In the coming years, the shortages of academically-educated teachers in secondary education will further increase. In order to train more university students to become first-degree teachers, these two universities from Gelderland will join forces. On 17 May 2018, Wageningen University and Radboud University/Radboud Teachers Academy will be concluding a unique collaboration agreement.
In the coming years, the shortage of academically-educated teachers will further increase. secondary education is facing increasing difficulties in filling job vacancies for science subjects and languages. With this new initiative, Wageningen University and Radboud University want to contribute to reducing the deficit of chemistry and physics teachers by building a bridge between two degree programmes of Wageningen University and the Radboud Teachers Academy of Radboud University starting from next academic year.
Gains in terms of study time
‘Master’s students of the Earth and Environment and Molecular Life Sciences degree programmes who have the ambition to become a teacher, can soon be trained at the Radboud Teachers Academy,’ explains Arthur Mol (Rector Magnificus of Wageningen University). The first-degree teachers training programme will align with the academic teacher training programme in Physics; while the second will align with that in Chemistry. ‘The curricula have been designed in such a way that students can complete both within the nominal study programme duration.’ That translates to a time saving of at least half a year compared to existing possibilities for combining studies. And on top of that, this increases the number of possible choices for WUR students: "In addition to the possibility to obtain a second-degree teaching qualification, we will now be able to also offer the first-degree teaching qualification within the curriculum,’ says Mol.
‘Building the bridge between both of these universities from Gelderland was not something that was realised overnight,’ says Monique Scheepers (Managing Director of the Radboud Teachers Academy). ‘The desire to form such a collaboration has already existed for some time. We have now been able to find common ground in terms of relationship and content.’ Between desire and action, the necessary practical, administrative, professional, and financial hiccups along the way had to be mediated. ‘In doing so, a smooth and creative collaboration took place at all levels. It has resulted in a beautiful and attractive academic study track.’
The collaboration will start out as a three-year pilot. As of September 2018, the study track will be open to students. Monique Scheepers expects to welcome the first Wageningen students to Nijmegen in February 2019. This means that the first diplomas could very well already be handed out in the summer of 2019. Each graduate will receive two diplomas, she explains: ‘A Master’s diploma from Wageningen and an educational Master’s diploma from our Radboud Teachers Academy.’
The three institutions involved see it as a social responsibility to contribute to reducing the shortage of teachers. Arthur Mol: ‘The societal importance of sufficient and well-trained teachers is great and, as a university, we want to contribute to that. Furthermore, it is in secondary education that the foundation is laid for our future students.’ Monique Scheepers adds to that: ‘Teachers with an academic background can transfer their scientific thinking to their pupils. Not only are they skilled in the school subject, but they are also able to approach their field of expertise from different perspectives. In doing so, they can play a pioneering role in the development of the school subject.’
Han van Krieken (Rector Magnificus of Radboud University), who is administratively involved in the ‘Actieplan Lerarenagenda 2018-2022’ (teachers’ agenda 2018-2022 action plan) that will be launched this summer, hopes that this collaboration also inspires other universities to set up initiatives to train more teachers for society.
We have come a long way: ‘There were quite a few hurdles to overcome to ensure a sound legal basis for this agreement. We will soon be jointly handing out diplomas to students. For this to be possible, we, as Radboud University, need to fully acknowledge the educational minor of Wageningen as part of the teacher qualification. Similarly, they must entrust their students to our study programme. The confidence in the quality of each other's education, both technically and didactically, forms the basis of this collaboration.’
In addition to contributing to producing more academically-trained teachers and increasing the possibilities available to WUR students, Mol identifies an additional benefit: the collaboration itself. ‘Two universities that are only roughly 30 kilometres away from each will get to know each other better, will exchange knowledge, and will jointly enhance their networks. That bundling of forces is truly an added value.’
How do they want to assess this pilot in three years from now? Scheepers primarily hopes to have satisfied students. For Mol, it is a success if the concept works well in practice and any teething problems are resolved. ‘In that scenario, we can possibly expand to other school subjects, such as geography, biology, and economics.’
Van Krieken concludes: ‘The shortages are huge and, naturally, we can only contribute to reducing these deficits to a certain extent. However, every teacher who will graduate with us will go on to train hundreds of pupils.’ Within a few years, the first newly graduated teachers will be ready to teach. They will be equipped with didactic and pedagogical knowledge, as well as the necessary perspectives to place the school subjects of chemistry and physics within the broader scientific field.