Over 3,200 teachers short: what can the corporate world do?

September 01, 2023

On September 1st, the teacher shortage will be even larger than at the start of the last school year. This isn’t an isolated phenomenon. Other European countries are also facing major teacher shortages.


On September 1st, the teacher shortage will be even larger than at the start of the last school year. This isn’t an isolated phenomenon. Other European countries are also facing major teacher shortages. According to the VDAB, there are still some 3,200 vacancies open in education. That is an increase of 20% compared to last year. Moreover, the final shortage will be even higher because schools do not pass on all open jobs to the VDAB. Not to mention the likely high number of teachers who will drop out during the school year. A huge problem, in other words. What can be done?

Secondary education is experiencing a rapidly growing shortage, with 37% more vacancies than last year. The shortages are most significant in Antwerp and East Flanders, with 872 and 786 vacancies respectively. Furthermore, these shortages are most pressing for technical courses, mathematics, and the languages French and Dutch. 


Info fairs, lateral entrants and four-day week 

The facts are what they are. But what can be done about it? Dutch-speaking education in Brussels reduced the shortage by 20% last year through information fairs, lateral entrants and a four-day teaching week. 

In the two GO elementary schools that switched to such a four-day week, the same number of hours were taught, but by compressing the working week to four working days, the job of the teacher was made more attractive. Indeed, the measure created additional teaching hours, because quite a few teachers would like to return to full-time work if they could bundle their full-time into four days. Another advantage is that teachers who live a little further from the workplace are more willing to commute if they do not have to commute five days a week.

The Brussels schools did not teach on Wednesdays and got inspired by the four-day week in the Netherlands, where it has already been successfully implemented in many elementary schools. Pupils can come to school on Wednesdays, but alternative activities will be organized. To compensate for the omitted Wednesday, an extra hour of class is added on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. This does not seem like an ideal situation from the point of view of educational quality, but if it implies having a French teacher in front of the classroom instead of no teacher, the choice is quickly made. 


What if ... we make employees available? 

Flemish Minister of Education Ben Weyts encourages companies to offer their employees a job in front of the class, with retention of salary. Starting this school year, schools can conclude service contracts with companies that want to make employees available for education. In this way, schools will have additional teachers who have experience in the business world. 

Teachers with a service contract are people with a teaching certificate who work in a company undergoing restructuring but are employed full-time in education. Nothing changes about their pay conditions. The government pays them as much as a teacher, while the company makes up the remaining wage difference. The approval for this is still pending at the Council of State. 

Furthermore, Ben Weyts is also introducing guest teachers this school year. These are people from, for example, the private sector or civil servants who offer their services in education for a few hours a week, without making a full transition. They do not have to be able to present a pedagogical certificate of competence. Guest teachers should become the new normal. 


But ... teaching is harder than you think 

However, experts warn about quality: a bank manager is not necessarily a good teacher. And although the number of lateral entrants is also rising, many soon drop out. Not rarely because they have underestimated the job. Especially in schools with underprivileged students, where the teacher shortage is the most pronounced, it is not obvious for people from the corporate world to stand in front of a classroom without experience as a teacher. 

In any case, all these measures and proposals are welcome to reduce the large shortage of teachers, although it remains somewhat of a mop-up. Structural measures are pressing. Education experts, for example, advocate raising the bar in teacher education, including more attention to the craft of teaching. If the bar is raised, the profession's image will immediately be boosted as well, they reason. To be continued!