As I already dropped a hint in my first post, it is important for someone with a foreign degree to ask his degree to be nationalized by the authorities of the “Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap”. It can be done through the DUO-group, or through NUFIC. Their web-sites can be found under these names, they describe the necessary procedure and requirements. It takes about six weeks to get your diploma/degree to get what they call ‘erkenning’, or ‘waardering’, after which one can go about job-hunting. For those who are looking for such appreciation of their CELTA, or similar diplomas, I have to add here that Dutch law states that no course counts for ‘diploma waardering’ which involved fewer than 800 teaching hours. The Dutch word ‘diploma’ is equivalent to the English ‘degree’, as MA or above, but CELTA is not one, the English word ‘diploma’ is not equivalent to anything much in the Netherlands in this respect, in spite of what some dictionaries say.
While I’m waiting for DUO to answer my request, I haven’t stopped trying to collect information and submitting applications. In this post, I’d like to describe what I’ve found out in the meantime.
Language Learners and Gaming – IATEFL (Photo credit: blogefl)
First of all, though I’ve earlier written that I’ve never met a Dutch at international events, I have to admit that I’ve discovered the presence of an IATEFL-associate at the annual IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) conference this year. I mean, the presence of ONE person. Smaller countries like Hungary, or Slovakia, regularly send five-six members.
The other thing I’ve found about Dutch presence at IATEFL is that the Dutch organization as partner to this international organization is called ‘Levende Talen’, which, true to its name ‘modern languages’ in English, has 14 modern language sections. This means that the Dutch organization associated internationally has little to do with English, it is only the English section of it which is really associated. Accordingly, their web-site is written in Dutch almost without exception (the exception being a part of the small Italian section-page), and so is the ‘Newsbrief’ of the English section. Unheard of with IATEFL-Hungary, though their web-site content is still relatively weak and under construction, very possibly because of under-funding.
As to finding a job in the Netherlands, it is most advisable to sign up – for free – with some of the national search-engines, which collect a huge number of vacancies daily from throughout the country. Such are, for example, Jobrapido, Werkgever-vacatures, Jobbird, Meesterbaan, Trovit, Matafoor personeelsbank, Careerbuilder, Unique, Banenmatch, StudentZonderBijbaan (obviously, mostly for students, so here you can find possibilities for ‘stage’), or FunktieMediair. Some of such search-engines are general kinds, but most have a separate search field for jobs in education. You can also join the international site Skillpages, where you can advertise yourself as having special skills, like languages.
One piece of advice after you start receiving information from one or some other of the above search-engines: when you look at the vacancies contained in the ad, it’s worth opening even those that do not look suitable for your, for example for geographical reasons. I have repeatedly received ads saying in their titles that they concerned a vacancy in, say, Utrecht, but in reality, the job was offered in Tilburg, or Lelystad, or the like. It has also already repeatedly happened with a particular search-engine that a vacancy was said to be for Hungarian speakers in the Netherlands, while inside the text it was revealed that it was intended for German speakers in, say, Brno in the Czech republic. Another company always advertises with a time-frame of 20 to 36 hours per week given on the side-bar, but for a while the applicant is continuously perplexed to find that every second one of their ads is for “0.2fte”, which means 20% salary and workload of a full-time job, which means about 4 or 5 contact hours a week. After a while the unhappy job-seeker comes to understand that this search-engine almost never adjusts its settings to the differences inside its advertisements, so you either open up each and every one of them, or give up bothering about any.
While most schools advertise their own vacancies in the major national newspapers during the main period for job-hunting for the following year, they advertise throughout the year in their region, mostly through their school-groups, or community of schools, like Eudelta, in the delta region in Zuid-Holland and Zeeland, Plana, around Arnhem and Nijmegen in Gelderland, or VIA-scholen for Christian schools in the ‘Bible-belt’ between Gelderland and Utrecht. Besides this, they often outsource most of the selection procedure to headhunter firms, or ‘uitzendbureaus’, which are the most important channels for finding jobs in other sectors of the economy, but not so usual in education. One can find dozens of such ‘uitzendbureaus’ in the centres of all towns and villages, but those for education I’ve found work almost exclusively through on-line search-engines, so one should know about them, like http://www.upointonline.nl/, http://www.intermediair.nl/, http://www.flexibilityonderwijs.nl/, http://fairflex.carerix.net/, or http://www.match4onderwijs.nl.
