Boost for internationalisation of teachers in Brainport region

Schools in Eindhoven's Brainport region are preparing their teachers for increasingly international education.
Internationalisering docenten

The arrival of expats and their children has completely changed the teaching profession in the Eindhoven region. That is why schools in the so-called Brainport region can make use of the ‘Internationalisation of Expertise Development in Education’ scheme. This is a financial scheme for schools to promote teachers’ expertise in the field of internationalisation. Hans Vasse and Sophie Paridaans share the results of the scheme.

“Problem? It’s hard to call it a ‘problem’, in my opinion,” says Hans Vasse, regional coordinator for internationalisation at Brainport Development and lecturer at the Jan van Brabant College.

“It’s a challenge that we have to deal with. Along with the huge influx of international workers in the Brainport region, their partners and children are coming here as well.”

And then teachers realise that not all students understand the examples they always use in their lessons. The parent-teacher meetings are suddenly different, too, since parents who have not been in the Netherlands that long are not yet fluent in Dutch.

Vasse: “This means the teacher suddenly has to hold the conversation in English.”

There is sometimes a lack of clarity regarding the content of the school system. “How do you explain that a child in Year 3 of primary school is still playing in the sandbox and isn’t doing multiplication tables like their cousins in their home country? There’s a good pedagogical reason for this, but you have to be able to explain that to parents. If you’re aware that our approach may differ from what others are used to, that immediately has a de-escalating effect.”

How can teachers respond to the internationalisation of the Brainport region?

Businesses in the Brainport region know that they will continue to attract workers from abroad in the future, including some 4,000 in the period ahead. Vasse: “The Dutch study programmes are simply not producing enough new workers to meet their needs.”

Vasse: “That is why the Brainport region has drawn up a vision document for education. Children and young people must be prepared for global citizenship. They need to be proficient not only in Dutch, but also in English. And there has to be a focus on international communication and cooperation. The integration process is a two-way street.”

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Crucial role for teachers

The Brainport region's ambition is that, by 2025, all schools in Eindhoven will have internationalisation embedded in their policy as part of a broader Brainport educational vision. Teachers play a crucial role in this effort. Through the ‘Internationalisation of Expertise Development in Education’ scheme, Brainport offers support in promoting the expertise of teachers in the region.

Sophie Paridaans is coordinator of internationalisation at Summa College, an education group with over 18,000 pupils and students in secondary education, vocational education and training, secondary general adult education and adult education. The school has over 2,300 employees and more than 350 study programmes. Summa College is one of the institutions making use of the Internationalisation of Expertise Development in Education scheme.

“Internationalisation is happening fast,” Paridaans notes.

“The region is changing rapidly. We now have more than 100 different nationalities within Summa College. These can be children of people who come to work at ASML, as well as migrant workers, asylum permit holders and refugees. It’s our job to prepare the students for their future as effectively as possible, and that future looks more international than before.”

Teachers and other employees within the school group must immerse themselves in intercultural communication. “Staff at the front desk, for example, and at the examinations office.”

350 employees have already been trained

“It’s going well so far,” she says. “But if we do nothing, and if we don’t adapt, we will run into problems.”

Through the Internationalisation of Expertise Development in Education scheme, Summa College is therefore offering training courses for its teachers and other staff, including Cambridge English and intercultural communication. “In these training courses, teachers learn how they can deal with pupils and students for whom Dutch is a second language.”

As a large regional training centre, Summa College has a great deal of knowledge and organises all courses itself. In fact, other teachers in the region follow the courses at Summa College.

Paridaans: “After six months of preparation, we started in January 2022: first with Cambridge English and then with other courses. It’s been a year now, and some 350 teachers and staff have participated in the programme.”

Does Paridaans have any advice for other educational institutions that want to start working on internationalisation?

“What has worked well for us is a systematic approach. We translated the Brainport region goals into concrete objectives for our school. After that, we developed the training courses and also used our in-house talents as much as possible. For example, there was a nursing lecturer who, as it turns out, could teach Spanish as well. It’s great that we’ve been able to implement this project along with partners from the Brainport region: we work together as colleagues. That is really wonderful.’

Read the Nuffic publication Professionalisering door internationalisering (pdf).

Nuffic application assessor: “Many schools start with English language skills”

Nuffic reviewed the applications for the Internationalisation of Expertise Development in Education scheme. “The Brainport region is a special region,” says Birgitte Vos, programme manager at Nuffic. “Education plays a key role there because they must prepare the employees of the future for the international environment that the region has now become.”

The majority of the applications came from primary schools, Birgitte says. “There were many applications from school boards that had already drawn up an internationalisation policy and vision. The individual schools that fall under that board often have the freedom to choose their own approach to developing teachers’ expertise in the area of internationalisation. Many schools start by improving English language skills. Most did this at a university of applied sciences in the Brainport region.”

“There are also schools that weren’t as far along and were still in the beginning phase of creating a vision on internationalisation. It’s great that there’s a Brainport school network where everyone can learn from each other. This can lead to constant improvement of the quality of education in the Brainport region.”

Secondary schools are generally further along in the internationalisation process, for example because they are already incorporating bilingual education. “This isn’t available in primary education and vocational education and training or at regional training centres. That made it all the more fun to review a small number of applications from vocational education and training schools.”