Exchanges on teacher supply: Dutch Education Council

Despite thirty years of policy and other efforts to attract and retain teaching staff, the teacher shortages in the Netherlands persist. The demand for teachers remains high, and the shortages are proving stubborn. The Dutch Minister for Primary and Secondary Education asked the Dutch Education Council to explore ways in which education can be provided in a context of the continuing shortage of teachers.

The Council begins this exploration by stressing the importance of efforts to recruit and retain more people for the teaching profession. This is both a necessity and a priority; everything possible needs to be done to ensure that there are sufficient teachers.

A persistent teacher shortage creates a constant need to find ways of spreading scarce teaching resources fairly across the system. The collective responsibility for this requires that stakeholders embrace the principle of solidarity. Teacher shortages cannot be allowed to be a problem only for those schools and school boards which are actually confronted with staff shortages. The Council appeals to all stakeholders not to turn a blind eye to this issue, but to join forces and tackle it in unison. This requires an embracing of solidarity by all schools and departments within a school board’s aegis, by all school boards, all local governments within a municipality or region and all educational areas and regions in the Netherlands.

The teacher shortages in primary and secondary schools are not just stubborn, but also unequally distributed, largely running along socioeconomic lines. This causes the Education Council major concerns, because it exacerbates the inequality of opportunity within education and therefore social inequality within society. In this exploration, therefore, the Council stresses that combating social inequality must go hand in hand with identifying and assessing the available options for delivering education in a context of persistent teacher shortages.