Universities unite for free science teacher-training prep courses

In an effort to beat back the shortage of teachers in the sciences, the 11 Dutch science faculties are joining forces to offer free preparatory courses for university teacher-training programmes.

photo Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

Say a mechanical engineering student wants to do a teaching degree in physics. Since they haven’t studied physics, they need to gain that proficiency first. Universities now want to remove this initial obstacle by enabling teachers-in-training to fill their knowledge gaps for free.

Called Beta4all, this ‘free retraining’ for prospective science teachers, as some institutions describe it, is basically a kind of pre-Master’s programme. Once students have brushed up on their target field they can start a university teacher-training programme, paying the normal tuition fee.

Particle physics

In the Netherlands, the first step to becoming a teacher is to register for a university teacher-training programme. The department in question determines whether candidates have any knowledge gaps to be filled. So a mechanical engineer wishing to teach physics will have to brush up on quantum mechanics and particle physics first.

Under the new sector agreement, students will be able to take these preparatory courses (with lecturers at all universities) free of charge.

“We have three professors to monitor quality in each subject area”, explains Beta4all project leader Ralph Meulenbroeks, who is a teacher with a doctorate in physics (and a popular YouTube channel). “They review tests each year and provide feedback to lecturers.”

Tried and tested

Beta4all has been in a test phase for several years now, and plans already existed for some time to recognise ‘previously obtained competences’ and certificates sector-wide. “Scaling these things nationally is always tough”, says Meulenbroeks. “But now everyone said: we’ve just got to do it.”

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