Seven employees of the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences, one photographer and one reporter are waiting in T3-05 for the first group of students. Nine of the thirteen end up attending the event. Another four lecturers arrive, and a second photographer. The situation looks like something straight out of a maths lesson. Arithmetic is covered in the first period of year 2 of the new two-year Educational Master Primary Education.

‘Diversity plays a central role’

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Student Naomi deliberately chose this master’s study. “The emphasis here is on education in big cities, so diversity is very central.” Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

You can become a teacher via a variety of routes. For example, via a primary education teacher-training programme (Pabo), as a lateral-entry teachers and now also by completing one of two educational Master’s programmes. One of these is offered here in Rotterdam and the other is a collaboration between Leiden University, the University of Amsterdam and VU Amsterdam. “There is a shortage of teachers, so additional routes are more than welcome”, says Sabine Severiens, director of the new degree programme. “There is also a considerable need in the professional field for various routes, for teachers from a variety of backgrounds.” This can include people with different kinds of work experience who enter the profession as lateral-entry teachers and university graduates who are capable of viewing education through the lens of scientific insights. “In the process of establishing and setting up the programme, we had a great deal of contact with the professional field, with schools and teachers.”

“I don’t want to travel to Amsterdam”, says Cloë (24). That is why she chose Rotterdam. “Before this, I did the Master’s in Forensic Family Studies, in Leiden, but I know that I am a teacher at heart. So this Master’s programme is perfect for me.” By contrast, Naomi (22) chose Rotterdam largely because of the content. “The curriculum of all of the other education programmes I looked at seemed outdated Here, the focus is on education in urban areas, so diversity plays a central role. That’s important to me.” The students attend lessons three days a week and do a practical work placement on the other two days. So it is quite difficult to hold down a job, as well. Naomi is one of the students who was awarded a grant. “Otherwise this would not have been financially possible for me.”

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Cloë (left) and Naomi are two of the thirteen students who have enrolled in the Educational Master Primary Education. Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

'Academic, but still very practical'

After the cake, coffee and tea, it is time for an a round of introductions. Students Flo, Mine, Naomi, Cloë, Naomi, Gina, Floor, Emily and Vincent all state their ages (varying from 21 to 28), while most of the employees leave that information out – much to everyone’s amusement. Then it’s time to talk about the programme content, because what exactly is an academic teacher? You are an educator, education specialist, didactician, strategic partner for a school, a researcher capable of reflection and a teacher all rolled into one, they are told during the introduction.

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After his bachelor’s, Vincent from Rotterdam first worked for three years. He had to search for a suitable study, but now he is ready to start. Image credit: Ronald van den Heerik

That entire package appeals to Vincent (28), who himself comes from Rotterdam. After completing his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, he worked at a youth hobby club in Feyenoord for three years. “It was like a second home for the kids, so everything was discussable.” He enjoyed being able to be of service to children and families. And yet, he wanted something else. “And I was already getting offers to become a lateral-entry teacher or to start teaching classes straight away. While I did want to have more tools at my disposal, I didn’t want to commit to a four-year higher professional education (hbo) programme, either. Then, my mother spotted a piece in the newspaper about this programme. Academic, but still very practical.”

In two years’ time, the students should have earned their primary school teacher’s qualification and be in possession of a Master’s diploma. Becoming an academic who knows better than their future colleagues is not the goal. “We instil into students that they are going to have a different skill set than other teachers”, says Severiens.”They are academically trained and have pedagogic competence in an urban context.”

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