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I was recently lucky to meet someone who explained the ways of becoming a language teacher in the Netherlands.

The different levels of education in the Nethe...

The different levels of education in the Netherlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As it happens around the world, teaching a language starts by following university courses. In the Dutch system, universities constitute the WO section of education, which stands for ‘Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs’. Those who wish to become teachers, have to do practice teaching as well as following university courses during the last two years of their studies. This is called ‘stage’, pronounced, unlike pronunciation of the English word of the same lettering, as /’sta:ʒǝ/. In general, teaching practice takes several days a week over a year, when the student visits and later conducts lessons in several hours a day, followed by ‘reflexion’, that is, discussion of what has happened, what went well and what didn’t, and what could change another time. There is also opportunity follow university studies part-time, in which case practice lengthens a couple of years and course-work formats are changed somewhat.

In theory, this system looks very good because it gives over a hundred hours of practice for the development of the trainee to become a full-blown teacher. However, as a former teacher trainer confided to me, the quality of trainees is often quite low, while trainers often neglect their trainees, cutting down on the reflexion stage, sometimes to a quarter hour per week, sometimes to nothing. In this case the whole idea of development through discussion, reflection and self-reflection suffers a deadly blow, as it happens to a friend of mine also on ‘stage’. Her practice turns out to be a full-time job without being paid. It looks like employment-lead training in Britain, except that there she would be paid a salary.

Teaching practice takes place at schools of any kind anywhere in the system where the leadership offers opportunities to those on practice time. One looking for job opportunities most usually reads about vacancies for people with one year experience in their specific sector (VMBO/MAVO, MBO, HAVO, HBO or VWO for secondary-level applicants) followed by saying that ‘stagiaires’, those on teaching practice, are also most welcome. There are a few ads for people with several years of experience, but the stated number is usually below five years. This probably doesn’t have much to do with refusing experience, but a belief that those freshly out of WO have more dynamism, but also with a very steeply rising salary-scale until fifteen years of experience. This to me means, on the one hand, that the system believes and appreciates a fast improvement in quality with the first years of practice, but also that experience quickly becomes expensive. However, older, more experienced teachers don’t get further pay-rise, so they don’t become overly more expensive for schools to employ them instead of a 40-year-old. Hopefully, this gives chances for older people to move, but it my also be an indication that most experienced teachers don’t usually have any incentive to do so.

This system is different from the British or Hungarian systems. In Britain, for a teaching diploma, one needs a separate line of studies after the specific subject is fully completed, at which point the would-be teacher enters teaching college. Here I would need help from British teachers about the ways of how and where teaching practice is carried out, as I have no relevant experience. However, one article, listed below by Daniel, describes the author’s path to teaching and out of this article, we can safely deduce that teacher training in Britain has a great variety of forms depending most often from the training school’s own ways. As teaching requires post-grad studies in Britain, the Dutch system may only resemble this in its institutional variety.

How the – much more unified – system works in Hungary is discussed in a the following post.

by P.S.

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