"Teachers in the north are facing an enormous challenge”

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Siebrich de Vries, Professor Vital Subject Pedagogy

On 6 November last, no less than 4,000 schools in the Netherlands closed their doors in order to show their dissatisfaction with the problems that education is facing. The heavy workload and large groups are truly testing the historically high-level educational quality, says Siebrich de Vries, lector Vital Subject Pedagogy at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences at Leeuwarden. During her inauguration on Friday 15 November, she focused on the various challenges in the educational field.


Large classes, lack of teaching staff, underpayment and an extremely high work pressure. Besides these four national problems, teachers in the north are also exposed to a number of extra challenges. “The demographic decline, low literacy, multilingualism and a relatively high percentage of underprivileged children enlarge the complexity for teachers in the northern region”, explains professor Siebrich de Vries.

“In the current shift from teacher driven to student oriented education, the subject pedagogic competence of the teacher is key, however teachers really need time for that”, knows De Vries. “Furthermore, smaller groups enormously alleviate work pressure, but also enable the execution of student oriented education. As a teacher, it is easier to ‘serve’ twenty students at a time than thirty”, says De Vries.

With the Vital Subject Pedagogy lectorate, De Vries focuses on the question how she can start a (vital) movement in the north, in which subject pedagogic skills are pivotal. “As a teacher, how do you stimulate your students so they are motivated to start learning efficiently?  Within the concept of student oriented education, this is what every teacher aims for in every student. A good teacher makes all content learnable for each student”, the lector summarises the art of teaching.

In that respect, teachers in shrinkage areas have yet another challenge, De Vries notices. “Less students automatically means less teachers and less funds to employ teaching staff. If you, as a math teacher, are the only specialised teacher in your school, how will you keep developing? Who will you consult with during breaks about your teaching methods?”. The multilingualism in Friesland makes the situation all the more complex. "Can we also offer geography in Frisian? That also complicates your subject pedagogy”, knows De Vries. “These are big challenges that we are now facing.”

Tools and Grip

Specifically when it comes to these challenges, the Vital Subject Pedagogy Lectorate wants to support teachers and schools for general education and secondary vocational education. De Vries: “I would love for teachers to start inquiring subject pedagogy themselves. That teachers keep looking for improvement. The lectorate provides tools and grip for this turnaround. Because, obviously, something needs to be done.”

On Friday 15 November, Siebrich de Vries was installed as professor  Vital Subject Pedagogy at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences Leeuwarden, the Netherlands.