As I’ve had the good luck to find out, personnel at ‘uitzendbureaus’ care a lot more about the applicant than school personnel. While most advertisements contain constraints that would scare away most applicants, like “if you are experienced in final exam training in VMBO, you’re welcome to apply”, or “we expect applicants who have a distinct affinity to HAVO/MAVO/MBO students” and the like, ‘uitzendbureaus’ have a lot more information about the school’s requirements. They then call each applicant personally and try to understand the strength of applicants while also informing them about all the advantages and drawbacks of the job on offer. Very possibly, they work on the axiom that no perfect match at a given point in time is likely. But they work hard on getting the nearest possible match for their money.
Foreigners with a degree can also approach a school or a university and choose a place where they may get a ‘stage’ (/sta:ʒɘ/, as I’ve already mentioned earlier). This means they may have to work a year full-time, or for several years part-time, but without a salary, while on the other hand they receive experience in the school-type and may have their degrees validated much more easily, but definitely can get a job much more easily than those without having done so. This path is best for those women of the younger generation who have Dutch partners to take care of their daily victuals and other supply. Those having to fend for themselves better be equipped with strong financial reserves and a good measure of optimism. Yet again, this latter kind may be willing to pay several thousands of Euros per year for obtaining a Dutch university degree (‘diploma’ here) after a few years, but they would go to ‘stage’ towards the end anyway.
Whichever way one is willing or able to choose, the need to speak ‘good enough’ Dutch is an unavoidable first requirement. It’s a bit difficult to define ‘good enough’, but judging from my peers at the Dutch course, I suspect that if one speaks very fast, understands everything a native speaker or anyone else throws at him/her, and has a strong foreign accent, his/her mistakes are shrouded up enough to pass as ‘good enough’, which means that fast thinking without translation rules. Quite the opposite of the methods I suspect foreign language teaching employs.
If someone’s Dutch is on a low level, somebody suggested the other day that he/she should not lose heart either. Nowadays, nearly half of school children are not Dutch and do not speak Dutch well either, so they may be a lot better off at an English lesson with a teacher who is only willing to speak English. Older types of teachers may be put out by such a proposition here, but if one gets through such a barrier, they may succeed with flying colours.
English: White Pine Montessori School in Moscow, Idaho, USA; from Wikipedia
A few things to know about while applying. It goes almost without saying that you have to tailor your cover letter to the needs of the school, however strange it may seem when, for example, they ask for somebody who can work and make decisions on his/her own and is an outstanding team worker, or for somebody who is experienced in drama and also in testing – this latter leaving one wonder what kind of teaching philosophy is at the heart of the school’s culture after all. It is also quite unimaginable to get a job at a Dalton-, or Montessori-school, not because we aren’t used to applying their pedagogy, or something very much like it, but because we can so rarely point to experience working in such schools outside the Netherlands, where they feature much more often than in other countries.
Writing our cover letters and CV’s, we also have to be aware that, although seemingly excellent speakers of English, most educators themselves rarely understand abbreviations from abroad. The Dutch use a shocking amount of abbreviations in their daily and professional lives as well, but English teachers have no idea what the BC, IH or CELTA means. It may be due to the isolation of the profession from mainstream English teaching trends and communities as I suggested in an earlier post. It seems imperative that we give the full versions of all abbreviations we may employ in our application. To illustrate this need, let me tell you about a very funny experience I had a couple of years ago. I was interviewed at a local private teaching institution, where I also pointed out that for me it is no problem to teach adults because I have CELTA, a qualification from the University of Cambridge for teaching adults. I was asked to give a lesson to a pair of teenagers from abroad who had until then failed to pass their English exams but would sit for a re-take the following day. Besides being criticized for not dealing with their otherwise somehow excellent pieces of homework and not giving them more test items (off the top of my head) but trying to communicate with them and covering several key grammar issues in the process that they still seemed to find difficult, I was told by the boss of the school that his colleagues also have all kinds of English diplomas from the University of Greenwich and the like, so I’m no speciality. Not that said university doesn’t exist, very much to the contrary, but it was glaringly obvious that he had no idea what he was talking about – he only remembered a famous name from Britain that sounded similar to the name I mentioned, which he might have found less known. Perhaps this was the basis for his failure to send me my meagre fee for the lesson as he had promised. To be fair to the Dutch, this guy seemed to be of Turkish origin by his looks and name. In all fairness, it’s shameful to have such an ignorant face in charge of any teaching institution in this country. Whatever their shortcomings, people here deserve better.