wider range of selection criteria can be used effectively (Van der Rijst, Tigelaar and van Driel, 2014; European Commission, 2013). Finland, for example, selects secondary graduates based on exam results, a written test on assigned books on pedagogy, observations in school situations and interviews (Sahlberg, 2010).

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