More vocational instructors fall into lowest income group

Student learning to cut hair
Student learning to cut hairPhoto: Goodluz/DepositPhotos

Despite extra money and good intentions, the number of secondary vocational education (MBO) lecturers in the lowest salary level increased last year compared to the year before. At the same time, the financial reserves of MBO institutions are growing, the Volkskrant reports based on figures from DUO and a study by the MBO Medezeggenschap Platform - a cooperating platform of MBO works councils that analyzed the personal data and finances of all 63 MBO institutions.

High workloads, low salaries and a shortage in teachers are problems that all levels of education in the Netherlands, including MBO, are currently facing. And these problems are not new. Ten years ago, the Ministry of Education, employers and trade unions signed the Action Plan Teachers of the Netherlands. This action plan promised to improve the salary and career opportunities for teachers in primary education, secondary education, and vocational education. The intention was to make the profession more attractive and thereby counteract the then impending teacher shortage.

The Ministry made extra money available for education. MBO got 45 million euros extra in 2009, and that amount is increasing to 131 million euros in 2020, according to the newspaper. The Action Plan stated that the money had to be invested "in more teacher positions at a higher job level", among other things. But according to the MBO Medezeggenschap study, the percentage of MBO teachers in the lowest job and salary level increased from 47.1 percent in 2009, to 49.8 percent in 2017, and to 51.6 percent last year.

At the same time, MBO institutions' financial reserves increased. According to education executive agency DUO, in 2014 the 63 MBO institutions had a total of around 900 million euros in cash. Last year it was around 1.1 billion euros. 

Minster Ingrid van Engelshoven of Education wants to talk to the MBO-Raad, the council for MBO schools, about the results of this study, she said to the Volkskrant. "I take this signal seriously. It is important that the agreements made are met." The MBO-Raad itself did not want to respond to the newspaper's questions about the study.

Rob Nederkoorn, chairman of MBO Medezeggenschap, called the results "very sad", especially since MBO institutions have increased their reserves over the past years. "With that money you could have placed teachers in higher levels." According to Nederkoorn, there is not enough control on how money from the government is spent. 

Tamar van Gelder, director of teachers union AOb, called the growing group of teachers in the lowest income level "worrying", according to the newspaper. But she does not think this problem can be solved solely by using the growing reserves. "Not all of the money is immediately up for grabs. Sometimes a destination is already attached to it, such as building maintenance."