HU-study programme helps refugees back in the saddle as math teachers

Imagine this: you are a teacher who came to the Netherlands as a refugee. You are qualified to teach here, but you are not yet familiar enough with the Dutch language and teaching methods. Now what? With our new tailor-made refresher training, these professionals can polish up their skills. Not only do they have a future in education again, they also help combat the teacher shortage. A first group of students has now started at HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht (HU), which happened to be on the same day that two of our Ministers came to visit.

Ministers Wiersma (left) and Dijkgraaf (middle) with HU students

Shortage of teachers was the main topic during the work visit of Minister Dennis Wiersma (Primary and Secondary Education) and Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf (Education, Culture and Science) to the HU. "A problem so big you don’t get one, but two ministers to visit", said Dijkgraaf. After all, the shortage of teachers is an acute problem - one that the HU, with its teacher study programmes and strong connections to schools in the region, knows all about. Together with these schools, the HU is working hard on finding solutions. One of those solutions kicked off on the day of the Ministers’ visit: the refresher training for refugee teachers, to help them get ready to teach in the Netherlands. The first batch of these new teachers briefly met with Minister Wiersma.

Association of Math Teachers 

The refresher training participants include one Polish and 14 Turkish math teachers who fled their country (one of them had been imprisoned for his political views). The diplomas they bring from their home countries are recognised by DUO (Netherlands education executive agency). This means that they are qualified to teach, but still lack knowledge of the Dutch language and Dutch education system. So now they are being trained during a short period of time - one and a half years at the most - including work placement, to be able to teach in the Netherlands. The training of the students includes Dutch, teaching methodology, pedagogy and the Dutch education system. 

The refresher training programme is one of the first projects of the programme “Docentvluchteling Voor De Klas” (The Refugee Teacher in the classroom). This is an initiative of the Dutch Association of Math Teachers and is supported by the Dutch Council of Refugees. What sets this programme apart is the fact that it is not financed by the Utrecht region, but by the partnership “Leraar in Het Gooi” (Teacher in ‘Het Gooi’). In this programme, schools collaborate to combat teacher shortages in, for example, primary and secondary schools. The organisation for refugee students UAF pays for the study books and the travel expenses. The HU makes their own teachers available for the project. They are then paid from the Regional Approach to Personnel Shortages (RAP) grant, from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.


Collaboration as a recurring theme

On the day the refugee students started their training, ministers Wiersma and Dijkgraaf came to talk about the teacher shortage. Not only managers, but also HU-teachers and -students were present at the meeting. The conversations focused on: how can we further solve the ongoing teacher shortage? How do we get more students to become teachers and how can we reduce the number of student drop-outs? Collaboration was a recurring theme during these conversations. Senior students are already coaching the new HU-students to help combat drop-out. For graduates, there are alumni meetings where they can share experiences and stay connected with the programme. Collaboration between primary schools, secondary schools, universities of applied sciences and universities is also gaining ground.

Crucial factor

The HU considers the quality of education a crucial factor in the continuity of our knowledge society and for the improvement of social equality. The quality of that education stands or falls with the competence of education professionals. Therefore, the HU will work ever closer with partners to make teacher education more attractive to a broad target group. The collaboration with the Dutch Council of Refugees and the Association of Math Teachers matches this ambition well.

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