Emergency plan will remedy teacher shortages in 5 big cities, claims gov't

Amsterdams Lyceum, a secondary school in Amsterdam Zuid
Amsterdams Lyceum, a secondary school in Amsterdam Zuid. Jan. 21, 2017Photo: jeewee/DepositPhotos

The Dutch government is in discussions with the school boards in five cities hard-hit by a shortage of teachers to roll out emergency plans to address the problem. The ruling cabinet announced on Monday it will have a plan in place to tackle the issue in Amsterdam and The Hague by the end of January, and then it will begin addressing the shortages in Rotterdam, Utrecht and Almere.

"We still have a very big problem, especially in the big cities," said Minister Arie Slob in a statement just two hours before the issue was to be debated in the Eerste Kamer, the upper house of Dutch parliament.. A new government estimate suggests the country could be facing up to two thousand full-time teaching vacancies by the end of 2024.

The government said it is examining under what conditions schools can deviate away from existing regulations to make sure they are able to continue providing high quality education. "The emergency measures must alleviate the day-to-day stress of schools, so that schools have the space to focus on solutions for the coming years," the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science said in a statement.

Some schools may be forced to reorganize their classroom models with fewer teachers as a way of addressing the problem. The ministry proposes modifications to teaching time, hiring teachers with a more varied background, and tools that better automate grading. It planned to bring forward similar changes nationwide for the 2023-2024 school year.

The plan includes 60 million euros spread out over the next two years to combat the teacher shortage at a regional level, and an additional million euros annually for four years to each of the four biggest cities in the country.

Within the next five years, the Netherlands is expected to have the equivalent of 1,970 full-time teaching vacancies in primary education. The Cabinet says there is a bright spot to that figure: it is far less than the 3,250 open vacancies that were predicted for 2024 in a previous estimate. 

The more recent estimate also does not include some 850 new teachers expected to shift to primary school from secondary and higher education, the ministry said. In the long term, the Cabinet said it hopes to make teaching more attractive as a profession, and also making teacher training programs more flexible.

Just last week the Netherlands agreed to a new contract with teaching unions after a year of negotiating, which would give a 4.5 percent pay increase to teachers along with a one-time bonuses equivalent to one-third of their monthly salary, and an additional single payment of 875 euros.

Teachers are still planning a walkout in a two-day January strike calling for more structural investment in the country's education system.