“On paper, there are enough teachers”, say experts and politicians | Interior

There are more than enough teachers, despite the teacher shortage. De Standaard writes this on Friday after looking at the figures and interviews with experts. Now that the quick wins in the fight against the teacher shortage have been realised, the next step beckons: a reorganization.

Many people associate the teacher shortage in Flanders and Brussels with a shrinking workforce. The opposite is true, according to data collected by De Standaard. The number of staff in Flemish education is increasing and will continue to increase. All records were broken last school year, both in absolute numbers and in the number of full-time equivalents (FTEs).

At the end of December 2022, 204,607 employees were paid a salary. In ten years, the number of FTEs increased from 169,999 in 2012 to 185,235 in 2022. That is counterintuitive, but it is good news. People are still enthusiastic about a job in education, albeit not always as a teacher.

The explanation for this increase is multifaceted: on the one hand, investments are being made, for example in additional child care workers. On the other hand, the workforce also follows the demographic evolution. The number of teachers correlates with the increasing number of children and young people. Yet there remains a structural shortage of teachers, both in primary and secondary education.

Experts such as educational economist Kristof De Witte (KU Leuven) and Dirk Van Damme, former CEO at the OECD, point to the inefficient network structure and the low standard for being allowed to organize a course. There are Catholic schools, provincial schools, GO! schools, and so on. Often with identical courses a stone’s throw away. Cooperation between the networks is exceptional.

“Three Solutions”

Open VLD MP Gwendolyn Rutten sees the figures as proof of her earlier statement that there is no teacher shortage on paper, but that there are not enough teachers in the classroom. According to Rutten, three things must be done to ensure that there are more teachers in the classroom.

First, according to Rutten, teachers should “be more concerned with teaching than with side issues”. “Research shows that teachers spend only a third of their working time effectively teaching. A lot of time is spent on organisation, meetings or administration”, it sounds. She pleads for “one year of paperless work”.

Second, the outflow must be stopped. Many teachers retire within five years.

Thirdly, the tutorial groups, umbrella organizations and networks must “organize themselves differently and collaborate more”. “Today it is possible that on one side of the street there is a school with a vacancy for a certain subject and on the other side a school with a teacher who has too few hours in that particular subject. If those schools belong to a different educational group – let alone educational network – it is de facto impossible to work for both schools. Those kinds of hallucinatory situations must disappear,” says the liberal MP.

Look. Minister of Education Ben Weyts defends himself against criticism.