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Project in The Hague tackles teacher shortage and inequality at the same time

A The Hague-based project is aiming to tackle teacher shortage and socioeconomic inequality reflected in primary education – and the objective is to do so while helping schools face the challenges imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic in the Netherlands. Higher education students are joining hands with primary education teachers to make it happen.

First year

The ambitious plan at work is Studenten voor Educatie (SvE), the main programme of Het Open Leerplein. The initiative is a part of Leiden University's Open Science Hub project.

Involving 20 schools and 32 higher education students in The Hague, SvE is currently running its first year of activities. ‘The objective is to reach at least 26 schools and 43 students,’ says Sanne van Gammeren, Het Open Leerplein programme coordinator.

Students at help

Students come from a wealth of knowledge areas and they mainly support primary school children in their day-to-day needs such as reading, spelling and mathematical activities. 

They receive training covering didactics, pedagogics and methods in monitoring and evaluation. ‘One of the goals,’ the coordinator says, ‘is to get university students closer to the schools’ daily lives so they can see Education as a field upon which they can build a career.’


To Rebecca Salcedo, from The Hague’s Education, Culture and Welfare Administration, the programme entails a win-win situation: ‘Teachers have help, students have a job and children have extra help in their activities in person and online.’

What the school needs

The needs of schools and educators were decisive in the planning. With the pandemic, it has been hard for teachers to respond to some of the students’ needs. Following daily activities has been especially hard to some children due to socioeconomic conditions or other difficulties imposed by Covid-19. 

‘The ultimate goal of the project is to guarantee quality of education for every child, and the role of Het Open Leerplein is to act as this broker that creates the conditions and networks for it to happen. And for that it's important to listen to the needs of schools,’ says Maria Vicente, Open Science Hub Network project manager. 


From May to December 2020, Studenten voor Educatie ran its pilot version. The municipality of The Hague, the Primary School Boards in The Hague and Stichting Brede Buurtschool (SBB) partnered to involve four primary schools: Helen Parkhurst, Dr. J.A. Gerth van Wijkschool, De Hoogstratenschool and De Springbok. Students from Leiden University, Haagse Hogeschool and University of Groningen were commissioned to work as auxiliary school staff.

New perspectives

Maíra Bolders, currently doing a master’s degree in Social Sciences to become a teacher in secondary education, is one of the programme’s participating students from Leiden University. She helped children ranging from the third to fifth grades at De Springbok School, where she is now a teacher in training.

Bolders says the programme gave her a deeper perspective on Education. ‘Being a teacher is hard work! It is unimaginable what responsibilities teachers have these days. I admire the teachers in primary education – in a class with many children, each child has his/her own needs and it is difficult to meet them all.’


Teachers and primary school students, also core actors in the programme, could benefit from the activities as well. Irina Colpa, a teacher at the same school, considers that children benefit from the extra reading and mathematics activities SvE offers.

‘This project kills two birds with one stone. It is a fun job for university students and an extra support for primary school children. With the current staff shortage in education, this is a very nice and fitting project,’ she says.


Van Gammeren says Studenten voor Educatie’s next steps are to guarantee the sustainability of the programme. It is currently funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation and the Social Economic Recovery Plan of the Municipality of The Hague – and by Leiden University, with its coordination.

Rebecca Salcedo says efforts are under way. ‘The municipality is able to fund 26 schools this year and the next. And the idea is that School Boards choose and fund the schools they consider will benefit the most from the programme to extend it into the foreseeable future.’

The Open Science Hub and Het Open Leerplein are coordinated by the Faculty of Science.
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