Future pre-school teachers trained to deal with diversity

Summary

New materials are being introduced to 14 university colleges across Flanders to help student teachers understand the challenges of diversity and poverty in pre-schools

Little Kids, Big Opportunities

Fourteen Flemish university colleges will adapt their study programmes so that students training to be pre-school teachers can better deal with diversity and poverty among children. The project, called Kleine Kinderen, Grote Kansen (Little Kids, Big Opportunities), is being co-ordinated by education minister Hilde Crevits and the King Boudewijn Foundation.

Education experts have for some time been emphasising that teachers often don’t know how to handle the increasing diversity in schools. About 130,000 children in Flanders live in poverty.

Teachers often see children with concentration problems as disinterested or lazy, but the reason can be as simple as an unbalanced diet, Crevits pointed out. Children can also be unaware of common words in Dutch because they don’t speak Dutch at home. Parents also often avoid contact with teachers and schools because of language challenges.

“It’s essential to introduce teachers to diversity and poverty issues during their studies and their first year in the classroom,” said Crevits. The earlier signals are recognised, the better the chance that children can overcome these problems, she said.

Methods and materials will be developed to support teacher educators, new teachers and future teachers. Every team at university colleges will create a customised plan to make adjustments in their studies. Klasse, the Flemish education department’s multimedia platform, will set up a campaign to convince teachers to use the tools and methods provided.

Photo courtesy Gazet van Antwerpen

 

Educational system

The Flemish educational system is divided into two levels: primary (age six to 12) and secondary school (12 to 18). Education is compulsory for children between the ages of six and 18.
Types - There are three educational networks in Flanders: the Flemish Community’s GO! network, and publicly funded education – either publicly or privately run.
Not enough space - In recent years, Flemish schools have been struggling with persistent teacher shortages and a growing lack of school spaces.
No tuition fees - Nursery, primary and secondary school are free in Flanders.
1

million school-going children in 2013

30

million euros Flemish education budget for new school infrastructures in 2013

11

percent of boys leaving secondary school without a diploma