The teaching shortage for Dutch-language schools is reaching critical levels in Belgium, with at least 2,000 positions for full-time teachers still unfilled.
“The pandemic makes the situation more acute. The shortage is worse than ever,” Koen Pelleriaux, a spokesperson for the Flemish Education Centre (Gemeenschapsonderwijs), said on VRT news on Monday.
The shortage is felt across multiple educational organisations. While the 2,000 positions cited were for all the schools in the GO! network, Pelleriaux spoke of 10,000 general full-time teaching assignments which remain unfilled.
He said he fears chaos in the coming months, amid increases in Covid-19 cases and resulting quarantines.
“There is a need for a long-term vision and more drastic solutions,” said Pelleriaux, explaining that a plan from Flemish Minister of Education Ben Weyts (N-VA) is not enough to solve a teacher shortage of this magnitude.
Calls for more training, higher pay
“Teacher training should be set up at university level,” he said, adding that the seniority lateral entrants can take with them must also be higher.
“Minister Weyts has raised it to ten years, which is certainly an improvement, but it is not enough. Many lateral entrants are 45- to 50-year-olds. They do want to give something back to society and give up some pay, but not as much as is currently the case. Improve the remuneration so we can compete with other jobs.”
Weyts responded to the criticism by saying that many subjects do offer more years of seniority.
“At the start of this term of office, zero years of seniority were provided for zero subjects: we are now raising that to ten years of seniority for twenty bottleneck subjects. For practical subjects, it goes up to twenty years of seniority that you can take with you,” Weyts said.
“Fundamentally, I do not believe that remuneration is the core problem for teachers. It is much more about respect. If teachers get the respect they deserve again, more people will automatically choose this job.”