Creating a “reserve” for replacements in some places while having a structural shortage in others is no longer acceptable, writes Bruno De Lille. Every day that we fail to act makes the teacher shortage problem worse.

We live in one of the richest countries in the world and yet we cannot guarantee that all children can go to school. Some Brussels schools have to send students home because there are no more teachers (DS March 7). To my surprise, most people, including politicians, react apathetically to this. However, the situation is catastrophic. We are in danger of depriving a whole group of children of the chances for the future to which they are entitled.

The numbers seem to show that the teacher shortage is stabilizing. Only this has been done with spit and polish: we put kindergarten teachers in front of elementary school classes, principals are constantly teaching themselves, the math teacher also teaches a few hours of French or English, instead of 32 hours of classes we teach only during 30 hours, students spend hours each week in study-rooms, there are so many lateral entrants that they no longer receive the necessary coaching. These are no longer creative solutions, they are stopgap solutions. I know that long-term solutions are being worked on, but the situation is so dire that something must be done now.

To begin with, teachers must be better distributed among the various schools. This is not about “creating a waterbed effect or killing each other off” as Education Minister Ben Weyts (N-VA) calls it, it is about ensuring that no school or class is left without the necessary teachers. Surely this is not too much to ask? Because yes, the shortage occurs everywhere, but it is not evenly distributed. The (big) cities, and certainly Brussels, are facing the biggest problems.

A possible solution? Maybe I won’t make myself popular with some colleagues, but the teacher platform system needs to be changed. Creating a ‘reserve’ for replacements in some places, while having a structural shortage in others, is no longer acceptable. And is it tenable that teachers who resign to move to another school have a notice period of only two weeks while we don’t find replacements?

Furthermore, working in the “more difficult” places must become attractive. Teachers who choose schools with more vulnerable students deserve financial compensation that does justice to the extra challenges.

This goes without saying in any sector, but not in education: here, the master who teaches in a small village school full of middle-class kids earns as much as the teacher who gives the best of herself every day in the heart of Schaerbeek for a class of which the majority carries a serious backpack.

Because almost all our teachers come from Flanders, the travel time to school remains a barrier. But let us make Brussels a real choice through better remuneration (who knows, maybe these people will settle in our capital).

Every day that we do not act will make the problem worse. What we do not give our children today, society will pay for a lifetime. We must not allow ourselves to be paralyzed, not apathetically watch as we now run headlong into the wall, but we must take action. Our children and teachers deserve it.

Bruno De Lille, general director of a Brussels school group

This text appeared in De Standaard on March 8, 2024. You can read it here:

>> Please note that this is a machine generated translation