Inexperienced and immediately in front of the class: ‘From the first lesson I felt, this is bad’

‘Would education be for me?’ Since the many distress signals from schools about the shortage of teachers, more and more people are thinking about switching to education. ‘Yet the school seems to many to be a closed and unattractive world’, notes Wouter Boute, general director of the School Group of Catholic Education in Ghent (SKOG). Together with Artevelde University College, the schools are working on innovative solutions to get people in front of the class. ‘We want to demolish the existing walls and give people the opportunity to get acquainted with education.’

In the new initiative, interested parties without an educational background are given the opportunity to immerse themselves for a few days. ‘That’s the only way you know what it’s like to stand in front of a class or participate in a school (team)’, says Sofie Landuyt, who heads the teacher training courses at Artevelde University College Ghent. ‘People often fall back on their own memories, but they don’t always match the current reality.’

In the fitting room

By immersing people, the partners mainly want to get interested parties ‘in the fitting room’. ‘That’s the start. Then we look at what is possible: what role within the school, what type of school and what tailor-made training are possible to optimize the experience.’ The target group is teachers in pre-primary and primary education. ‘It is often not clear what you need to be able to do in order to start in primary education,’ says Veerle Martens, head of the pre-primary education program at Artevelde University College.

The university college offers a ‘First Aid for Education’ package between the moment of empathy and the teacher-in-training programme. That should give people the skills and provide the knowledge needed to keep one’s head above water. ‘We notice a practical shock among many starting teachers. The job content often differs from the idea they had’, says Martens.

There is a great need for flexible solutions: the problem threatens to become even greater in the coming years due to a wave of pensions in education. Both the government and teacher training programs are looking at lateral entrants. ‘It remains difficult to find enough pedagogically trained teachers, despite the many calls for help. That puts real pressure on the quality of education.’ If the project is successful, the university will roll out the concept further. Similar projects are also being launched at other universities of applied sciences.